What Is The Role Of Godparents?

Growing up, I was a little jealous of people who had godparents who were friends of their parents. My godparents were an aunt and uncle, so I didn’t get any additional gifts or attention. And that sums up my understanding of godparents.

Just kidding. Though, in this day and age, a present at Christmas and maybe a fun outing or two is the most anyone expects out of a godparent after the baptism happens.

The most important role of a godparent, traditionally, is to participate in a child’s baptism. They participate to act as the voice of the child, since infants and small children cannot speak. They generally promise to oversee the child’s spiritual upbringing as well. Usually, one godparent of each sex is chosen: a godmother and a godfather, but sometimes more are chosen. Among the aristocracy, it was very common to ask members of the royal family to be godparents to a) show respect b) hope they will be helpful in the child’s life. This still continues- Queen Elizabeth has 29 godchildren, Prince Charles has 28 (Camilla’s son…), and Prince William has 4 already.

Some religious denominations have rules- Episcopalians must have a baptized Christian as a godparent and Catholics are supposed to have a baptized Catholic in good standing as godparent. Catholics are also not supposed to serve as godparents to non-Catholics (ha- tell that to my Catholic godmother. I was baptized Episcopalian.)

Some other expectations of godparents in the Christian faith:

  • Participation in or recognition of the other sacraments (first communion, confirmation, marriage, etc)
  • Modeling good Christian life
  • Helping support the parents in religious education

So, theoretically, you should choose someone who will really do this, rather than just a friend or relative you are close to. Of course all of this is moot if you are baptizing your child for tradition’s sake and aren’t actually interested in raising them actively Christian. Then, you and the godparents can decide what kind of relationship you are all interested in having with the child.

Many people assume that the godparents are also those who will care for the child in the event of the parents’ deaths. This can sometimes be the case, but the parents must site the guardians in their will, it isn’t automatic (especially if you have multiple children with different godparents!)

Amy Vanderbilt says that “once asked to serve as a godparent, a friend is virtually bound to accept.” Though, I would update this to say if there was no religious (or anti-religious) reason preventing you from accepting. Then she says that the godparent should present the child with an heirloom-type gift that can be passed down- her example from one of her own children was “an engraved Sheffield hot-water plate, fine for keeping his baby food hot but also fine for the time he begins entertaining in his bachelor quarters. The plate will be excellent for hot hors d’oeuvres.”

Do you have godparents? Do you want your children to have godparents? Tell me more in the comments!

How Many Thank Yous for Baby Gifts?

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Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
I am in the final weeks awaiting the arrival of my first child. My Aunt sent us gifts early in the pregnancy for our baby and we sent a thank you note promptly. She has since sent another round of gifts and I’m not sure if a second thank you note is required? Apparently, she also intends to send us a quilt, so should I wait for that? What’s the etiquette here for many gifts with months in between… ? 

Thanks, guys!

Victoria: So with the baby gifts, I think you should just go ahead and send a note for each gift that arrives, even if you know that there are more coming. Thank you notes take almost no time, I wrote one today in about two minutes.

Jaya: That’s true, though I think it’s kind of strange for the aunt to be sending “rounds” of gifts. My idea would be that the first ty note is nice, and for subsequent gifts close together, a phone call would do? Because maybe it was something like the Aunt bought a bunch of stuff on Amazon and they sent them out when they were in-stock, so they’re coming piecemeal.

Victoria: Oooh yeah, that’s a good idea. Although, people get even more zany about babies than they do about weddings, so she might just be going overboard.

Jaya: That’s true, but also I’d hope that, as stressed as married couples are, people know pregnant people are even more stressed, and maybe don’t feel like writing notes all the time. Though yeah, it doesn’t take long. I mean obviously if you want to handwrite a note for everything go ahead.

Victoria: It really doesn’t, and you probably aren’t getting that many gifts. I would def send a note for a handmade gift like a quilt though. My mom does a lot of beautifully crafted handmade gifts and she gets super annoyed when she doesn’t get properly thanked for them.

Jaya: Yeah. It certainly depends on the gift. But if you get a pack and play and send a note for that, and then two weeks later get some onesies, I think you can phone it. And just be thankful for how generous the person is being.

Victoria: Yessss, definitely. and like, again, when baby is born, maybe send a quick email with a photo of them using the gift. It is fairly low effort and you are probably taking a million pictures of baby anyway.

Why Did This Person Send Me A Baby Shower Invite, And Do I Have To Send A Gift?

Just hope these aren't there. [Via Cakewrecks]

Just hope these aren’t there. [Via Cakewrecks]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Hiya!  I love the website so far! And now I have a question of my own.

