Romancing History

Peculiar Courting Customs

Long before the automobile, telephone and the Friday night football game defined modern dating, there was courtship. A serious, exclusive commitment usually sanctioned by both sets of parents, that often implied the couple was intending to marry. But in times when the opposite sex didn’t mingle in public unless chaperoned, how did perspective beaus let a lady know she had captured his affections? Here’s some fun and quite unusual customs from the past that helped pave the wave to romance for our ancestors.

Antique Welsh Love Spoons

Antique Welsh Love Spoons

Carved from the Heart

In Wales, when a young man wanted to court, he carved his special lady a love spoon. Intricate in detail, these love offerings took hours to craft thereby demonstrating his devotion to his intended. If the young woman accepted the spoon, they were considered courting. Although this ritual has faded in modern Wales, love spoons are still given as gifts for weddings, anniversaries and Valentine’s day.

FAN-tastic Flirting

With all their rules about the opposite sex mingling, those stodgy upper-class Victorians made the art of wooing a woman tricky indeed. Since a gentleman was not allowed to speak to a woman to whom he hadn’t been properly introduced, he needed some clue a lady was open to his attention. Thus the language of the fan was born.  When a lady caught a man staring from across the room, her swift moving fan indicated she was unattached while a slow flapping one signaled she was engaged. If she laid the fan against her right cheek, she was available and open to an introduction. However, if the lady rested the fan against her left cheek, the unlucky fellow learned of her disinterest and spared himself an awkward introduction.

Speak Up, I Can’t Hear You

Couple using a courting stick

Couple using a courting stick

In 17th century America, a young man had little opportunity to woo his love in private. How was he to convince the lady he fancied of his unending devotion when in cramped quarters with her father hovering closeby? The answer, the courting trumpet (also know as a whispering stick or courting tube). By placing one end of a hollow wooden tube in her ear while her beau whispered sweet nothings from the other side, the couple ensured their privacy no matter how many listening ears were nearby.

Seal the Deal with Fruit

If you thought a carved wooden spoon was practical, how about a slice of apple? In rural Austria, available young ladies would shove an apple wedge in their armpit during dances. At the conclusion of festivities, she offered it to the lucky young man she most admired. Now if you’re like me you’re already wrinkling your nose. But wait it gets even better. If he returns her affections, he eats the fruit!

If my hubby were required to eat this putrid offering, I can nearly guarantee I’d still be single! While this old-fashioned gal loves to keep old traditions alive, eating the apple wedge is one courting ritual that should stay buried in the past!

Another old-fashioned way lovers kept the romance alive in the not-so-distant past was letter writing. While living on opposite sides of the country, in the dark ages before email and texting, my hubby wooed me the old-fashioned way– hand-written letters. We kept the post office in business, often exchanging 3-5 letters every week. I still have them in a box in my mother’s hope chest at the foot of my bed.

How did your sweetie woo you?


Victorian Valentines


Will the Real Cinderella Please Stand Up?


  1. I have a welsh love spoon hanging in my house! I bought it while in Wales. I love these quirky courting customs!

    • romancinghistory

      That’s cool that you have one of your own. You’ll have to take a picture of it for me! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Colleen

    Oh my….. that apple! I think I’d come with a spare piece and do a switcheroo…. offer him a clean one and toss the other one out the window for the birds… How did my hubby woo me? He asked me if he could drive me to church. 🙂 My car was broken down and I wasn’t able to go for a few weeks. I got me a keeper!

    • romancinghistory

      Isn’t that apple wedge a hoot! I found several different customs regarding body odors and some weren’t fit to publish here! I like your idea of switching it out! And yes, any man who will drive you to church is definitely a keeper!

  3. Wow, I think I would have agree with you about the apple wedge! Eek! The language of the fan is something I can appreciate, though. As for my sweetie, he drove over five hour, to my house and back, every weekend to spend time with me. 🙂

    • romancinghistory

      It makes you wonder how they ever came up with that? I dug around for awhile and couldn’t find the origin of the custom itself. He must have been smitten to drive ten hours round trip each weekend!

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