History of the Honeymoon
The concept of the bride and groom heading off for some alone time has been around for hundreds of years. Luckily for modern brides, a contemporary honeymoon is expected to involve seclusion, romance, tenderness, and possibly an exotic holiday location.
This is a long way from the original groom's idea of abducting his woman and hiding out (in a cave perhaps?) until the poor bride was pregnant.
The Word 'Honeymoon'
There are several theories on its origin:
The Norse word "hjunottsmanathr" is considered by some to be the origin of the word honeymoon. Hjunottsmanathr actually means "in hiding". The Scandinavian grooms were some of the cultured blokes we spoke of earlier who abducted their brides from local villages, kept them in hiding until they were pregnant, or until the bride's family ceased searching, and then presented themselves to the bride's family as a fait accompli. This gives new meaning to the word "elope", doesn't it?
Another theory for the word honeymoon stems from the ancient practice in many cultures of drinking a honeyed mead for the first month of the marriage. The honeyed wine, known as hydromel, metheglin or mead, was purported to have aphrodisiac properties, and was also considered by many to enhance the fertility of the wedded couple.
The ancient Teutons and the Babylonians all practiced the drinking of the honeyed wine for the thirty days after the wedding day. The Babylonian father-in-laws supposedly fed their new son-in-laws honeyed mead every night for a month after the wedding.
Did you know that Attila the Hun supposedly died of an overdose of hydromel at his wedding feast? (Is this a historic version of a Viagra induced heart attack?)
Northern Europeans believed that drinking the metheglin would bring them additional luck in their marriages.
Others believe that the word "moon" was introduced into the term honeymoon to reflect the cyclical waxing and waning of a married couple's affections for each other. The word "honey" obviously implying the sweetest of times directly after the marriage ceremony.
How the Honeymoon Concept has Changed Through the Ages
Being dragged off into hiding while a search party tries to find your abductor is certainly no longer the formula for a successful honeymoon. For many modern brides, it is also no longer relevant to return from the honeymoon pregnant either. Most brides and grooms eagerly look forward to their honeymoon as a time to recover from the stress of organizing a wedding, and to spend some quality time with their loved one.
For some couples, the honeymoon can be the first vacation away together as a twosome. Other couples have already enjoyed vacations away. Whatever the scenario, the honeymoon is eagerly anticipated by all couples as a special time in their lives.
The modern formula of the bride and groom leaving for a destination after the ceremony only really started in Victorian times in England. The cost of the honeymoon was normally paid for by the groom or his family. In these times, the bride and groom were generally separated after the engagement notice until the matrimonial ceremony. Going away together after the wedding was seen as an opportunity for the husband and wife to reacquaint themselves in peace and quiet.
Initially these "bridal tours" as they were often called, were only taken by the wealthy upper classes. These bridal tours often lasted for weeks or months. Trips to the Continent or visiting family who did not attend the ceremony were all popular destinations. Although, some unfortunate couples were apparently accompanied by family members who were keen to visit with the long lost relations. Imagine going on a honeymoon now with your in-laws! Italy was the most popular country to visit on the bridal tour at this time.
By the 1820's the concept of the honeymoon had become popular in Europe as well. The French had their own special term for it "voyage a la facon anglaise " (English-style voyage). Although, "lune de miel" is actually the French term for the word honeymoon.
Historically, the most popular honeymoon destination in the United States was Niagara Falls. From the 1830's on, this natural wonder was the place of choice for the wealthier newly weds. The top 3 honeymoon destinations within the United States now are Hawaii, Florida, and Las Vegas.
As the middle classes became larger and wealthier, the bridal tours became more commonplace. The less wealthy were now going on honeymoons as well. Their tours were inevitably shorter and involved less exotic destinations to minimize the costs.
Once motor vehicles, trains, and then planes, became methods of transport, the wedded couple had many more options for their honeymoon destination. Far flung and exotic destinations are now as popular venues as a tiny bed and breakfast 1 or 2 hours down the road.
We have all heard the phrase "the honeymoon is over". We all know that those blissfully euphoric and highly romantic days cannot last forever when the real world comes crashing back in. While "the first month is the sweetest" an idea first written in 1546, still holds true today, there is no reason why with a little planning, romance can still factor in your lives when you settle back down at home.
The format of the honeymoon has become a lot more civilized and romantic over the history of time. The literal interpretation of the term honeymoon as "the sweetest of times" has certainly not lost its original meaning. Just mention the word "honeymoon" and watch even the most cynical person go all misty eyed with remembrance.