Traditionally, godparents were either relatives or friends of parents whose counsel was requested in the religious and moral upbringing of their child. Usually, godparents shared religious beliefs with the parents and were expected to participate in teaching the child about God, religion, religious tradition and the ways of the world. Today, however, godparents are not always chosen on the basis of religious beliefs. Often, a godparent is someone who is expected to take over the raising of the child should something happen to his or her parents.
Choosing godparents should be a careful decision you make just before or just after the child is born. Often, godparents are present at the time of the child’s baptism (if you decide to baptize your child) and the election of godparents is made official on the baptismal certificate. This, of course, varies according to religion and denomination, but godparents are traditionally Christian or Catholic.
When choosing godparents, you might want to consider both friends and relatives. Typically, parents choose a couple whose ages are about the same as their own and whose friendship they have enjoyed throughout many years. Aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins and other family members are routinely selected, as are friends of the family. My godparents are a couple (now divorced) who my parents met in church more than forty years ago. My childhood is filled with memories of visiting their house and playing with their three children.
One of the most important things you should consider when choosing godparents is trust. Whether you choose a single godparent or more than one (such as a married couple), they should be people you have known for a long time and who you trust with your own life. You may wish to make it official that should anything happen to you and your spouse, the child’s godparents will assume custody. That is entirely up to you.
You might also want to consider age when choosing godparents. Grandparents might seem like the most appropriate choice, but you still might want to choose godparents who are likely to be around for the rest of your child’s life. My grandparents are still alive (both sets), but this is never a guarantee. Of course, you can never know how long friends or relatives will be with us, so age might not be a factor you are likely to consider.
Once you have chosen godparents, you’ll want to foster a relationship between them and your child. Even if you aren’t concerned about the religious or spiritual aspect of the honor, it is still a good idea for your child to know his or her godparents. Spend time with them, ask them to baby-sit and allow your child to learn to trust them. If they have children, facilitate a relationship between all of the kids. Choosing godparents who are not relatives allows you to build a familial bond with people who aren’t part of your immediate family.
And if you aren’t concerned about the religious aspect of godparents, you might want to choose another way to celebrate the honor. Throw a party for the godparents and the child to celebrate, or have a formal, intimate dinner. Whatever you decide, choosing godparents is a special event and should be treated as such. Your child will grow up knowing that those people are their godparents, and should be allowed to form an intricate bond.