Wedding spoons link the past and present
Welsh-Canadian woodcarver keeps Norwegian wedding tradition alive
The Norwegian American
One of the major elements of Norwegian wedding celebrations of generations past was the meal after the ceremony, the first of many to be shared by the newly wedded couple. The bride and groom were served several courses by their guests, each in beautifully carved and ornately decorated dishes. Together, the couple would eat using a unique set of spoons connected with a length of wooden chain—the wedding spoons.
Wedding spoons were part of wedding celebrations in Norway from the early 19th century through the 1970s and peaked in popularity during the late 1800s. Made of beautifully carved wood, the two spoons were linked together by a wooden chain, symbolizing the union of the newly wedded couple. During the wedding celebrations, the couple would use the spoons to eat their first meal as husband and wife, signifying that they were now linked together for life. Unlike other courtship spoons that were popular around the same time, these spoons were only used at the wedding and would usually go on to be displayed in the couple’s home.
Dave Western, a Welsh-born professional carver now based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, is a preeminent carver of Norwegian wedding spoons in North America. His carving background is in Welsh lovespoons, a similar tradition to that of Norwegian wedding spoons.
Western confessed that he discovered Norwegian wedding spoons by accident.
“I received an old, badly battered set of Norwegian spoons from a collector friend, who was downsizing his collection,” he explained. “He thought I would enjoy them and might be able to fix them—both of which I most certainly did! In fact, I fell in love with those spoons and decided to try my hand at making a set. After a few weeks of learning many, many lessons the hard way, I finished my first pair.”
These days, Western makes about a dozen sets of wedding spoons a year. The spoons he carves are usually made of more traditional woods, such as unvarnished birch and willow, but he also offers to use other woods like maple, cherry, or walnut, all of which can be oiled with tung oil and finished with a beeswax polish to be food-safe, depending on what the couple would like. His spoons come in three sizes, and he adapts the length of the chain to customer requests.
“To ensure authenticity, I have collected several sets of antique spoons over the years for study and my own design is an amalgamation of several different spoons in my collection,” he said. “Short of finding an antique set through an auction house, I believe my spoons to be the most accurate and beautifully carved wedding spoons on the market.”
Traditional Norwegian wedding spoons often had tiny faces or masks at the crown of the spoon called “glibber.” The Norsk folkemuseum in Oslo notes that these glibber faces could be found on a variety of carved objects, including sleds, ale birds, and cupboards, as well as on Romanesque churches, although it is unclear whether or not the faces had any meaning beyond decoration on the spoons. While Western offers to carve the glibber faces on his spoons, he has found that most couples prefer to replace them with their initials instead.
While tradition and accuracy are of great importance to him, Western does like to take a bit of creative license with his wedding spoons when clients want to reimagine and individualize the design.
“My background as a Welsh lovespoon carver means I have a tendency toward eccentricity, so I have worked with many of my clients to develop linked wedding spoon sets that deviate substantially from the standard pattern that is most famous,” he explained. “Especially if the couple come from different backgrounds, it is fun to incorporate different art styles and symbols into the design.”
In addition to these specially designed spoons, Western also offers “ready made” traditional panel-style spoons at various price points, starting at $350. These spoons come with detailed link carving, Western’s standard kolrosed bowl design, and the handles shaped. Spoons with additional kolrosed design and glibber carvings, as well as any other adaptations to design, incur additional charges.
All photos courtesy of Dave Western
Interested in buying a set of wedding spoons? You can order a set from Dave at his website: www.davidwesternlovespoons.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 12, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.