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Dino Petrocelli

And Off You Go
By Stephen Leon

Common-sense advice for making sure your honeymoon is special

Your wedding was a smashing success. The ceremony was lovely, and the reception went off exactly as you planned it. The guests had a great time, the food was superb, and no one got so drunk that they took off too many clothes or passed out with their face in the fettuccine. You’re ticketed for an early flight the next morning, and your reservations at a Mediterranean resort are confirmed. There’s only one problem: Your passport just expired, and you forgot to renew it.

Unless your idea of the perfect honeymoon is to throw some clothes into a suitcase, hop into your car and see where the road takes you, you would be wise to plan ahead—way ahead. Think of it as the last stage of the wedding itself: You have the pre-wedding events (showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, the rehearsal dinner), the ceremony, the reception, and the honeymoon, when you finally get to relax together and do something special without having to keep 200 other people entertained at the same time. The key word here is “special”: Like your marriage ceremony and reception, your honeymoon is something you’ll want to remember and cherish as a milestone event at the beginning of your life together.

It also presents an opportunity to take a particularly special trip—one you might not otherwise get many chances at, or make the time for—and do it relatively guilt-free. It’s your honeymoon—you’re supposed to go someplace nice and/or exotic and/or far away. You’re supposed to take some extra time off from work. And if you play your money cards right, you might be economically better prepared than usual, especially if any of your relatives are planning on giving you cash wedding gifts with that use in mind. But more on honeymoon finance in a minute.

Traditionally, the groom is in charge of the honeymoon arrangements (the traditional bride—with or without her mother’s help/ interference—being consumed with planning the wedding and reception), which in some cases means the groom chooses the destination on his own. However, I recommend you make the decision together, unless the bride insists on being surprised. Choosing a locale (or locales) is the first step in planning the honeymoon, and your discussions should begin as soon as you have a confirmed date and site for your wedding reception. If you haven’t planned much travel before, you might be surprised at how far in advance some hotels, inns, resorts, etc., get completely booked up, especially during their high seasons, holidays, and school vacations (you wouldn’t seriously think of honeymooning the third week of February, now would you?). Ditto for some cruises and car ferries—if you’re thinking of a summer honeymoon on Martha’s Vineyard, for example, you would do well to nail down your home rental or inn reservation, and then your ferry reservations, by January.

Where to go is purely a matter of personal preference (although if you want to go to Disney World or Branson, Mo., then I am powerless to offer you any useful advice at all, and if you want to go on one of those weeklong luxury cruises, all I ask is that you first read David Foster Wallace’s essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”). The one piece of common-sense advice I have is well worth repeating: Think about, and talk about, what you’d really like to do on your honeymoon, what your priorities are, and what pitfalls you’d like to avoid; and weigh the pros and cons of any possible destinations on your lists with these guidelines in mind. Do you want excitement or relaxation? City or country? Do you want to stay in one place and do nothing, or travel around and explore a new city, town or region every day? Does the prospect of being in a country where you can’t understand the native language intrigue or terrify you? Are you willing to learn that language? If you both want nothing more than to see the great capitals of Europe, then by all means go—but make sure you think you’ll be psychologically prepared for all that shuttling around after the stress of a wedding. If a quiet inn on the Maine coast is more your speed, fine—but ask yourself whether you’ll go stir crazy if you hit a patch of bad weather.

Once you’ve chosen a destination, or a string of them, waste no time researching accommodations and transportation options. Travel information is particularly plentiful these days, with so many Web sites featuring travel, resorts, hotels, city guides, etc. You could also consult a good old-fashioned travel agent, whose experience often is helpful in tracking down information you might miss. And companies such as Fodor’s and Time Out crank out fairly reliable and comprehensive guides. Research, cross-reference, ask friends who’ve been there, research some more—and then make your reservations. And once you’ve got the accommodations and major transportation details worked out, make sure to fill in all the blanks. Example: The best, cheapest way to get from the Madrid airport to the train station involves an airport shuttle bus and then a short cab ride, but I didn’t know this until a travel agent tracked down the exact details for me—and probably prevented me from getting fleeced on a longer cab ride. If you need passports, don’t wait: These can take four to six weeks to arrive. Make sure you have the appropriate luggage, clothing, etc. And don’t forget all the little details that also might require advance planning: If you’d like to surprise her with dinner at a famous restaurant in Paris or a hot show at a London theater, make reservations in advance, so you won’t be disappointed.

And just who’s going to pay for all this? You are—either now or later. And if at all possible, pay now. Getting yourself into credit-card debt right at the outset of your marriage can lead to stress later on if your ability to repay turns out to be less than you thought it would be; this is not how you want to start your life together. Cash gifts at showers and/or the wedding might prove helpful, but don’t count on a huge windfall unless you already know Uncle Eddie gives all his nieces a big fat check at their weddings. So make sure to choose a honeymoon that’s within your means, and start right now setting aside a little bit each week for a honeymoon fund. Remember, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event that deserves more than the usual amount of advance planning. Bon voyage, and don’t forget to renew that passport.

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