Wedding Traditions: The History of Hope Chests

For generations, women have opened up the cedar chests given to them by their mothers and looked through the precious heirlooms. When the time comes the new owner lifts the wooden lid to include their own contribution. The bottom is usually full of quilts, kitchenware, and embroidered goods. The upper shelves may hold delicate objects carefully wrapped in linen. This age-old object is known to be full of treasures accumulated over many generations. The hope chest signals hope for the new marriage and prepares a young woman by gifting her with essential items. A mother typically gifts this to her daughter as she prepares to move in with her new husband. 


What is a Hope Chest?

Traditionally, a mother fills a hope chest to give to her daughter on her wedding day. Then, it can be passed down through the generations. It’s usually used to help prepare your daughter for marriage or a new child. The items inside can be sentimental or useful for daily life. However, it can also be used when your child leaves home for the first time, and it can be modernized. 



The concept of hope chests are centuries old. It was common to fill the chest with a dowry and essential items to help the new bride start her life as a wife. They commonly included linens and heirlooms. 


The modern hope chest is derived from the European version that was popularized during the Renaissance. However, documentation shows that hope chests were even used in ancient Egypt. 


Hope chests were very popular in the 1950s. They can be simple boxes or incredibly decadent. They are designed to relocate with the bride to her new home. However, due to their large size, it can still be difficult to move around. 


Modern Hope Chests

Hope chests are more sentimental now. They contain items with sentimental value and anything that will help the daughter get a good start in life. In the past, they were filled with oil lamps, dishes, linens, and more. The purpose was to make a good wife, so everything was functional.


 Now, it’s a way for mothers to pass down heirlooms and other things that their daughter will enjoy. 


Filling a Hope Chest

A hope chest can become an impressive heirloom over time. It’s meant to be passed down from generation to generation. Each mother is supposed to add to it, and then give it to her daughter. There is no right or wrong way to fill it, but you should look for things that will be useful to the young woman in your life. 


You can include inspirational books, family photos and videos, recipe books, letters, fine china, jewelry and antiques, linen, baby stuff, journals, kitchenware, and more. 

What is it made of?

The hope chest is usually made of Cedar. This type of wood repels insects and fungus, which protects the delicate items stored inside. However, it can also be made of other types of wood or you can use sturdy luggage. 


Hidden Creek

The Hidden Creek wedding venue is the perfect place to hold your wedding. We have a beautiful wooded location decorated with twinkling lights for your ceremony. We also offer separate lodgings for the bridal and groom’s parties to get ready. After the ceremony, you and your guests can enjoy a lovely reception. Call Hidden Creek to schedule a consultation, so we can help bring your dream wedding to life.