Honeymoon Diary : Maggie

Today’s perfectly imperfect honeymoon diary is brought to you by the lovely Maggie, who blogs over at dancing silver-sandalled on the sea. I love this post so much I feel like I should just close up shop because Maggie has said it all already.

The pull of the WIC is alive and well in honeymoon-land, and it ain’t always easy to remember honeymoons should be about—as Maggie says: “savoring that “Wow, we just got married!” exhilaration…” no matter when or where you do or don’t go.

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The honeymoon is usually one part of wedding planning that is wholly untroubled. Unlike the wedding, there are no expectations, no outside pressure, right? Turns out, that’s not necessarily the case.

I’ve had the chance to travel a bit, but B. has never left North America, and we’d only gone on vacation once in the five years we’d been together before our wedding (and that was a trip with my family—a blast—but still…). I quickly fell prey to the mythology that your honeymoon should be the most romantic, exotic, and luxurious vacation you ever take: hammocks on the beach, over-the-water-bungalows, once-in-a-lifetime-adventures and loads of site-seeing; I wanted it all. I read every honeymoon story I could find on popular wedding blogs. I scoured TripAdvisor reports on hotels across the Caribbean, Hawaii, Greece, Tahiti, and Australia.

Then I remembered that we’d have to pay for all this on top of the wedding. After spending days searching websites for cheap airfare, I decided that we might be able swing a flight to Tahiti—a one-way ticket, that is. For one of us. Our honeymoon budget seemed reasonable, even extravagant, but was apparently a pittance when compared with the national average… just like our wedding. I wasted some time feeling grouchy over this, until I remembered that it was silly of me to take it for granted that we would go anywhere. A honeymoon is a treat, not an entitlement, even if the WIC would have you believe otherwise.

There was another issue, besides price, that helped us narrow down our options: how did we want to spend our vacation? There’s a list about a mile long of all the famous cities we hope to visit someday, but when we were honest with ourselves, we agreed that our DIY-heavy wedding was going to be draining, even if it unfolded according to plan. After all that gluing, sewing, and hauling, all we envisioned doing was lying on a towel and maybe floating in some warm, blue-green water. There were two other factors we had to consider. 1) Time. B was having trouble wrangling time off work, and we didn’t want to waste several days getting to our destination. 2) Hurricane season.

Around this stage of planning, my mom won a week at a condo in Florida through a raffle. The timing was inconvenient for her, so she offered it to us. I have to admit, despite my gratefulness at the offer, Florida didn’t sound very exotic. And a condo, while perfectly nice, didn’t sound like the high-thread-count sheets, room service, and towels-folded-into-swans I’d been conjuring. But it was free! And that sealed the deal. We started to get giddy at the prospect. We bought our plane tickets, booked a rental car. And then, the BP oil spill happened.

It’s unfair that the way it most affected me was to throw a potential wrench in my vacation plans. People died in the rig explosion. Livelihoods suffered. Plants and wildlife will be affected for years to come. It was a monumental environmental disaster and all I could think about was my honeymoon. I felt like a first-class jerk. But I was still bummed.

I tracked the spill online every day, watching various attempts to plug the gushing pipeline. When we were a few weeks out from the wedding, we decided it was time to formulate a new plan. I tried to switch our plane tickets, but found out it would be complex and costly. The rental car company refused to let us off the hook. So we decided to go and at least support Florida’s economy, which was already suffering as tourists fretfully scrapped vacation bookings.

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“Why would you want to go there?” The words were coated with disdain, which surprised me, as this particular friend had happily lived in that part of Florida for many years. We got this response from more than a few people. Or, “Oh, Naples, how exciting!” and then, as I hastily added “Err, Naples, Florida, not Italy” their faces fell. There is a strange, subtle pressure about even honeymoons. Your wedding day should be the best day of your life; therefore, your honeymoon should be the most amazing trip of your life. I’d thumbed my nose at most wedding “must haves,” but even I had bought into the honeymoon expectations; they were tough to shake.

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We landed in Naples, FL right in time for a torrential downpour. It was magnificent. The condo was comfortable and secluded. The beaches were quiet, and the water was emerald green and deliciously warm (no sign of oil, which we noticed with relief, but also sorrow for the coastline it’d already polluted). And because we’d saved so much on airfare and accommodations, we were able to splurge on other things: we ate gelato every night, went to a ritzy movie theater (leather seats!), and enjoyed the best sushi we’d ever tasted. We didn’t have to worry about passports, maps, jet-lag, translating conversations, changing money, or feeling ill due to accidentally drinking the water. We had no internet and no cable, which was an unexpected delight. It was tranquil and stress-free—not for everyone, but exactly what we craved.

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So for anyone planning a low-key honeymoon (or simply one that doesn’t match up to the glossy, blowout vacations featured on wedding websites), and possibly experiencing some angst, I want you to know: a trip is what you make of it, whether you travel to Bora Bora or the Jersey Shore. The way I see it, a honeymoon is more about savoring that “Wow, we just got married!” exhilaration… and I’m pretty sure you can experience that anywhere with the right person, even if you never leave your own home.

All photos by Maggie of their honeymoon, as salvaged off Facebook in the wake of a recent computer crash. 😦

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