Marking a baby's entry into the church is a powerful event in a Christian family's life. She might squirm and cry as she's blessed with water during her baptism, or christening, as the ceremony is sometimes called. By the end, however, she'll be seen as a member of the church. Dressing properly shows respect to these traditions -- and ensures you won't be embarrassed when you look back on photos from the day.
As the center of attention, it's your baby's wardrobe that matters the most at a baptism. A baptized baby should always wear white from head to toe, which symbolizes her purity. If your family already owns a baptism gown, dressing your baby in it is a meaningful nod to tradition. Otherwise, you'll find appropriate ensembles for sale online or in local Christian stores; these garments are typically long, embellished with trim and embroidery and appropriate for either a boy or girl. Another option: Buy a simple white dress for a baby girl at your favorite child's clothing store, or dress a baby boy in a white suit. Finish the outfit with a white cap and booties. Check with church leaders before choosing your baby's wardrobe, though, since each church has its own guidelines. Keep your baby wrapped in a blanket or coat until the ceremony to keep her clothing clean.
Shushing cranky older siblings while soothing a fussy infant -- all while keeping your voice to a whisper -- is not the dream baptism scenario. Keep kids a bit happier in clothes that are appropriate for church but comfortable to wear. Consider the usual temperature inside the church and the general dress that other worshipers wear to services. A sundress and sweater or skirt and blouse combination is appropriate for a girl, while a boy might wear khakis or corduroys with a collared shirt or sweater. Unless your church is a very formal one, there's no need to wrestle kids into tights, suits or dressy shoes.
Parents and Godparents
As the parents of a baptized baby, you'll stand up to support your baby and make a vow to help her become a faithful adult. This is a serious role, and your dress should reflect that. However, a mother who has only recently given birth should always consider comfort. Wear a pantsuit or a soft dress with a neckline that allows for breastfeeding. Cover up with a cardigan if you feel self-conscious. In a casual church, a dad may fit in while wearing dress pants and a short-sleeved collared shirt, but the traditional ensemble is a full suit. A godparent should dress with the same formality as the baby's parents; everyone should coordinate so you'll look appropriate standing up together. And while the baby's dressed in white, adults probably shouldn't be: etiquette site Debretts.com wisely suggests wearing colors or prints that won't show spills and stains.
Guests who don't regularly attend your church might come to you for advice on the dress code -- and if you're invited to a baptism at an unfamiliar church, it's wise to ask for advice too. Etiquette expert Lizzie Post tells "Real Simple" that guests should wear color to celebrate the happy occasion. A female guest might wear a floral dress or a pastel pantsuit and fit in at any church, while a male guest should pair a suit jacket with khakis to be on the safe side. He can swap out the jacket for a dress shirt if the church observes a casual dress code.