What are marriage coffers?

At Arcadia Antiques, we have a wide variety of antique chests, antique boxes, pine coffers, antique oak coffers and painted boxes for you to choose from. If you check out our ‘Chests and Coffers’ section, you’ll notice there are several ‘Marriage Coffers’ in our collection. Like many of their antique counterparts, these are fascinatingly decorative pieces, each sporting a different kind of design or painting.
So what exactly are these marriage coffers?
Coffers were basic pieces of furniture made during the 17th century. They were constructed from planks with a hinged lid and a simple pegged construction or with old iron clout nails. Known for being strong and durable, full of wonderful charm and character, marriage coffers were made specifically for use during a marriage.
Their purpose was to hold the wedding dress as well as any linen and jewellery exchanged at the time of marriage. Amongst other names they were given, coffers were also commonly known as trousseau or hope chests.  They were usually painted and carried the initials or names of the betrothed, or just that of the bride, painted on the front of the coffer. Some were inscribed with the date of manufacture and of the marriage, whilst others displayed the maker’s name.
Marriage coffers were always made to look beautiful, as they went with the bride to her new home carrying her possessions. Marriage coffers were common almost everywhere and each area or region had a distinctive style, patterns and colours. Depending on the region, the coffers carried furnishing of ritual importance and also featured religiously symbolic decorations with   flowers or birds that were significant to the specific religion being commonplace. For instance, goldfinches, doves and golden orioles that promoted fertility, prosperity and good fortune were seen on many.
In modern homes, marriage coffers can be put to a variety of uses. They are perfect places to sit, they make unique side tables, go well in bedrooms for storing linen and sheets or can even be applied creatively in the kitchen.
Check out our collection for some one-of-a-kind options. And as well as marriage coffers, we also have other simple antique coffers in a range of great colours and designs.

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