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February 26, 2008



I had a hope chest that my father made for me on my 16th birthday. It was so beautiful and meaningful! I think I had it filled up by the time I turned 17 with things for my marriage and home. Better still, my friends all fell in love with it as well and my father ended up making one for a friend who's father was unable to!
Bring the hopechest back!


I think that a major reason why the tradition died out is that few girls fit the prototype of a poor 19th century American farm girl anymore. It's much cheaper to buy things after you're married rather than storing them for years. It's easier to buy clothing for the right sex, in the right size, and in flattering colors AFTER the baby's born. That way you don't have waste valuable time altering them!


jenny is the baby clothes point an analogy or did people actually put baby clothes in their hope chests? forgive my ignorance, thank you.


Just to clarify -- hope chests were filled within linens, dishes, etc. for the home life of the bride after she married. Also, I have read that it was considered bad luck to include baby items in the hope chest -- so it would only contain home items.


Yes that is why I confused by Jenny's comment because I thought hope chests were filled with linen & such and not baby clothes.


If you look at the typical hope chest, it doesn't hold enough to supply your entire future household:


So I hear what Jenny is saying but I think the idea is largely symbolic. And when you have an object that symbolizes something larger (in this case, hope) that tends to make the linen appealing even if you no longer favor the color. (As I feel about my grandmother's tablecloth, for example.)

Also, the time after marriage is extremely busy and the little niceties that make a house a home are often precisely the things you don't have time to shop for.

So I have to say I'm with Cassy on this one. Time to revive the tradition!

(Poor farm girls not withstanding :-)


I have a cedar hope chest, and I use it to save up special things for when I get married. I know I'll get lots of things, but I save things that I embroidered myself, or handmade wooden bowls and such.

My parents also encouraged me to pray for my future husband, and I kept a journal in which I wrote letters to him from a young age. It's fun, because it's a little like a diary, and a little like a prayer, and I think it'll be fun to read it together someday!

Christa Taylor

My Dad handmade my hope-chest when I turned 18. It's been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.

The hope-chest is symbolic, and very precious to me. It houses hand-embroidered linens, niche kitchen items, small antiques, gifts, etc.

Yes, in this age, many of my friends mock the concept of a "hope-chest", but what could possibly be wrong with such a symbol that represents everything a girl could hope for?


Wow...I actually didn't know what hope chests were for until I read this article. I sort have something of a "hope chest" on my hard disk :D. I listed the qualities I want in a guy and I wrote a few poems to the future Mr. Me too, when I was feeling really mushy.

But putting them all in a special place sounds like a great idea and definitely something to cheer me up when I'm feeling gloomy. Bowls and great ornaments sounds like a very practical addition as well. Cheers!


Oh yeah and one more thing...shouldn't guys keep hope chests too? I do think men should be thinking ahead about marriage as well. And what do you guys think they would/should they put in their hope chests?

Katie Gillet

For one thing, guys can start collections of good solid Craftsman tools in their "hope chests"! And the skills to use them.

The physical box doesn't have to be a pretty cedar chest; it can be begun with a Rubbermaid container or even something smaller. I have to laugh, though, because the contents of my dd's hope chest is already begun and she's only 18 months. Why, you ask? Because I was given a cookie cutter in a shape I already had. That's all that's in it thus far, but rather than get rid of the cookie cutter I'll save it for her.


OK, against my will I'm picturing DVDs of all Star Trek episodes, crates of frozen red meat. . .



"but what could possibly be wrong with such a symbol that represents everything a girl could hope for? "

Maybe because everything a girl could hope for involves much more than marriage and pretty linens?


The CBLPI has the right idea...but I think they might be going about it the wrong way. I just ordered some material from them for V-day next year and the bottom of the posters say "real love is possible, and don't let any frumpy feminist tell you other wise."

frumpy feminist?

and the fact that their posters feature Ann Coulter, who is very hateful and snarky, turn me off. She is not a good role model for anyone!

Richard Gay

I suppose it' all well and good, but I urge young women to focus on growing up strong and able to support themselves should they not want to marry, not be able to find someone worth marrying or find themselves alone due to the death or departure of their spouse. It happens, and it makes sense to be prepared. Your well-being and your place in the world is more important than being married.

M. Landers


I don't see why the two are necessarily mutually exclusive or in competition.


