Last November, when my now-husband and I got married, we registered for contributions to our honeymoon. "Where are you going?" everyone wanted to know. We didn't have an answer. Between all the time, money and energy that went into the ceremony and reception, travel plans were on the back burner. And we're not alone. Once again, the definition of a "honeymoon" seems to be changing.
The word "honeymoon" dates to the fifth century, when wedded couples would drink mead (sweet wine) during the first month, or moon, of marriage. In Victorian England, it meant visiting family and friends who couldn't attend the wedding. Only later would the meaning evolve into a romantic holiday for two.
But while it was once de rigueur for the happy couple to depart right after the reception, delayed honeymoons are increasingly common, according to wedding industry experts and insiders. According to honeymoon trend data from the industry platform WeddingWire, couples who report leaving one to two days after the wedding have declined by 13% since 2015.
When you consider both wedding and travel trends, it often makes sense to delay a honeymoon.
Lindsay Landman, a wedding and event planner based in New York City, attributes the shift to the evolution of wedding timetables. "It used to be that you got married on a Saturday, had your ceremony and reception, and then everyone went on their merry way," says Landman. "Now it's very infrequent for a wedding to be a one-day affair." Today's celebrations often unfold over the course of an entire weekend, with welcome drinks the night before, activities the day of the ceremony and brunch the day after. By the time it's all over, couples might need some time to decompress before jetting off on a honeymoon.
The rise of the destination wedding has played a role, too. "The number one reason people say they want to do a destination is that they want to be able to spend time with people," says Landman. The result is a group vacation that culminates with "I do," a trip that precludes many couples from immediately embarking on another voyage.
Destination weddings not only require additional expenses but additional vacation days. "You can't just leave your job on a Thursday evening. Now, you have to leave on a Tuesday night," says Landman. "Even if you're not flying, you're packing up and doing a mini-vacation for the wedding itself."
Delaying a honeymoon makes sense from a travel planning perspective, as well. Stephanie Park is the co-founder of Journy, an online millennial-focused travel agency that provides users with personalized itineraries. "We either see people who are planning honeymoons really, really early, or they've already been married for a while, and now they have the free time to devote to planning the perfect trip," says Park.
And she means perfect. "With honeymoons, most times it's a once in a lifetime experience, you've saved up all this money for your wedding and your honeymoon," says Park. "It's a lot of pressure to put on a single trip. You do need the time to plan." And if you see travel as the competitive sport it has become on social media, you might feel the compulsion not just to design a never-to-be-forgotten trip for two, but to curate a vacation that will make your Instagram followers envious.
Other couples also need to recover financially before they can take a dream trip. According to the most recent data from wedding site the Knot, the national average cost of a wedding in 2018 was $29,200; of a honeymoon, $5,342. "Some people need a little breathing room to recoup and reinvest," says Landman. And waiting allows them to make use of a honeymoon fund. Couples can register on sites such as Journy, Honeyfund and others.
There are more intangible benefits. Delaying helps anticipation, as well as finances, grow. "Doing it six months, a year, even 18 months later gives you something to look forward to," says Rachel Sussman, a therapist who specializes in marriage and relationships.
Planning the trip and traveling together is also good for your marriage, Sussman adds. She recommends that people planning a honeymoon — or really any vacation — make time to really talk about what they want from that trip, down to the way they expect to spend the days. "People really need to have that conversation and get on the same page," she says. "Do you want to see every site there is? Do you want to relax and sleep in? Talk to each other and figure that out before you go."
But don't let the opportunity to go somewhere slip away, because traveling together has benefits. "We all have a tendency to get caught up in our daily routine," Sussman says. "Sometimes you can get into a rut and it can feel mundane. Just being together is a way to connect, and it doesn't need to be a big fancy trip. It could be an Airbnb in your own city in a different neighborhood.
And even if it isn't the perfect vacation, that can be good for the marriage, too. "If you end up with a bad experience, it's good to have to figure out how to handle that together. What if one of you gets sick? What if there's a problem?" she says. "It's a little microcosm of your relationship and a good way to use your skills together; being outside of your comfort zone together is a good thing."
As for my own honeymoon, we waited for a variety of reasons, including all of the above: wedding expenses, lack of vacation days, time-intensive planning. Our research started about six months after tying the knot. Eleven months after our wedding day, we spent two weeks hiking, swimming and relaxing on a trio of remote Greek islands. But by far the best thing about waiting was that it extended the bubbly feeling of being "just married" and the celebration of our life together.