I just got my first baby shower invitation (yikes).  I am busy that day so I can’t go — but do I still have to send them a present? If it matters, this is an old high school friend who I’m not very close with, and I wasn’t invited to her wedding (which I was totally fine with–I only mention it to illustrate how not-that-close we are and I think it is weird I got this shower invite).  Is it a huge faux pas to forgo a gift? If you tell me to, I will get something small from their registry, otherwise my natural inclination is to buy books and give them to her at some vague point in the future, because I buy everyone books.


Strangely Showered


You are under no obligation to send a gift, though, of course, you can if you wish.


Jaya:  Baby shower gifts! I actually just got invited to a baby shower, so this is timely.

Victoria:  Nice! Yeah, gifts are totally optional if you can’t go. And for someone not close like this I would totally not send something because…it kind of seems like a gift grab? Showers are tricky, they are really supposed to be just for your super intimate friends, but now we have people inviting all the female wedding guests to them and all kinds of craziness.

Jaya:  Absolutely. And yeah, it does seem like a gift grab. It’s probably not intentional, but presumably this mother-to-be knows they are not that close.

Victoria:  And usually, I think the hostess will get a list of guests from the mother-to-be?

Jaya:  Right. But just inviting everyone you know to every occasion (unless that’s culturally what you do) seems a bit like a ploy for gifts. I don’t know, showers bother me sometimes in general.

Victoria:  I don’t mind them so much for babies, but I wish they would fall out of favor for weddings as they are starting to seem redundant with all the crazy gift giving that is starting to happen. Like, why are people giving you TWO (or MORE!) gifts for the same life event?

Jaya:  And also, you’d think anyone important and supportive in your life would already know you’re having a baby, and would probably buy you a gift.

Victoria:  Yeah, because its kind of like, for the baby!

Jaya:  I have no problem with people throwing parties! I love parties! But yeah, to invite everyone you know, who may not have been a part of this baby’s life already, sounds like you’re trying to get more stuff.

Victoria:  Weirdly, I have heard a thing that it is bad luck to throw a baby shower before the baby is born.

Jaya: Oh is it bad luck?

Victoria:  I have heard that, but it seems like everyone does them before anyway.

Jaya:  Problem solved. Don’t send a gift or the spirits will get you.

Victoria: I guess the idea is that birthin’ babies is dangerous and it might die and then you will have all these presents to deal with, but no one wants to think that way!

Jaya:  Omg Victoria!!!!!

Victoria:  It’s a thing I heard! Not something I believe!!

Jaya:  “Please save the money on buying me a baby bjorn in case I die and you need it to raise my orphan child.”

Victoria:  No no, they are afraid the BABY will die.

Jaya:  Ooooh.

Victoria:  Don’t Indians not give babies names until they are like, 2, because of the same reasons?

Jaya:  Yup! Also because they wait until the baby has a personality, so their name will match who they are. But yeah don’t waste the good names if they’re gonna die of malaria by the time they’re 4 anyway.

Victoria:  Ooooh, that makes a lot of sense actually.

Jaya:  Hi! Ok, back to gifts, and not infant mortality.

Victoria:  Yeaaaah, I really like the idea of sending a classic children’s book.

Jaya:  For this person, I think it’s totally up to her whether to send a gift. Gifts are always optional no matter what, and especially in this case. And I love the books. Good, gender neutral option.

Victoria:  I personally wouldn’t send one, I don’t think. What am I, made of money? No. But maybe if later on they invited me over to come see the baby, I would probably bring something. And then I would squish its little face. Although, I do think if you choose to attend a baby shower, you do need to bring something since the main activity of a shower is gift giving.

Jaya:  I always liked the idea in these things of like, giving something not related to a baby. Like how nice would it be, as a new mother, to have someone give you a nice robe and some bath salts and be like “hey, take a night not as a mom.”

Victoria: Remind me to invite you to my shower if I ever have a baby.

Jaya:  Also, pregnant ladies of the world, do not invite acquaintances to your baby shower. There is probably a lot of vagina talk and that’s weird.

Victoria: I hear there are games where people put melted candy bars in diapers and you have to guess what candy bar it is. Although, again, there is this whole hyping up of every portion of our lives- baby showers, gender reveal parties, specially colored cakes! Where does the madness end??? (I don’t really object because I love parties, but still!)

Jaya:  I also had no idea Baby Registries were a a thing until last year.

Victoria: Yeah, actually, interestingly, while it is not etiquette approved to put registry info on your wedding invite, it is totally okay to put it on shower invitations.

Jaya:  Oh interesting. I guess because you’re not inviting people to your birth. The shower is sort of the one event. Unless you want 60 people to see a baby and your bloody vagina. Which…hyped up!

Victoria: OMG that is absolutely going to happen. What a world we live in.

Jaya:  I can’t wait to get invited to my first birth. What sort of cardstock do you use for that?

Victoria: Although! It would kind of be more traditional! Because it used to be all the ladies of the village would come help out.  Paleo-birthing, it’s gonna be big.