How to pick godparents without pissing everyone off

Whether it’s a traditional role or a more modern take, nominating a mentor for your kid is fraught with danger.

Friends sitting around table with kids

For many new parents, choosing a godparent is a difficult choice, loaded with family politics and/or your partner’s differing opinions about your deadbeat deadset best mates.

Not so for Will and Kate.

When bonny Prince George slid into the world in 2013, the attentions of England’s aristocracy turned to the matter of his godparents. Who would be chosen?

Would it be a traditional appointment, charged with overseeing li’l George’s spiritual education? Would it be a more rounded, more modern commitment, the godparents there as grown-up friends to mentor the child as he matures? Or – as the role has evolved among the great unwashed – would it be understood that if anything bad happened to mum and dad (car accident, illness, regicide), the godparents would take George in?

Bit of a royal pickle, right? No. They just picked seven. Three godmothers, four godfathers. Including the impeccably-bred wife of an English rugby captain, the 22-year-old 68th richest person in the world, and a blueblood 53-year-old former SAS member.

“Choosing is hard!” they might have said, like a Kardashian in a shoe shop. “We’ll take them all.”

But then, poor Uncle Harry missed out. A shame, really. The ginger-haired booze enthusiast, nude Las Vegas billiards veteran, starlet shagger and former fan of Nazi dress-ups would have been better placed to dish out life advice over an RSL schooner when George turned 18.

You’d expect Will would have wanted him. Maybe the royals’ choice wasn’t that simple after all.

Us commoners just get two. Or none.

In the 2016 Australian census, 39% of adults in their prime childbearing years (18-34) reported having no religion. Of the nation’s 52% self-declared Christians, less than one in seven regularly attends church.

(Full disclosure: I was baptised Catholic, and am a non-shouty atheist. My godfather is my maternal uncle, a semi-alcoholic professional sportswriter who worships only at the altar of the Eastern Suburbs RLFC. I take after him in almost all regards except that he is actually funny. My sister wasn’t baptised at all, and is a Satanist*.)


My wife is not overly religious but did suggest godparents for our boy. I objected, because a) I do not know any other semi-alcoholic writers who follow the Roosters, and b) Her candidates were terrible.

She argued that it would be “nice” for them to be acknowledged. I argued that, if we died, I didn’t want them having any claim to the boy.

We cast the net further. It was hard.

Another couple of close pals were mooted; childless but built for parenthood, they seemed ideal. I feared they were a bit right wing; the missus pointed out that, having given our boy the middle name Whitlam, he’d probably rebel anyway.

We almost settled on our respective siblings, a decision backed up by the grandparents, who weighed in. It was perplexing. It felt impossible.

It’s an honour. But so is being a bridesmaid, and (I’ve been told) that sucks

“Before asking [someone], you must think about whether the individual will be prepared and able to fulfill the role,” says British etiquette guru Jo Bryant.

What’s she banging on about then? Basically, she’s saying the family’s ne’er-do-well is not the best choice. Neither is that legendary best mate you pull all-nighters with – sure you’re close now, but you probably won’t see much of him once bub lands in your house.

Choose someone you’ve known for ages, who’s practically family.

Or, a better solution: unless you’re very religious, don’t ask anyone at all.

Cons: You don’t get to tip your hat to a mate, or sibling, giving them what can be seen as the ultimate vote of trust. But …

Pros: It’s 2017, and it’s just clearly not the ultimate vote of trust any more. If you snuff it, grandparents live into their 90s now, and/or you can nominate a guardian in your will.

Every role fulfilled by the traditional godparent can be just as well done by uncles and aunts anyway, and/or family friends, and/or coaches and teachers and other, older role models you haven’t even met yet.

Ultimately, we decided it was all too hard. Our boy is just the same as he would be otherwise. He doesn’t care about godparents. He only cares about playing with his doodle in the bath and trying to eat the magnets off the fridge.

*Not actually. She’s a primary school teacher. Close though.


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