Throughout the ages, Hope Chests have remained a special bridal tradition that’s still practiced today with modern brides. The Hope Chest places value on the items it contains as keepsakes for the bride to use for a bright future as a wife and mother.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Hope Chests started in the Renaissance period in Italy during the 15th & 16th centuries. The tradition was brought over to America from Europe after WWI, practiced mostly by the upper class, and then popularized throughout America by a major furniture maker. Thus, making it possible for the middle class to participate in this tradition. And, it’s not just practiced in America… several cultures around the world share the custom.
As mentioned, historically the upper class first carried on this tradition. When a well-to-do family had a baby girl, her room décor included a hope chest and valuable items were stored in this chest throughout her childhood & teenage years. The symbolism meaning is that the Hope Chest contains the hopes and dreams for a good marriage with many children. In some cultures, the Hope Chest is presented to the groom during the ceremony as part of the bride’s dowry.
MODERNIZING THE TRADITION
Nowadays, brides typically start a Hope Chest when they get engaged. I recommend first hunting for one in an antique shop or flea market… this often leads to special finds. No luck with those options, or no time? How about using a unique, small chest of drawers? You can then let your bridal shower guests know that you’re placing their special gifts inside your “Hope Chest.” They’ll feel honored knowing you’re including them in your meaningful tradition.
The items we recommend for your Hope Chest include: (1) any valuable antiques from your ancestors that fit inside the chest; (2) linens; (3) flatware and china for your first dinner together; (4) cookware; (5) sheets & a blanket; (6) towels; (7) honeymoon lingerie, veil; (8) wardrobe; and not to be forgotten… something old, something, new, something borrow and something blue! And mementos that are meaningful especially to you.
WHO PURCHASES ITEMS FOR THE HOPE CHEST?
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the Hope Chest. Usually though it’s special family members of the bride, the groom, maid of honor and bridesmaids.
WHEN ARE ITEMS FROM THE HOPE CHEST USED?
Hopefully, they’ll be used for the Honeymoon as well as during the entire marriage. Many brides also use their Hope Chest as a milestone time capsule. For example, using something special from your Hope Chest for your first anniversary is an excellent way to keep the memories alive.
DOES THE HOPE CHEST PLAY A PART IN THE ACTUAL WEDDING CEREMONY?
It can as we described earlier, however we recommend having it displayed at the reception as a gift box. Or, having a framed photo of the Hope Chest on the memorial table, if you are having one, along with a sign showing a photo of great-grandmother and the items she passed down to the bride.