Godparent proposals: I don’t...
New parents in Britain are adopting yet another lavish American trend. Georgina Fuller despairs
Couples in possession of children, so the logic has always gone, must be in want of a godparent. Yet what started out as a religious tradition nearly two millennia ago has become more popular than ever – and, along with it, the trend for “godparent proposals”: a lavish (some might say unnecessary) way of asking someone to be your beloved offspring’s guardian. Searches of the term were up 152 per cent last year, according to a Pinterest study on the top trends for 2019.
Think personalised Babygros, wine bottles with cursive slogans (“only the best aunties get upgraded to godmother”), mugs, bracelets and keepsake boxes. As if baby showers and gender reveal parties weren’t enough, it seems we are to adopt another extravagant American affectation, that it is no longer acceptable to simply ask an old friend over a cuppa if they fancy being godparent. We now have to mark the occasion with an official proposal, and a pointless gift.
In these secular times, the politics of godparenting can be confusing – especially if you have conflicting religious beliefs. While many couples circumnavigate this with naming ceremonies or non-religious affairs, there may still be some ambiguity when it comes to what is and isn’t expected of the godparent or guardian.
One friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I’m officially Church of England, but am actually borderline atheist. My eldest godchild is Catholic and just has his first Holy Communion. I was expected to buy him a big present, but I decided not to as I felt pretty resentful about the whole thing. I don’t think godparents should feel obligated to buy presents and I don’t know why they asked me in the first place as I’m really not religious.”
Some people bypass this completely by taking out the faith element. Dr Caz Udall, a leadership coach and mother-of-three, chose to have “soul brothers” rather than godparents for their children. “We wanted people that had a good connection, generation wise, for our kids,” she explains. “We chose the children of our friends, who were teenagers at the time, because we liked the idea of honouring our friendships with both the adults and their children.”
It was, says Dr Udall, a sort of kinship network. “We are 15 years in and the oldest ‘soul brother’ is now 30. It has been a brilliant experience.”
We have a total of six godparents for our three children, and while I am grateful to all of them for taking up the mantle, I’m sorry to say I think the whole thing is a waste of time because, unless the godparents stay childless (or they’re Elton John), they are probably not going to have enough time or money to devote to your kids.
I am fortunate to have two gorgeous god-daughters but, with three children under 10 and never-ending work deadlines, I rarely have the time or the money to indulge them. I did manage to take one to the panto last year, but other than that, I have been neglectful.
As my husband is Catholic, there was no way we weren’t going to have our children christened and we did think carefully about who we asked. Our crop include old school friends, aunts, uncles and a bridesmaid’s husband – people I would expect and hope to stay in our lives, but asked to be godparents more as a gesture and acknowledgement of our friendship than expectation of duty.
It seems to me that godparents are often more of a middle-class accessory or status symbol: there is instant kudos, for example, if a child has a famous one. Think Cara Delevingne and Joan Collins, Drew Barrymore and Steven Spielberg and Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus, cementing the elders’ statuses as caring bon viveurs.
Indeed, the idea of being a glamorous guardian with next to no real responsibilities is often better than the reality, especially when it involves a lifetime’s servitude and two lots of presents each year. And, if you’re a royal or a celebrity, there is no limit to your godparenting prowess. Prince Charles has at least 30 godchildren, while Elton John has 10, including Brooklyn and Romeo Beckham and Liz Hurley’s son, Damian. Meanwhile, Prince Louis, fifth in line to the throne, has a total of six godparents.
The general consensus remains that godparents are guardians, and that’s certainly something my own, Penny, took on board a after my beloved mum died. S She was one of the first people I Is spoke with in hospital, in a diamorphine-fuelled di haze, after af our first child was born
– I longed to call Mum, but Penny Pe was the next best thing.
I’m I not sure she would have appreciated app my mum asking her he to do the honours with a slogan-covered slog wine bottle, though. thoug
While I am grateful, I’m sorry to say that I think the whole thing is a waste of time
Elton John’s godchildren include the sons of Victoria Beckham and Liz Hurley