Welsh Love Spoons: A Thoroughly Celtic Way to Say I Love You

by JoHarrington

For centuries, Welsh women have got the message when presented with a hand-carved wooden spoon. It means he's very interested indeed.

Are you Welsh, or have Cymric ancestry? Or merely a song in your heart and a longing for those old, dark, rugged mountains?

Then it may inflame your Celtic heart to learn about how romance happens in the Land of our Fathers. It was not a ring that was passed over then (for what good is a ring in the coal-mines and iron works?), but something much better yet.

Your cariad was given the Llwyau Caru; and, if it was good enough, you got her.

Rosewood Welsh Love Spoon with Gift Box

The Significance of the Love Spoon

Welsh men didn't just ask their lady for a date. He first had to prove his worth.

Photo: Welsh Love SpoonCarving a spoon is as practical as it is romantic. It takes time and energy to produce, but it says so much. The choice of wood reveals his knowledge and sound judgement, as he walked the forest finding it. The craftsmanship displays his skill with the implication that he will never be out of work. The utensil indicates that there will always be food on the table.

For the young lady, being offered a love spoon was like being handed a resume from a hopeful applicant. The position? Just that of her suitor with aspirations to one day being her husband. That gesture was more than merely, 'I love you'; it was 'I really want to be with you'.

There could be competition here. Whom did she choose? The youth who presented her with a sloppy, worm-ridden twig, fashioned in five minutes with his penknife into a spoon? Or the lovestruck soul, who had spent hours carefully selecting his wood, then whittling it into exquisite  decoration? One was an opportunist. The other already had her deep within his heart.

Welsh girls prayed that the right boy would create the right spoon. If he did, and she accepted it, then it could be the start of their whole lives together. They would be 'spooning', which is 'courting' in other cultures. In her mind, she could probably already hear the church bells ringing.

The Welsh Love Spoon Song by Lorraine King

Carve Your Own Welsh Love Spoon

Buy these guides for tips and tricks on how to craft your own Celtic love token.

The History and Design of the Llwyau Caru

Love spoons have survived in Wales since the 17th century. They've probably been exchanged for much longer.

Photo: Welsh Love SpoonNobody knows precisely how long the Welsh have been carving love spoons. It is a tradition which seems to have been around forever.

St Fagan's National History Museum, in Cardiff, has a huge collection of these llwyau caru (spoons of love). They span the centuries with the oldest in the collection dating from 1667.

Neither the man who carved it nor the lady who received it could have foreseen the future of that spoon. He had presented her with something that, 400 years later, all of the museum's visitors would still view to know the important message - he loved her very, very much.

Each spoon in the St Fagan's Oriel Gallery collection is as unique as its crafter, designed with just one girl in mind. He would have looked to the things that she loved - her favorite flower - or icons symbolic of her town or faith. These would all have been represented in the carving and so no two spoons were the same.

Some symbols became universal and these are still reproduced by Welsh craftsmen today. They are:

  • Bell  We chime together in harmony (wedding or anniversary)
  • Ball in Cage Our love is safely held. Alternatively, there might be a ball per child.
  • Birds  Let's fly away together (i.e. let's elope)
  • Celtic Knotwork We are everlasting and our love will be eternal.
  • Chain  I intend for us to be together forever. As with the ball in a cage, the links on the chain may represent each of the couple's children.
  • Cross Let God bless our union.
  • Diamond We will have wealth and good fortune.
  • Dragon  The Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) is the symbol of Wales. It can be added for protection, particularly symbolizing the support of the whole community.
  • Heart   I love you. (Or, in Welsh, 'Dwi'n dy garu di'.)
  • Horseshoe May we have luck in our future.
  • Key/Keyhole  I will look after you; I will protect you.
  • Lock We will be secure. This is usually combined with the key or keyhole.
  • Twisted Stem We will be together; or we will grow together from this moment on.

What would be carved on your llwyau caru?

The Creation of a Welsh Love Spoon

Barrington Onslow is a master of the craft. This is a stunning example of what can be carved into a love spoon.

More Llwyau Caru Books to Buy

Get in touch with your romantic Welsh heritage with these love spoon history, art and crafting guides.

The Value of a Welsh Love Spoon

A token of hope and romance could easily become a family heirloom.

Photo: Welsh Love SpoonTravel anywhere in Wales today and you will encounter a plethora of love spoons to buy as souvenirs. There are whole shops devoted to them and their wares have come a long way from their roots as an invitation to courtship. People buy them as house-warming gifts, friendship tokens, to present in congratulations for a new child or a graduation, or simply as something pretty to hang in the home.

For the true romantics, this may be seen as the dilution of a beautiful tradition. The love spoon hasn't been produced, from wood to completion, by a man desperate for the love of his beau. But then times change and so do the expectations of their women. In the 21st century, it may not be the skill wrought by his hands that counts, but the depth of his wallet.

The more ornate the love spoon, the more expensive its retail price. Yet some of these have more than recovered their original outlay. As investments for the future, they could well be a savvy choice.

In 2006, Christie's auctioned an 18th century Welsh love spoon for £3,600 ($6,851). During the same month, a 19th century beechwood love spoon passed hands for £5,400 ($10,276). A glance through their back catalog shows that such things are not unusual.

Yet both of those spoons would have been freely made from materials lying on some Welsh ground. It was the time, skill and will that mattered then.

Ladies, would you like to receive a Welsh lovespoon?

Gentlemen, would you ever give your loved one a Welsh lovespoon?

Pre-Carved Welsh Love Spoons to Buy Online

You are supposed to create these yourself, but who has the skills in this day and age?

More Romantic Articles

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Originating from Galway, in Ireland, Claddagh rings were historically worn by men. They were clues towards love and friendship (and politics).
Internet memes and Twitter played their parts, as Len (and the cyberworld) asked Katie to marry him.
One of the greatest love stories of all times talks about Liu, who spent 50 years hand-carving 6000 steps up a mountain for his wife. Liu & Xu had to hide their love from society.
Updated: 03/01/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 01/18/2013

I see these all the time, in shops in Wales, and some are so exquisitely done. You just stare at them going, "How did they manage that?!"

MonisMas on 01/17/2013

They are so beautiful! It takes a real talent to create something like this!

JoHarrington on 01/07/2013

You only need the one! But you'll have perfected it by Valentine's Day. :)

Jerrico_Usher on 01/07/2013

No worries, I started widdling away at my desk already, I figure I can get 20 spoons made before I have to move my all in one for safety :) Speakers may fall though... we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... :) oh wait, my desk is made of all glass and metal.... new plan.

JoHarrington on 01/07/2013

Nice one! And I hope to see a photograph of your spoon in the near future too!

Jerrico_Usher on 01/07/2013

haha, man those spoons are really cool, you may get a book sale from me *smiles*

JoHarrington on 01/07/2013

I'm keeping going until you whittle your own love spoon. I'm sure Mrs Usher will be charmed, even if it does look like a sick dolphin. :)

Jerrico_Usher on 01/06/2013

we could just keep going, I say something cleaver, you respond, I respond, you respond, (then you delete the whole game and restore your page to normal hhahahah)

JoHarrington on 01/06/2013

No problem.

Jerrico_Usher on 01/06/2013


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