A new way to welcome baby to the world

There's a new alternative to baptism on P.E.I. — a "welcome baby" ceremony.

'Many people have moved away from the church but they still would like to have a formal naming of their baby'

Debbie and Derek van den Heuvel and family welcome baby Mya, along with her 'guide parents.' (Submitted by Diana Lariviere)

There's a new alternative to baptism on P.E.I. — a "welcome baby" ceremony. 

P.E.I. marriage commissioner Diana Lariviere calls it a civil approach to what would otherwise be a baptism. 

"What we've discovered over time is that many people have moved away from the church, but they still would like to have a formal naming of their baby," said Lariviere.

Rather than signifying acceptance into a church, the ceremony recognizes acceptance into the community. 

"It's a celebration, it's a welcoming of the child into the family, and it's a formalizing of the name of the child," Lariviere explains.  

'Just for us'

Although Debbie and Derek van den Heuvel of Murray River had baptised their other children together in the Catholic church, last summer they chose to welcome their new baby Mya with a welcome baby ceremony delivered by Lariviere, who had also officiated their wedding. 

A welcoming ceremony for Mya van den Heuvel last summer was 'intimate' and meaningful, says her mother Debbie. (Submitted by Diana Lariviere)

"It was just very small, on the side of the beach, and it was great," said Debbie.

"We just wanted something very intimate — we're private people — and just something that meant a lot to us and was just for us." 

The family celebrated outside at Argyle Shore provincial park, with their four other children taking part in the ceremony. 

The baby's parents invite "guide parents" rather than godparents to guide the child in life. 

"I liked that I didn't feel obligated to make any promises that I didn't mean," said Debbie, noting that she "spoke from the heart as opposed to from a book." 

"It was uplifting," added Lariviere. "It was really a very, very happy occasion."

'Rather new'

Lariviere, who offers the welcome baby ceremony for $150, has so far performed just the one, although she's had nearly a dozen inquiries. 

Baby Mya van den Heuvel and her mother, Debbie, who says the naming ceremony 'was uplifting.' (Submitted by Diana Lariviere )

"It's rather new, so people are wary of what is involved and what it actually means and whether it has any official status," Lariviere said, pointing out that baby-naming or welcome rituals are part of most cultures and date back thousands of years. 

Lariviere, who borrowed the idea from an Ontario marriage commissioner's website, believes she is the only official on P.E.I. who offers the service.