I think most people have hopes of having a fulfilling relationship - if they don't then there is no obligation to pretend that they do - but I think it it a great opportunity to get in touch with your own hopes and values - which, let's face it, are only ignited by the presence of others in our life or truly appreciated, ideally, by the person we choose to share our lives with - not many of the human race really want to go through their days alone - it's just not in our nature.


I don't think parents should act like the sole purpose of their daughters' existence is to be married. But parents do hope that their child will have a happy and fulfilling life rich with love. Building a hope chest may be an expression of that rather than an instruction that she has to be married.


Frequently, the hope chest was the storage container for a bride's trousseau (which consisted of bed and table linens, as well as "woman's" underclothing, etc.) My mother-in-law still has items belonging to her grandmother who died when her daughter was a baby. Part of the tradition is carried forward today by bridal showers. Young ladies learned to sew by practicing on handkerchiefs and other small items before moving on to larger, more visible pieces such as napkins and tablecloths. It was a way for a young gentleman to know something of his lady's ability to sew clothing, bedding, etc. that such skill with a needle was demonstrated. Once married, usually the bride began to create beautiful baby clothes in anticipation of the arrival of children.
I am not saying that this is good or bad; just that when a woman's focus was on her family, she made efforts in that direction in a way that contributed to her household, just as many women today take jobs to save money for a down payment, college tuition, etc. I wonder, though, if wives and mothers spent as much effort in doing things for themselves (instead of working, paying taxes, then paying other people to work) if we would come out ahead or behind. I am just glad that I don't have to wear out my fingers with hand sewing everything that my family wears!

Anti prude

You silly silly little creatures. God can have you and your little little hope chests. Filled with sweet sweet little linens and baby clothes.


I think "anti prude" has a reading comprehension problem.

My grandmother prepared a hope chest, but didn't get married until the shockingly late age of 30. (She was born in 1907.) The chest sat in her house until she died when I was in my teens, and my mother meant for me to get it, but it found its way into another family member's house. I had another trunk I meant to use as a hope chest, but mine ended up being more metaphorical than a physical piece of furniture. I needed it for stuffed animal and fabric scrap storage. :)

When I was a girl, maybe nine or ten, my mother explained hope chests to me. I started to work on embroidered placemats and pillowcases, quilts, and other things to hold on to for my future household.

Until very recently, she referred to family heirlooms and other nice things as things that I will get when I get married. I went along with this as a teen, since I was deluded enough back then to think that marriage might actually happen for me. As I grew older, being told that I would get to keep this or that household item when I get married started to sting. Finally I stood up for myself. It took years of gentle prodding to get her to realize that it's likely that I will buy and furnish my own house long before I ever find a man willing to become Mr. B. Which is true--I have just as much need for pots and pans now as I would with a ring on my finger.


I feel like I am getting the best of both worlds. My mother would talk about hope chests, and then in the same sentence say, "But you don't have to be married to have nice pots and pans." :-) So she started buying housewares for holiday presents when I was in high school or college, but I still kind of wanted something to "hope for."

Now I am engaged, and I still have some things that I haven't used yet in my apartment, but more fun yet, I get to use this engagement period to build up my set of a different kind of wares for my husband. :-) As a fairly modest woman, having nice underthings wasn't a top priority, but one "gift" I would like to give my husband is to get rid of all my holey underwear and buy new things. So I am starting to buy those and save them up, not letting myself wear any of them until I'm married. Not only does this turn my attention to the future, but knowing just how old everything I have on is, reduces the temptation to go too far before the wedding! :-)


Amen to Anibelle!
I was in a similar situation and now have been married for over ten years. I loved having practical as well as not so practical things in my hope chest when I got married. As the name implies, these things are in the HOPE that one will find a good husband. True, not every woman does, not does every woman want one (although, just from my own experience, I have to ask, WHY NOT???). But if the time comes when those items are needed and you have no husband, there is nothing wrong with using them. I used some of my kitchen things in college (whilst engaged) and they just as meaningful and useful after I was married.
I think a hope chest is a lovely way of helping girls and young ladies to consider what they want in a husband, what they expect of wives, and what they want for their futures. I never felt pressured about getting married, nor would I have felt the need to defend myself if I never found the man of my dreams. having a hope chest doesn't automatically require one to locate the nearest man once you reach eligible age. It does make one think about why you would want to marry, and what you want that to entail. I think it's something that young girls should think about so that when they start feeling pressured by boys, they already know what they want in the romantic department. Knowing that, it helps enable them to say no to things they know are wrong and/or don't want to do/experience.
BTW, hurrah to the person that posted guys should start collecting a few tools and learn to use them, referring to a 'guy's cedar chest'. What a nice thing it would be if my friends' husbands had all come with a collection of screwdrivers and drill, all ready to use them when they were married! Instead, my hubby gets called upon for even simple things...not that I mind seeing him being handy...LOL!


