The honeymoon is a peculiarly modern creation. Building on wedding customs of Europe in the late 1800s, the honeymoon has evolved into a ritual that nearly all people in the United States and Canada practice and that has grown in popularity around the world (Bulcroft, Smeins, and Bulcroft 1999). What distinguishes the honeymoon of today from its precursor, the wedding night, is the element of distancing the couple from their social networks by means of traveling to locations that are uniquely unfamiliar or foreign. The term honeymoon first appears in the sixteenth century in Thomas Blount's Glossographia (1656), where he defines the honeymoon in terms of the waxing and waning of newlywed emotions. Specifically, "married persons that love well at first, and decline in affection afterwards: it is honey now, but will change as the moon." Contemporary understandings of the honeymoon are far from this original lexicon, and the current emphasis on passion and romance as pivotal aspects of the honeymoon today seem paradoxical in light of Blount's definition of the term.
The origins of the honeymoon began in European wedding traditions of the upper class in the nineteenth century, affording the couple the luxury of a bridal tour or wedding trip that often lasted several weeks or months (Gillis 1985). As the middle class grew in industrializing nations, they began to emulate the bridal tour. Middle-class couples could not afford the scale and duration of the bridal tour as practiced by affluent brides and grooms. Thus, the honeymoon trip that lasted a few days to a week provided the semblance of a bridal tour. With the advent of the automobile and train, and later the airplane, couples were able to increases the distance of their honeymoon trips and seek out exotic and popularized locations such as Niagara Falls. By the mid-twentieth century international sites such as Jamaica, Fiji, and similar tropical locations had become common honeymoon destinations. Resorts that cater exclusively to honeymooning couples were mass-marketed in the later part of the twentieth century.
The Individual and the Post-Industrial Honeymoon
The roles of men and women in the context of the honeymoon have also evolved. Evidence suggests that the honeymoon has become increasingly feminized over time, resulting in the ritual of today, of which the bride is the center (Bulcroft, Bulcroft, Smeins, and Cranage 1997). In America, men were generally responsible for planning and executing the honeymoon until the mid-twentieth century. As marriages increasingly emphasized companionate rather than conjugal roles, romance and individual identities gained in importance. Thus, the honeymoon reflects the emphasis that late-modern societies place on individualism, rationalization, consumption, and creating ritual to alleviate perceptions of risk and uncertainty (Beck 1992; Habermas1970).
The outcomes of modernization are a more complex, depersonalized, and rationalized world. Men and women's lives are freer of regulation such as they used to find in religion and other institutions. Thus, the need for social bonding and intimacy is more to the point than ever. As men and women long for close, intimate relationships, their very identities are based on the establishment of such bonds. The honeymoon is one ritual in the life-course trajectory that helps form individual identities, and the standardization of the honeymoon in recent times suggests that the culturally shared social scripts surrounding such life-course events are increasingly comparable. The paradox results, however, that in their quest for individualism in late-modern societies, people increasingly achieve homogeneity and sameness of experience.
From the 1970s, the honeymoon continued to function as a time of transition between a couple's wedding and married life, but it takes form as an interlude of heightened romance. More than an initiation into marital roles, the postindustrial honeymoon is a ritual that is socially framed as the most romantic juncture in one's life. The honeymoon is about forming one's self-identity as romantic, and couples make honeymoon choices as a means to secure their individual and shared romantic identities. The honeymoon of the twenty-first century requires travel to a destination that can be imagined as having the potential for fulfilling such expectations. Often, the location is imagined as a place where social restraints are eased to permit more uninhibited behavior appropriate to the lore of honeymoon sexual initiation. Tropical islands are preferred, but cities, resorts and hotels in a variety of geographic locations signify romance. Paris and Venice are historically romantic cities and draw couples from around the world. For couples who cannot afford international travel, hotels may provide rooms with such themes ranging from Polynesian timelessness to urban sleek opulence. Two universal activities of this identity-forming ritual are the purchase of souvenirs and romantic artifacts and the documentation of romantic activities with photographs and video films. Couples also post their personal biographies and travel itineraries on Internet home pages. By so doing, they not only assert their romantic identities; they circulate honeymoon practices around the world and contribute to a homogenization of them.
