Are honeymoons really necessary?
Given how busy we all are these days, given how much most weddings cost and considering that most people already live together before the wedding, is it really necessary to adhere to some strange old tradition and go off on vacation after getting married?
It is necessary. But not for the traditional reasons.
There are various explanations for the origin of the tradition - and the name - of honeymoon. The most likely source is the medieval custom of a couple consuming a honey-based drink called mead for the first month of their marriage to ease them into married life and, traditionally, to increase their fertility. Honeymoons were a way to encourage conjugal bliss and the creation of children, a month of sanctioned sex.
Honeymoons are traditionally fraught with sexual innuendo. This comes from a time when most people didn't have sex until their wedding night. The night of the wedding, and the days that followed, became imbued with a special sexual aura that everyone, including family and friends, would take advantage of. It was customary, at one time, for all the female members of a bride's family to prepare her for bed after the wedding and personally deliver her to her new groom's bedroom, whispering instructions to the wide-eyed girl along the way. More recently, friends and well-wishers have been known to stand outside the bridal suite and make as much noise as humanly possible, for as long as their drunken lungs will hold out. The idea is to embarrass the young couple even further, to call even more attention to the fact that carnal relations are taking place in there.
But nowadays, when very few brides and grooms are virgins, and everyone knows it, the urgency of the wedding night and honeymoon has somewhat lost its appeal. Honeymoons today are seen more as vacations. Whether it's a weekend locked up in a hotel room or a three-month trek across the Australian outback, it is usually a kind of holiday from the wedding planning, a chance for the weary bride and groom to decompress after eighteen months of tension and planning and the stress of a huge wedding. Accordingly, some couples choose to put off their honeymoon until they have more money, thinking that they can go anytime and that it will mean the same.
The trouble is, a holiday you take two years after your wedding is just a holiday, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise. There's a very real reason for this, and a reason why you shouldn't ever put off a honeymoon, even if it just means unplugging your phone for a week and turning your apartment into shangri-la.
A honeymoon is more than a vacation. Like your wedding ring, like sharing a last name, it is a symbol that helps to establish a new marriage. It symbolizes the casting off of your old life and the beginning of your new one, together, as a family of two.
The newly married couple literally go away, separating themselves, symbolically and physically from their parents, siblings, friends, work, even the home they might have shared together before they married. They usually go to a place where no one knows them, where they can be anonymous together, with only each other as guide. This severs the bonds of the past, at least symbolically. They used to be two single people, someone's daughter and son, someone else's ex-husband or wife, but with the new marriage comes a chance to affirm that they are now a new family, separate and distinct from the family units they used to belong to.
The honeymoon is a private, intimate time for the new marriage to set down its roots, the only vacation you'll ever take that has such meaning and significance to the most important relationship of your life. It is a time to shut out the world for a while, to look only at each other and know that if each other is all you ever have, it will be more than enough. It is a time to be completely inaccessible to other people - as the Do Not Disturb signs on honeymoon suite doors remind those who would dare intrude. No one goes with you on honeymoon, not even children from other relationships - it is accepted that the honeymoon is the beginning of the marriage, the irreplaceable and unrepeatable opportunity for the newlyweds to establish themselves as a married couple, and return to their lives with a new identity; husband and wife.
Many cultures embrace the symbolic gesture of leaving a place, of going into a wilderness or some other unknown, and coming back a changed person. The man who wanders the desert alone in search of his soul usually finds it. So, too, do the newlyweds who come together as two people and embark on a lifetime journey as one. The wedding ceremony creates a marriage, but the honeymoon confirms it, and sets the tone for how intimate and passionate the rest of your years together will be.
Think carefully about dismissing the idea of a honeymoon, however simple or short. Think about the message you are sending yourself and each other if you begin your lifelong romance with a shrug. There is life after the wedding; and if you want it to be filled with romance and true intimacy, give it the start it deserves.