i loved L.B's idea about saving under clothes and things! im engaged but wont be able to be married for awhile but i am starting a hope chest just so ill have some things when we are finally married. its really fun and exciting! i already have a set of china and some paleish pink champagne glasses...ive been thinking that ill begin writing letters to him to put in it or something also...

Bedroom Furniture

you can also add maybe something from your bedroom furniture in the chest as well!


I personally love the idea of a hope chest. I'll be graduating high school this year and sorta by accident started one during my freshman year. We had just moved into my grandma's house and were cleaning out her attic as she kept everything "just in case" as she was a farmer as a girl with always the thought of someone might need this one day. But anyway, I was helping and found a pretty set of blue and grey dishes. There were only three, but four bowls so I'm thinking one might have been broken, but I kept them all. My mom had suggested that I keep them in my toy box that my dad had built for me when I was about 5. Up until then, the toy box held random things I didn't know where else to put.
Needless to say, I cleaned it out and carefully polished the inside so it would be nice and shiny. As I was washing the dishes my dad came in and asked what I was doing with his old dishes. I told him I was going to put them in my hope chest and he smiled and laughed. The dishes hadn't been some old heirlooms but his kmart dishes from his first marriage! I told him I was keeping them anyway and carefully washed and dried them, wrapping them in paper towels to put in a little rubbermaid container so they wouldn't get broken on accident. Since then, I've slowly added some of my own things, my baby album, my first Bible, and two quilts, one that my grandma made as a girl and another my great grandma made for my aunt who didn't want it anymore. I've also added a quilt that I made, some embroidered pillow cases and a few towels that my aunt had meant for me to take to college, but as I'm not going this fall, I decided to keep them for once I'm married or move out.
My friends think I'm silly for doing this, but I find great joy in creating things to place inside it. I've also found that it helps me to remember to save myself for my future husband, though getting married isn't something I have to do as I do have other goals for my life. But I do like fantacizing about him. I guess I'm just a hopeless romantic and a product of harnessing the old fashioned and traditional ways. I know I won't ever regret what I'm doing, I just wish the style would come back so my friends and I could make things together for it.


I especially appreciated the original author's statements about a hope chest symbolizing the thought and care that a woman has for her future husband before they are married (or perhaps have even met!). This doesn't mean women have to make marriage their highest aspiration in life, but I think that cherishing the idea of marriage before the time comes, sets one up for a more successful marriage.
This is particularly relevant to encouraging and preserving fidelity in marriage. If you take marriage seriously and treasure the idea of that commitment (perhaps in the abstract) before you make it, you are preparing yourself to be a more faithful partner. It seems that in society today we are instructed to think of our future spouse as the one who captures our affection and attention sufficiently to subdue our desires to seek out other sources of attention; thereby making it the responsibility of "love" -- this external, abstract idea -- to hold us to our commitments. To some degree that is true, but it is an individual choice in EVERY circumstance whether we are honest, faithful partners. That is a matter of personal integrity, irrespective of the strength of our love for someone else. We say practice makes perfect, so we ought to cultivate a proper sense of commitment through the mental practice of thinking about marriage in that way. And a hope chest can be one manifestation of that practice.


Different people all over the world get the home loans in various banks, because it's comfortable.


I know many have already commented, but I just thought I'd add that I have a hope chest, and while I "hope" to be married someday and share these special things with him, I also accept that I may stay single, and therefore all my hope chest items are things I could use in any future home I have- married or not.
To me this merges both sides of the issue- I lovingly prepare these items for my future, whether that's a home with a loving husband or on my own in a pretty apartment, etc. I don't see why you can't have hopes and yet be practical.

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