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As Census Reveals UK is more non-religious, what alternatives are there to Christenings?

New results from the 2021 England and Wales Census released in January revealed that more people aged under 66 ticked ‘No religion’ than ticked ‘Christian’. The figures contrast with the last Census, where in every age band, more people ticked ‘Christian’ than ‘No religion’, marking a huge demographic shift. 

Non-religious weddings and funerals are a regular feature of life now, but what alternatives are there for Christenings?  We met up with Manningtree-based Naming Celebrant, Karen Turnbull who told us more.

“A naming ceremony is the perfect opportunity for family and friends to collectively welcome your child into their hearts.” said Karen.  “The great thing about these ceremonies is that they are all about the child, their journey to join us and our collective hopes for them and their future.” She added.

Karen is one of a number of Humanist celebrants around the UK who provide heartfelt, inclusive and bespoke namings and welcomings to celebrate one of life's happiest milestones.  It brings people together to celebrate in a ceremony that focuses on the child.  And for guests, it also provides the chance for them to reflect on the role they will play in the child's life.

Why choose a Humanist ceremony?

Humanist ceremonies are all about love.  They focus on what matters in life: our relationships with those we love. These ceremonies are an uplifting celebration that's inclusive of everyone.

Karen adds: “Humanist Namings are not just for non-religious people.  They are a neutral solution for couples of different religions, as those cultural references can be brought out in the ceremony.

They’re also great for blended families with children of any age.  It’s about marking this important occasion in life and giving people an opportunity to celebrate together.”

A favourite ceremony is for couples who create a family through assisted conception and adoption.  Their journey is long and arduous and, if the family wishes, this can be formally acknowledged in the ceremony.  It provides an opportunity to draw a line and move forward as a new family.”

Karen tells us more about the process.  “I love to meet the family and hear their story, what’s special to them and their child.  This can be pieces of music, activities to join in and pets too. One farming family chose to have their naming ceremony outside with the animals.  They’d had a lockdown baby and these animals had been central to her world at that time.”

The celebrant writes the script and can help chose meaningful readings, poems and music.  They can also assist in writing personal promises to your child.

Guide Parents, mentors, godparents, oddparents, sparents - whatever you choose to call them, are special adults you may choose to invite to have a significant and ongoing role in your child's life. There are no limits to numbers! There are many suggestions about the role they might play in the ceremony, from making promises to singing a song.

A naming ceremony can feature music, poetry, symbolic actions such as a tree planting. Everyone can join in - maybe making a time capsule or a wish tree.  They are especially wonderful when combined with a First Birthday!  Being together and creating special memories is very much part of the celebrations. 

Karen Turnbull, Humanist Naming Celebrant


"Everyone said they felt as if they knew you and we did too, what a lovely quality to have to be able to provide such a beautiful ceremony for us. It meant so much."

C & A, Ipswich

“Our experience with Karen was amazing from start to finish. She was so friendly and warm, making us feel we really had made the right choice in having her as our celebrant. Communication was easy and she was really responsive.

We chose to hold our daughter's naming ceremony at our home on her first birthday and Karen did such a lovely job in incorporating her birthday also. The ceremony was beautiful and there were many tears! Well thought out and planned. Our friends and family loved it and were very impressed. I think we may have converted a few into booking naming ceremonies instead of christenings in future!”

C & H, Suffolk

“We're so grateful to Karen for writing and delivering such a beautiful naming ceremony for our daughter. She was so warm and approachable, and she spent time getting to know us and our family, which made the ceremony so personal and inclusive.”

Z & T,  Colchester 

“Karen provided a very personalised and professional ceremony that all of our guests commented on. The time and effort that went into making it special did not go unnoticed by any one in attendance, particularly us. Karen is a lovely friendly lady and I could not recommend her highly enough.”

J & J, Tiptree

“Just taking time after a hectic week to process and think about all that happened last Saturday, we received everything in the post and it was just lovely, we’ve had so many messages this week saying how beautiful the ceremony was, and all of us are so grateful for how amazing and personal you made it. It was pure magic and the perfect way to bring O into the world of friends and family again.”