Welsh Love Spoons

Summary of Welsh Love Spoons
  • Introduction
  • History
  • Motif Meanings
  • Sources
Better known in Wales as llwyau caru, or llwyau serch, these are a betrothal tradition that's spread across the Celtic nations and among those of Celtic heritage.

History of the Love Spoon

Though no one is certain when the tradition started, there are spoons dating back into the 1600's. There's three different theories ~ take your pick.

1. A 1789 legend claims the spoons originated with sailors. The Welsh sailor spent long, lonely hours at sea, pining for the girl he hoped to marry someday. While at sea he carved a spoon for her, with many sea-going themes on the spoons from his everyday experiences. The legend also claims the nestling ability of the spoons reflects the sailor's life, with no personal space.

To support this legend the sailing themes are the anchor, ship, Celtic rigging knotwork, and ship's wheel.

2. A spoon, as a most basic household utensil, signifies feeding oneself, even from early childhood. The carving and giving of a love spoon may have represented the carver's ability and desire to provide for the girl.

3. In an agricultural society, a young man had to prove to a girl's father he was a capable of providing for a family and able to work with his hands to maintain a farming lifestyle.

Agricultural themes include the wagon wheel, twisted stems, vines, horse shoe, and grapes.

Whoever started the idea, traditionally the love spoons were carved from one piece of wood to display the carver's skill. He worked with nothing more than a pin-kinfe, or small pocket-knife. The handle received his full attention and skills, eventually being carved with piercings, relief, fretwork, or all three woodcarving techniques.

Wooden chains, swivels, balls within chains and rings displayed even greater skills, as the carvers figured out how to make these from one piece of wood.

Legends tell of popular young ladies accepting several spoons before selecting her future husband. Each of the designs came to have personal meanings, just as flowers did in the Victorian Era.

In the 1800's, when the Victorians started greeting cards, the tradition of Welsh lovespoons broadened to be given to family and friends and to mark special occasions ~ births, anniversaries, announcements, momentos.

Motif Meanings

  • Anchor ~ I want to settle down, my heart is home to stay or anchored at home with you
  • Ball ~ your love is love held safe with me
  • Ball in Cage ~ your love is held safe with me
  • Balls in a cage ~ captured love, number of children desired
  • Bell ~ together in harmony, rejoice in our union, wedding, anniversary
  • Birds ~ we’re love birds, let’s go away together
  • Bowls
    Double spoon bowl ~ togetherness, a couple
    Heart shaped ~ a full and bountiful life, we will have a life full of love, fulfilled love
    Triple spoon bowl – the Couple and family
  • Chain ~ a wish to be together forever, captured love, number of children desired
    Three Link Chain ~ let’s marry within three years
  • Commas ~ see soul signs
  • Cross ~ faith, a wish to have faith in Christ Jesus, a wish to be bound together in Christ, a wish for God to bless the sanctity of marriage
  • Daffodil ~ the flower of Wales
  • Diamond ~ wealth, good fortune, synonymous with the horseshoe
  • Dragon ~ protection, symbol of Wales
  • Flowers ~ affection, love will blossom, courtship
  • Grapes ~ love will grow
  • Harp ~ the music of love
  • Heart ~ love
    Single Heart ~ my heart is yours, may I court you?
    Open Heart ~ open and receptive
    Solid Heart ~ full of love
    Double Heart ~ a shared love, we love each other, love is returned, we feel the same way
  • Horseshoe ~ good luck, both good luck and good fortune
  • House ~ my home is yours
  • Key ~ to lock hearts together
  • Key and Keyhole ~ home and security, I shall look after you, my home is yours
  • Knotwork ~ everlasting, together forever, eternal love with no beginning and no end
  • Lock ~ security, safety, I shall look after you
  • Musical Note ~ typically a treble clef, suggesting a love of music
  • Ship ~ smooth or safe passage through life
  • Soul Symbols ~ I love you heart and soul. Looking like a pair of commas, but possibly the oldest symbol used on love spoons. They resemble a pair of nostrils. This belief came from Ancient Egyptians who believed that the soul left the earthly body at death through the nostrils.
  • Twisted Stem ~ two lives become as one, togetherness, love grows, our love will grow
  • Vine ~ love grows, growing together
  • Wheel ~ work, I will work for you

Sources for Welsh Love Spoons

Celtic Art
The pamphlet A Spoonful of Love, by master carver Elwyn Hughes is included with each order.

I Do Wedding Favours

The Love Spoon Gallery

Cadwyn Gifts
Their selections also include love spoon jewelry.

The Welsh Love Spoons Centre
Including other hand-turned wooden bowls and vases

Welsh Love Spoons
Hand-turned wooden bowls and vases are also available.

Adam King
This carver only carves in the traditional lime wood. He also has other hand turned wooden objects. Be sure to look at the Noah’s ark and the animals two-by-two. Over and above the Christian significance of the ark, the Unicorn Song is a very Celtic rendition of this event and is very popular among the Scots. You might consider including it, along with the movements, in your wedding reception (Ceilidh) selections.

Louise Kelly Designs
The spoons are available with heart or wedding bell designs in the handle. Small flowers and horseshoes can be added. A newborn baby spoon is also available. This Welsh based designer also sells bonbonnieres, boxes, and cones for favors. One item, unique and new to me, is lottery ticket holders. She also does all the wedding paper goods ~ save the day, invitations, table plans, even love spoon cards.

For those who are woodcarvers, or would like to carve their own spoon, Carving Patterns is a good source. There’s lots of directions and some free patterns for Welsh love spoons, including these cattail and grapes patterns .

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