Because identity is at stake, couples seek perfection in honeymoon romance, but travel to unfamiliar places to realize intensified expectations establishes a context for failure. To allay this risk, couples often choose packaged honeymoons, in which hotels, resorts, and cruise lines provide an organized program of rooms, meals, and activities. This desire for a risk-free honeymoon is fueled by guidelines for successful honeymoons found in books, bridal and travel magazines, and Internet web sites, and it contributes to a rapidly growing niche in the global tourism industry.
The Honeymoon as Romantic Consumption
In contrast with traditional sources of identity formation, such as community, family, or national origin, postindustrial identity largely is recognized through commodity choices (Shields 1992). The honeymoon is a cultural production of consumption that expands on modern beliefs in romance (Bulcroft, Smeins, and Bulcroft 1999). Romance is believed to be real, and it is made tangible when couples in everyday life stimulate their personal relationships with rituals in which commodities construct their romance. Flowers, champagne, and candlelight dinners, for example, are becoming universal props for constructing romance (Illouz 1997). The honeymoon comprises an accumulation of these symbolic ingredients and activities over an extended period of time in a tourist setting. Belief in romance is internationally produced in movies and other contemporary media, and the notion of a honeymoon as the occasion for experiencing it intensely is promoted similarly, and especially through advertising. The joining of beliefs in romance, identity through consumption, and an aggressive travel industry has rendered the honeymoon as a social norm not only for heterosexual couples who marry for the first time. Honeymoons mark subsequent marriages, and second honeymoons within marriages are taken to revive remembered romance. Gay and lesbian couples who formalize their unions also plan romantic honeymoons, and many travel agencies, hotels and cruise lines offer specialized packages for them.
The forces of globalization have reduced cultural specificity in honeymoon practices and amplified tendencies toward travel and romantic consumption across cultures. Thus, the study of the honeymoon is better framed in terms of its transmission and assimilation across cultures, rather than looking at cross-cultural differences in the practice of the honeymoon. The mass-marketing of the honeymoon through popular press and visual media has resulted in honeymoon imperialism or the wholesale adoption of the ritual on a global scale. The way in which the honeymoon is practiced today in Japan, Argentina, South Africa, or any other postindustrial nation reflects the standards as practiced in North America.
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blount, t. (1656). glosographia. menston (york): scholarpress.
bulcroft, k.; bulcroft, r.; smeins, l.; and cranage, h.(1997). "the social construction of the north american honeymoon, 1880-1995." journal of family history, 22(4):462–490.
bulcroft, k.; smeins, l.; and bulcroft, r. (1999). romancing the honeymoon: consummating marriage in modern society. thousand oaks, ca: sage.
gillis, j. (1985). for better, for worse. new york: oxforduniversity press.
habermas, j. (1970). towards a rational society. boston:beacon.
illouz, e. (1997). consuming the romantic utopia: love and cultural contradictions of capitalism. berkeley: university of california press.
shields, r., ed. (1992). lifestyle shopping: the subject ofconsumption. new york: routledge.
hon·ey·moon / ˈhənēˌmoōn/ • n. a vacation spent together by a newly married couple: romantic hand-holding breakfasts together on their honeymoon. ∎ [often as adj.] fig. an initial period of enthusiasm or goodwill, typically at the start of a new job: the new president's honeymoon period. • v. [intr.] spend a honeymoon: they are honeymooning in the south of France. DERIVATIVES: hon·ey·moon·er n.
Honeymoon ★★ 1987
A young French woman visiting New York learns she will be deported when her boyfriend is arrested for drug-smuggling. To stay, she is set up in a marriage of convenience and told her new husband will never see or bother her. But hubby has other plans! 96m/C VHS . John Shea, Nathalie Baye, Richard Berry, Peter Donat; D: Patrick Jamain; W: Philippe Setbon.