I first learned about honeymoons at age 8, while watching the classic screwball comedy “The Long, Long Trailer.” This sets a low, low bar. In the movie, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnez rent a mobile home and drive it to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they are promptly plagued by a series of catastrophes, including a literal cliffhanger: the trailer goes off-road thanks to the large souvenir rocks the new bride has collected. I found it to be horrifying. The chaos was further complicated in my mind by the fact that the two leads were also married off-screen; I wasn’t able to separate art from reality. I thought that maybe a honeymoon meant hitting your head on low ceilings and wearing pasta sauce. I assumed it was a time of extreme miscommunication peppered by pratfalls and bickering.
While I’m old enough now to understand that my fiancé will probably not back a trailer into my parents’ porch, I’ve retained a childhood sense of awe about the honeymoon process. And even though I plan honeymoons on a daily basis, the celebratory first trip maintains a degree of mystery. I’m existing in this liminal space between engagement and marriage. Is it odd to advise other couples on something I’ve never experienced? What should you expect out of such a momentous vacation?
Recently, I polled my married friends and family about their own honeymoons: What was most memorable? What, if anything, would you change? The most affirming discovery was how quickly and warmly people answered. Several folks thanked me for the opportunity to reminisce, despite what might have gone wrong. One couple picked Key West for its beaches, only to discover in the cab that Key West is a barrier island with rocky shoreline; another husband and wife regretting getting up early to go hot-air ballooning on the morning of their departure — they were so tired that they ended the trip by napping on their luggage in the parking lot of a Motel 6. There were two tales of food poisoning and one of volcanic ash. There were the lovebirds who booked Costa Rica during the rainy season and the aunt and uncle who miscalculated the mess from hotel renovation. And just last week, I received an email from clients whose car service in Southern France showed up late. They missed their train and waited in the station for 5 hours eating pastries (I can think of a worse way to spend 5 hours).
While it’s true that a travel consultant can prevent major oversights, there are just some things out of our control. No one can foresee a contaminated tamale. But the couples I polled, regardless of mishaps, all had a happy takeaway. Honeymoon horror stories ended with fond recollection. “He is still my soul mate after almost twenty years!,” one wife gushed, even though her husband had banged her head against the door frame while attempting to carry her over the threshhold. “The honeymoon was fantastic,” another said, after a long opening paragraph on why they were forced to switch destinations last minute.
Last spring, I read an article entitled “Honeymoon from Hell,” about a Swedish couple whose post-wedding world tour was affected by the following disasters: snowstorm in Munich, cyclone in Cairns, floods in Brisbane, bushfires in Perth, and finally, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The bride had the following to say: “Every crises that you survive makes you stronger, and the bond between us has grown with every challenge we’ve met.” This is an incredibly optimistic spin on a depressing holiday. But if you pick the right partner, what’s most important is being together. My biggest piece of advice to future brides and grooms is to relax and enjoy the time away, to not get overwhelmed by imperfection. Sometimes, the best memories come from set-backs. The long, long trailer is really the elaborate story you will weave together.