All Good Gifts: Presents for Religious Ceremonies

What to give when a gift certificate won't do.

BY: Laura Sheahen

 
Have a religion etiquette question? Send e-mail to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com.

I am 28 years old and am going to be baptized for the first time at a Lutheran church. It is required to have a sponsor from the church. Which is fine, I have one. My question is: should I give a gift to this person? If so, what might be an appropriate gift? --Kristina

Your sponsor will certainly not turn down a gift, and the usual suspects are all appropriate: thoughtfully chosen books or religious CDs, for instance. However, a personal letter of appreciation--one detailing how much your sponsor's support and example have meant to you as you prepared to enter the church--could become something your sponsor will keep forever.

I have a lot of weddings coming up... I was wondering what anyone thought about giving icons as wedding gifts? They are all Protestant weddings but involving Christians...Does anyone think it's inappropriate? --paleologus

It's admirable that you want to share Eastern Orthodoxy's spiritual treasures--the icons that you find so meaningful--with friends, especially at such a joyful time. But while it's unlikely that the happy couple will consider the gift inappropriate, the question here is what would be most meaningful for the recipients rather than the giver. Since icons and saints don't feature prominently in most Protestant denominations, the newlyweds might at best view the icon as simply a pretty picture to use as a decoration, and at worst an attempt on your part at proselytizing.

If you'd like your gift to have spiritual resonance, you might want to consider a more interdenominational present, like a family Bible or a book of Christian devotions for couples.

I would like to know if there is a "traditional" gift one gives to the godparents the day of the baptism? I've heard many people mention that their "gift" was taking the godparents out to dinner or giving them a religious medallion, but I am confused about this being a tradition or is it more of a "thank you"?--LES366

There is no traditional gift associated with sponsoring a child in baptism, and godparents will probably not expect one. However, if you'd like to show your appreciation, one thing to consider giving them a week or so after the big day might be a framed print of the godparent and the child together during the baptism. Since part of being a godparent involves nurturing a child's religious life, anything that would make them feel connected to the child's religious history would be appropriate.

And here are two gifts you can give godparents before the baptism: information on the meaning of godparenting and instructions on what to do during the ceremony. Believe it or not, many godparents just show up at the church and are thrown into the fray. Take the time to mail them a rundown of what they'll be expected to say and do during the baptism, and tell them what being a godparent means in your church. This is especially important if the godparents are of a different denomination or faith: Make sure they feel comfortable with what your church will ask them, and answer their questions before the ceremony, not after.

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