Amy Schreibman Walter
American writer and teacher living in London
There's more to planning your honeymoon than choosing a destination and booking your flights... if you're planning to head away with your honey sometime soon, read this first.
1. Make up your own rules
Before my husband and I left for our honeymoon, friends gave us all kinds of well-intentioned advice. One friend told us to refrain from making phone calls to friends and family back home, and to stay off social media when away -- "You should just be enjoying each other's company." My husband is wonderful, but enjoying his company and his alone for two weeks straight, without any sort of other social interaction, online or otherwise, doesn't feel that balanced or healthy to me. If connecting with other people through messages, calls or social media feels important to you, by all means, do it. This is your honeymoon.
2. Consider the length of your trip
Spending quality time together as a newly married couple is important, but to do so under the proviso of a "happy honeymoon" can put an undue amount of stress on couples. Reflect on how long you usually spend away on a vacation together and about how that feels; use that as a guide. If planning for a three-week honeymoon seems excessive, listen to that.
3. Adjust your expectations
Many couples plan their honeymoon to take place long after their wedding date. It's not surprising, then, that by the time you take your honeymoon, your marriage may not actually be in the '"honey" phase anymore. The word honeymoon has an interesting history. "Honey" refers to the sweetness of a new marriage, and "moon" refers to the (supposed) fleeting amount of time that the sweet phase will last. The word dates back to the 5th century, when cultures represented the passing of time by observing the cycles of the moon. Newlyweds would drink mead ("honey") during the first moon of their marriage (mead is a honey-based alcoholic drink believed to have aphrodisiac properties). As soon as the first moon had passed, they stopped drinking the mead -- by then they were thought to have consummated the marriage, and the reality of other marital duties would begin to take hold (otherwise known as real life).
Delaying your honeymoon just makes it more likely that the "honey" phase will be replaced by something different -- established rhythms and the stability of a shared partnership. It's possible that the first vacation you took together as a couple was more honeymoon-like than your actual honeymoon will be -- if you've lived together for a few years, your vacations after marriage will be less loaded with hormones than before.
Yet regardless of how long a couple has been together before they marry, a honeymoon remains a kind of symbolic milestone, almost as important as the wedding itself. Just like a wedding, it comes with its own cultural conventions and stresses -- largely, a spoken and unspoken pressure to have "the best" time and to be in a kind of rapturous state. Debunk this pressure - think of the honeymoon as, simply, some relaxed time away with each other.
4. Create space
When traveling with your spouse, it's helpful to spend a little bit of time away from each other every day. Go for a walk whilst your partner reads a book or goes to the spa. Plan to spend your time on honeymoon pursuing activities that you both enjoy -- together and separately. You shouldn't be in each other's pockets all day every day. The time spent apart from each other, no matter how short, builds appreciation, gratitude and interest.
5. Build in downtime
If you're planning to honeymoon immediately after your wedding, know that your body and mind will quite possibly be feeling exhausted after the very emotional and physical experience of your wedding. The honeymoon will allow you some much needed time to rest, recoup and process what just happened. You just got married! It's a time to celebrate, but go gently. Avoid planning too many activities in advance; see how you feel once you get there. Allow time to do absolutely nothing.
6. Talk about your vision
Images of a "perfect" honeymoon are plentiful in our imaginations -- couples standing at airports with stylish luggage, sporting toothy smiles and coiffed hair. But before you head off to the airport with your matching rolling suitcases, take a little bit of time to talk with your partner about what your vision is for the honeymoon, and ask your partner to share theirs. This way, you may have a fashionable honeymoon outfit and beautiful hair, but you'll have a great time, too.