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What is the History of the Honeymoon?

By Kathy Hawkins
Updated May 16, 2024
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As most people know, the honeymoon is a traditional vacation taken by a newlywed couple immediately after their wedding celebration is over. Generally, it can last anywhere from a week to a month, though it is sometimes of a shorter or longer duration.

No one can say for certain what the origins of the word "honeymoon" are, though various theories exist. Many historians agree that the "moon" part of the word refers to the "Full Moon" of the wedding; in ancient times, Teutonic weddings were only held under full moons. Some people believe that the "honey" part of the word refers to the tradition in some European countries of a newly married couple drinking honey mead for a month.

Some other theorists believe that the word is merely a corruption of "hymeneal," which refers to a wedding song. Whatever the case, the event itself has been a tradition ever since ancient times, though its function has changed somewhat.

The first uses of the word appeared in the 16th century, though it did not refer to a vacation at that time. As couples were expected to remain chaste until marriage, the honeymoon was simply a time for them to get acquainted in a more physical sense. The inclusion of a vacation became part of the tradition much later, first appearing in the 1800s, though it did not become a common practice for the general public until around 1930.

One of the most popular destinations for a honeymoon since the 1800s has been Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. Today, however, many other couples decide to spend their time on a beach in the Bahamas or another tropical island; still others decide to spend it on a cruise ship. There has also been a rise in the untraditional honeymoon, where couples will travel to Alaska or another remote destination and take part in adventure sports.

Though the honeymoon is still seen as a time for the newly-married couple to be intimate without interruptions, it is now also a chance for couples to explore unique parts of the world and enjoy the outdoors. For couples who need help deciding what sort of trip is right for them, a travel agent can provide a range of possibilities to find the perfect vacation.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Nov 04, 2012

The name probably comes from the fact that newlyweds drank mead for a month. But I think it signifies that the first month of marriage is always the nicest. People haven't faced difficulties yet and they probably haven't had a fight yet. So it's the month of sweetness.

By stoneMason — On Nov 03, 2012

I think the original meaning of honeymoon has been lost. Most couples today are already are acquainted with each other before they get married. So there is not much excitement for the honeymoon. To make it exciting, they have to plan some trip somewhere. But the emphasis isn't on the couple and the relationship anymore, the emphasis is just having fun. This is what I think anyway.

By candyquilt — On Nov 02, 2012

I've heard a completely different story about the origins of honeymoon. I heard that it comes from Ireland and the marriage of an Irish princess.

Apparently this princess loved honey and her fiance gifted her honey before their marriage. The honey was used to make wine which the couple were supposed to finish during their wedding. There was so much wine that it took them a month to finish the wine and thus, honeymoon was born.

I don't know which story is true, but they all sound possible.

By jonrss — On Sep 13, 2012

Wow, this article makes me feel completely different about honeymoons. The world is so much different now. I'm surprised this tradition has endured so long.

By whiteplane — On Sep 12, 2012

When my wife and I got married we had to work with a very limited budget. We had to consider every single expense and as much as possible we tried to do things ourselves or get friends to help.

We ended up not going on a honeymoon, or not going on a fancy one, because we decided it was more important to spend the money we had on a beautiful reception that we could enjoy with everyone. We have a lifetime to spend together traveling. We wanted the wedding to be all about the wedding. I don't regret the decision at all.

By JavaGhoul — On Jan 11, 2011

@BigBloom

I think the idea of Honeymoon as being derived from honey and the moon also makes sense. After all, honey is a very common term of address for a spouse, and the moon is usually symbolic of a female deity, as well as sleep.

By BigBloom — On Jan 09, 2011

Humen was the Greek god of marriage, and it is from him that we derive the term hymen and hymeneal. These both have to do with marriage, and the hymen used to be a mark of virginity at marriage. Honeymoon could have been a euphemistic term for a term which would have been considered unspeakable in public circles.

By Qohe1et — On Jan 07, 2011

All inclusive honeymoon packages form an important business. Since many see marriage as such an important part of life, it is natural that they and their families will be willing to spend a large amount of money on making the experience exciting, exotic, and new. Traveling to some erstwhile unknown (to them) part of the world and diving into a "world of their own" makes for a very exciting and memorable honeymoon which can help to keep a marriage going strong for decades to come.

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