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The Lovespoon: A Gift of Romantic Intent

As long ago as the seventeenth century the lovespoon has been presented by a man to the woman he wishes to marry. The hopeful suitor would lovingly carve intricate love symbols into a piece of wood, fashioning into a lovespoon that not only showed his craftsmanship but also signified his love for his intended bride. The purpose of the lovespoon was to show both the intended bride and her father that the man was skilled at his craft and therefore capable of providing for the girl.
Lovespoons have been discovered dating back to 1664 in Germany and 1667 in Wales, but it is believed that the tradition of carving and gifting lovespoons dates back even further. Although Wales is famous for lovespoons they have been discovered in several other parts of the world, most notably Scandinavia and some parts of Eastern Europe. While the lovespoon was intended as a functional utensil to be used, today it is a decorative item that is typically displayed by being hung on a wall.

The carved designs were typically symbol, with each symbol representing an important aspect of the impending marriage. Many of those symbols are still represent the same today, such as the horseshoe for luck, the cross for faith/religious belief, a heart or two entwined hearts for love, bells for marriage, and a lock representing security. Celtic knot designs were often representative of the suitor’s wish for a long, loving marriage.

Other aspects of the lovespoon took more skill and craftsmanship to execute such as the caged balls which represent the number of children the man hoped for, and while a chain was often a carved feature of the lovespoon it was usually added to further demonstrate the great skill of the suitor than as a symbol. Another thought is that the number of links in the chain represented the number of children wished for.

Lovespoons would often be carved in their spare time by sailors while at sea, the designs often incorporating such symbols as anchors and ships and other maritime symbols, making them easily recognizable as being carved by a sailor. The symbols and designs that would be featured on a lovespoon would differ from country to country, each reflecting their own country’s traditions and beliefs.

In Norway wedding spoons, very similar to the Welsh lovespoons but linked together with carved chain, would be used by the newly married couple to eat with. The linkage was to symbolize the linking of two people in marriage. As with the Welsh lovespoons, the Norwegian wedding spoons were often very intricately carved. Often the two spoons and linked chain were fashioned out of a single piece of wood, which demonstrated a superior level of craftsmanship.

A twisted stem was indicative of a wish for the couple to become as one and a diamond shape was thought to represent the desire for good fortune and wealth. When a man presented a woman with a lovespoon containing a key shape he was telling her that he was giving her the ‘key to his heart’ and if a lock was also included he was giving her the key to his home.
Each spoon would tell its own story based upon the hopes and wishes of the suitor and all that he promised to bring to the marriage, as well as his great skill as a craftsman carver. When a lovespoon was offered to a woman the suitor was offering himself in every way as a suitable husband and provider, with the carvings on the spoon telling her all she needed to know about his hopes and expectations for their marriage.

While the lovespoon was traditionally given to the intended bride by her hopeful suitor, today lovespoons are not only given as wedding and anniversary gifts but on many other occasions also, such as the birth of a baby, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.