Hooray! You’re on your honeymoon. Time to kick of a life of love with beach drinks, adventures, endless sex, long meaningful walks and deep conversations, delicious dining, laughter, smiles, and lots of lounging. Was that what your honeymoon was like?
Let’s get real. As much as honeymoons are fun and memorable, they’re also often more drenched in reality than that. Honeymoons cost money. Honeymoons are your first opportunity to really experience relationship practices that will be constants in your life to come: compromise, putting other’s needs first, learning how to travel and navigate the world with another person always by your side. And that can be tough, logistically and emotionally– especially if you’ve never traveled with a partner or had to put someone before yourself or even just been to your honeymoon destination before. Travel can be tough, and add in the stress and pressure of a honeymoon… and you could be in for the longest week of your life. It’s supposed to be a happy time, a celebration of your love and (traditionally) the first time you’ve lived together, slept together, been a team together.
Now I’ve only been on one honeymoon and it was pretty non-traditional; the following tips come from my experience and from what I’ve learned or observed from other brides or married friends. Nowadays, everyone lives together before marriage or travels abroad together; honeymoons are becoming either non-existent or occur before the wedding or long after– and can last as little as a weekend or up to multiple months, depending on what you can fit into your schedule and budget. Our honeymoon was 8 days long and it ended up costing us approximately $2,000. The plane tickets were the biggest part of our budget; lodging was second; food was third (although we really didn’t drink that much); transportation (ha, the bus) was last.
So, without further backstory– the Team Jefferson tips for having the honeymoon of your dreams and loving it:
1. Leave your expectations at the altar.
When I got married, it seemed like EVERYONE was getting hitched as well; Twitter and Instagram were blowing up with wedding shots… and honeymoon shots. I was bombarded with images of white sandy beaches, tropical huts, picturesque resorts and smiling couples. “Are we not having as much fun as they are? Should we have done something different? Would so-and-so be happy doing what we’re doing?” I wondered throughout our trip. It was silly and unproductive and it made me judge my honeymoon, when I should have been enjoying it.
I had a lot of ideas of what our honeymoon would be like, but between planning the wedding, planning the rehearsal dinner, and planning activities pre-and-post wedding, I was exhausted. I left it all up to John and while he did a great job, it was inevitable that it would not be exactly the picture I had in my head. And that’s okay– but I had to remind myself, before, during, and after the trip, that it wouldn’t be picture perfect. I’m sure the Instagram shots of our wedding looked just fine– as exotic and adventurous as other people’s looked luxurious and resorty. It was what we wanted and I was happy with it, once I had abandoned all the pressures I was putting on it to be “perfect”.
2. Be realistic about what you can afford.
It’s all well and nice to picture drinks flowing, top tier dining, and fancy excursions– but be honest with yourself, your partner, and your dreams when you plan out your trip. As a newlywed, you’re bombarded with gifts and checks celebrating your new last name; but, sometimes, you’re also welcoming a new bank account and new amounts of debt into your financial world. Fingers crossed you don’t have much debt from the wedding or credit cards or student loans, but on the off chance that you do, booking an overly lush honeymoon on top of it all might not be the smartest move.
I’m not advising you to be a saint and have a bare bones trip– but think seriously about whether only the penthouse will do or if you can make it work with a lower-level hotel room, or a smaller rental car, or only one or two excursions instead of the whole shebang. I guarantee you, if you’re spending time with your soulmate, sitting out on the daily couples massage or the horseback ride on the beach at sunset really isn’t going to be missed. Give each other massages and walk the beach at sunset– those are guaranteed to be budget-friendly (and memory-building) alternatives!
3. Ask yourself, “What does my husband want to do right now?” at least once a day.
Your honeymoon is all about beginning your married life together– which means it shouldn’t be all about you. Yes, you should have a 50% (okay, 75%) say in the plans and the rules and what you get to do, see, eat. But– surprise!– you are now part of a team and your partner and his/her needs should be taken into account regularly. That sounds preachy, but to be honest, it’s a challenge for me– when it’s only been about you your entire life, what was once normal occasionally seems selfish. No, you should not have cereal for dinner every night because your husband has higher dietary standards and you need to take into account his needs. But I digress.
On your honeymoon, it’s so easy to do what you want to do. It’s vacation and your definition of “holiday” might be completely opposite from your new spouse’s. I’m not asking you to be a matyr and do only what your partner wants to do and neglect your own needs and happiness. But at least once a day, ask yourself, “Are we doing something ___ wants to be doing?” If the answer is yes (and you’re happy)– hooray! You’ve mastered compromise and your duo seems to be in sync. If the answer is yes (and you’re unhappy)– take a look at the situation. Is there a way you can tweak the circumstances to make it more fun for you? If the answer is no (and you’re happy)– how can you bring your partner into the situation (nail painting, sky diving, lounging on the beach) and make you both happy? If the answer is no (and you’re not happy)– I can’t help you. I have no clue what kind of situation you’ve gotten yourself in to…
4. Don’t put pressure on sex.
Okay. Let’s just open it up: when you’re married, sex can become a whole different situation than when you weren’t. Maybe you have more sex; maybe you have less. But don’t put pressure on your honeymoon to be the precedent for the rest of your married sex life. I had several moments where I suddenly thought, “Should we be using this time to have sex? Why aren’t we having sex? Is there something wrong because we haven’t had sex three times today?” The answers will be different for every couple– but any time I thought too hard about it or asked “Are you happy, are we having enough sex?” or put pressure on it, it turned us both off the whole idea. Sex will happen and it will happen on your own mutual schedule. Starting off your marriage with the idea that the entire honeymoon will be spent in bed could have really negative consequences (like it or not, you will have to get out of bed for occasional dinners or showers). If you don’t have much sex on your honeymoon, nothing is wrong with you– maybe you’re busy having adventures or cultivating the platonic part of your relationship (being FRIENDS is important in a romantic relationship too). If you’re having a lifetime’s worth of sex on your honeymoon, don’t go home to a full scheduled life and assume it will necessarily be the same. Have sex when the mood strikes, don’t keep track of how much or how little that amounts to, and have FUN with it. That’s all you really need to know.
5. Keep calm. Communicate. Be honest about what YOU want.
Have an open mind throughout your honeymoon. Something– hopefully something insignificant and minor– will go wrong. Maybe you forgot to take a picture of your favorite tree. Maybe you lost your luggage. Maybe you don’t have the chance to do that hiking excursion. Maybe you drank too much one night. Whatever it is, there will be tiny tests of your new marriage; by keeping calm and allowing your new partnership time and strength and patience to start working through any kind of challenge, you will have a happy, successful, strong marriage. It’s that simple. The MOST IMPORTANT thing in any relationship is communication. Patience is a close second. If you can start creating a rhythm where those two things are present no matter how big or small the circumstances are, you will be happy.
There will be fights. There will be an afternoon where you just can’t compromise or someone is feeling off. That happens. Fight if it comes to that, but patiently talk through it and communicate rationally and you’ll be back to normal in no time. If you’re honest about what YOU want and your partner does the same, your honeymoon– and your marriage– will be the greatest thing in your life.
What are your honeymoon tips? John and I joke about having another one, since ours was such a different kind of adventure… I’d love to hear your travel-with-a-partner tips and tricks!