How do you hope chest as an Offbeat Bride?

Guest post by Lindsey
1949 Lane Cedar Hope Chest advertisement from Etsy seller LaOohLaLaBoutique
1949 Lane Cedar Hope Chest advertisement from Etsy seller LaOohLaLaBoutique

One of the major issues I've had with wedding websites and magazines (and really, why Offbeat Bride has been such a relief) is this feeling that I should have considered all of this before. I must have been dreaming of my wedding since I was five, and I of course know what my colors and my theme and my flowers will be because all of this matters and this will be the happiest day of my life and, oh, I guess my groom will show up too.

Part of this pressure has come from older members of my family asking about my hope chestDo you have anything to put in your hope chest? and There's a linens sale coming up if you want to pick up some things for your hope chest and even I saw a hope chest on Craigslist if your fiance hasn't picked one up for you.

All of this is to say that I haven't considered a hope chest at all, and really that the concept of having a hope chest from a young age freaks me out a little. I mean, shouldn't young girls and women be thinking about bigger things than stockpiling household goods? Do we ask young boys and men to consider this? (No, we don't.)

But here's where things get complicated: I LOVE crafting. There is something so charming and appealing to me about pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into creating things that my fiancé and I will use time and time again in our lives together, rather than putting all of that effort into a flower arrangement or dance choreography for a wedding.

I also LOVE organizing. The idea of having everything I need to effectively adult on hand, to compile all of the things we really do need but have been putting off buying despite three years of cohabitation (e.g. a toolset) and to put it all nicely in a box! Love it.

So, I wonder… Is there a way to combine a love for creating and preparing with a rejection of the expectation that I should be creating and preparing?

What have other Offbeat Bride readers done about hope chests?

Comments on How do you hope chest as an Offbeat Bride?

  1. I had no idea hope chests were still a thing! But honestly this is all about how you look at it. If you want to buy things that you’ll use only after you’re married- buy them. Put them wherever you want to. This feels no different to me than buying Christmas presents months ahead of time and putting them in a box in the closet for safe keeping. So do what you want lady! Just because a tradition had creepy sexist origins doesn’t mean that’s why YOU are choosing to do it.

  2. I’ve never heard of a Hope Chest before. Are/were they common in the US? In the UK there used to be a tradition of the bride bringing a trousseau of linens etc with her to the marriage, which was partly about showing off your needlework skills, but was also an aspect of the dowry, since the woman was reducing her financial impact on her husband by not requiring him to buy new sheets! I don’t know anyone who still does it now (but then, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t cohabited before marriage).

    Eh, anyway. What it really comes down to is what you’re comfortable accepting, and what you’re comfortable declining. I suppose part of it is whether they’re telling you your FH ought to be buying you these things (which is between you and him anyway), as the advert above suggests, or whether in your community it’s common for friends and family to contribute too. Be honest with people if they want to gift you things: “I feel like we don’t need the traditional hope chest items as a couple, since we’re already living together, but what would be really useful to us and our home together would be a tool kit.”

  3. When I was a tween/teen, my grandma would give me items for my hope chest like linens and napkin rings. Those were disappointing holidays for a 9 year old! I didn’t save any of them and I don’t plan to make a marriage hope chest now.

    The only hope chest I would consider would be for a future baby, because it would be sweet to craft things now to use later. But we’re not going to start trying for 5-7 more years so it feels weird to start it now.

  4. What in the hell is a “hope chest”? I’m a lifelong American, raised in the South and I have never, until this day, heard of a “hope chest”. Somebody help me out! I don’t want the future hub’s family to ask about this chest thing and I just give them the deer-in-the-headlights.

  5. The only one I’ve ever heard mention a Hope Chest was my exes mother. I had never heard of that before and at 16 thought it was really old fashioned and weird. It’s like a concept out of Little House on the Prairie. I love Little House as much as the next person but there’s a reason people don’t live that way anymore!
    However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to have the things you need for your life together either. That just makes good sense. We’ve been living together for three years, have been married for just under four months, and we don’t have a fire extinguisher! So, I think get the things you need, or even register for them, and cut the “hope chest” thing out of the equation. Just get the things, use the things, and that’s that!

    • Young ladies growing up used to put things in them for when they “hopefully” married one day. Hand made embroidered, sewn, knitted linens, baby clothes, family heirlooms. Special china or decorations, silver, etc. The cedar chests keep out moths and and other things and it was a big deal and tradition. P.S. I never had one either and I have been married twice.

  6. I actually started a hope chest years ago (basically whatever kitchen gadgets I could get cheap), but I ended up taking them out bit by bit to cook. Oh well, I tried, right ? I’m fairly certain my mom had one, although I doubt I’ll suggest a future child should start one. That’s what Amazon registries are for, I guess 🙂

  7. I agree with Lia when she says, “Just because a tradition had creepy sexist origins doesn’t mean that’s why YOU are choosing to do it.” I never had a hope chest and it honestly never crossed my mind until now, but now that I’m thinking about it, I should’ve put the “chest” part of that on our wedding registry: they’re great for storage in plain sight! Plus, if you get a cedar one (which, based on that ad, appears to be the traditional type), it’s really great moth repellent for whatever fibers you store in there: linens, off-season clothing, yarn, etc.

  8. Maybe it could be something you and your FH do together, with a fun name that just has things you can look forward to using after the wedding. Not necessarily house things, just anything nice-my friends did a “Spousal Stockpile” with super fancy sheets, video games they wanted to play together, new cookbooks, a home beer kit, etc. It was a fun way for them to plan something nice just for them beyond the actual wedding.

    • This is almost exactly what I was going to suggest!

      OP – Sometimes renaming something can really help to remove the item from it’s cultural past – you can still enjoy the tradition of collecting things for your future in a nice box/dresser/treasure chest/whatever, but you don’t have to refer to it as your “hope chest.” Why not make it your “Bride’s Booty,” or something else fun and unique to you?

  9. As a later in life bride (46) I had certain ideas since youth about what I might like in my (whenver it may be) wedding, so I guess I had sort of a “hope scrapbook” where I cut out, like, pretty headpieces or shoes, more thinking bridey stuff. Almost none of it I actually went with, but it was kind of like a style board that I ended up just absorbing into my psyche. I didn’t look at this scrapbook when I started actually planning, but after the fact I was curious and a lot of my aesthetics came through anyway. All that to say, if you have a home organizational thingie you want to design/garage shop/crafting table/tool assembly/zombie preparedness kit, why not start gathering the bits, either for real or in photos/Pinterest. Call it a WANT BOX instead of a HOPE CHEST. Offbeat just means true to yourself, I think, which when you think about it says a lot about the WIC.

  10. My mother ended up with one in her teens, though nothing was put into it related to her marriage to my dad. She used it to store my brother’s and my childhood keepsakes – drawings, pre-school reports, certain baby clothes, pictures, her diaries of that time in her life. I don’t think she’s looked in it for at least 25 years. She told me I’m getting it and all its contents when she passes on.

    Anyway, I wasn’t aware of all the customs attached to it until now. It made sense back when it was practiced, but has become obsolete in this day and age. Please understand where the older relatives are coming from, and be gentle when explaining to them why you have no need of it. They will be shocked and scandalized, but society has evolved beyond needing this custom. Good luck.

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