Love locks explained

The tradition of placing love locks on public structures has grown in popularity over the past few decades. However, those unfamiliar with this practice may wonder what is so romantic about a steel padlock placed on a bridge?

But, it’s a surprisingly romantic gesture, albeit a potentially environmentally unfriendly one!

What are love locks?

A love lock is simply a padlock inscribed with a couple’s names or initials which they lock onto a public fixture such as a fence or bridge as a symbol of their love. It is traditional to throw the key to the padlock away to show that the love is unbreakable. A growing number of couples are choosing honeymoons where they can visit popular love lock drop off points.

Why do people use love locks?

The practice of using love locks is most popular in Europe although it has spread to other parts of the world as well. It first became popular in 2000, but the history of love locks goes back around 100 years. It first originated in a small Serbian village called Vrnjacka Banja. A local school teacher named Nada fell in love with a soldier and they pledged their love to one another. However, the soldier was sent to Greece during World War I where he fell in love with a local woman leaving Nada broken hearted. She never recovered and her death is attributed to a broken heart. Fearing for their own hearts, local girls would write their name and the name of their love on a padlock and lock it onto the Most Ljubavi or ‘Bridge of Love’ where Nada once met her soldier. The tradition spread and is now popular all over the world.

What happens when there is too much love?

Love locks are a beautiful idea in theory and as noted above there are several iconic locations around the world where love locks have created tourist attractions. However, there is a darker side to this sweet little tradition. One of the most famous locations in terms of love locks is the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris where thousands of love locks have adorned the railing since 2008.

However, in June 2014 the bridge actually had to be evacuated when the railing collapsed under the weight of the thousands of locks that had accumulated over the years.

This has prompted authorities in Paris and other cities around the world to outlaw the practice which many campaigners have said is nothing more than an act of vandalism. There is growing support for the campaign ‘Unlock Your Love’ which encourages couples not to attach their love locks to public structures.

Further, there has been push back from environmental groups concerned about the potential damaging affect of all those padlock keys being thrown into nearby water supplies.

Other love locks around the world

In light of the collapse of the Pont des Arts bridge, many other cities around the world have begun to address the growing trend for love locks. Each has their own way of dealing with the tradition, but here are some of the most popular destinations.

  1. Luzhkov Bridge in Moscow, Russia. – In order to protect the bridge, authorities in Moscow came up with an excellent solution. They installed metal tree structures along the bridge and moved the locks to these. Now couples are welcome to hand their love locks on the trees without damaging the bridge itself.
  2. Hohenzollern Bridge in Colonge, Germany. – Around 40,000 locks weighing around two tonnes. However, the locals actually support the tradition and previous attempts to remove them were met with public outcry. There are concerns over the growing weight but it is likely that work will be done to support the bridge rather than remove the locks if it is possible. The tourist board cites the bridge as a lover’s pilgrimage.
  3. Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland. – The city council hold regular clean up days to remove the locks which are not popular with locals. The bridge is one of the oldest in the city and authorities are keen to save it from both the risk of collapse and the bi-metal corrosion caused by the steel locks rubbing on the cast iron bridge.
  4. Ponte dell’Accademia in Venice, Austria. – There are more than 20,000 locks on the bridge, but like Paris, the residents of Venice are becoming increasingly upset at the growing number of locks adoring this and other bridges in the city. The authorities have regular clean up days and are looking to introduce penalties for those caught in the act.
  5. Forth Road Bridge in Scotland. – The iconic Forth Road Bridge may have come up with the best solution yet. There is a designated panel on each side of the bridge where couples can place special love locks engraved with their names. The panel is to be monitored and only a limited number of locks will be sold and allowed on the bridge. Each lock sold also makes a donation to a local charity.

Alternative ways to use love locks

If you like the idea of love locks, but are not so keen to contribute to the deterioration of well loved landmarks then there are other ways to incorporate love locks as part of your wedding day or even your wedding anniversary. You could attach the lock somewhere on your own property or perhaps have your celebrant include a love lock unity ceremony on your wedding day. You could even create your own love lock tree and invite couples attending your wedding to attach their own lock.

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