Against Honeymoons

Charles Comey in The Point:

ScreenHunter_1266 Jul. 21 22.10The honeymoon as we know it, the postnuptial trip for two, hasn’t been around all that long. In the nineteenth century there was something called a “bridal tour,” where newlyweds would travel, sometimes accompanied by friends and family, to visit relatives who hadn’t been able to attend the wedding. The bridal tour made sense when a marriage was much more about social ties and the joining of two families than it is now: the pair journeyed not as tourists but as a tour. At the turn of the century couples began to adapt the bridal tour to make it a private pleasure trip instead. In Marriage, a History Stephanie Coontz talks about the transition from bridal tour to honeymoon as part of a larger revolution in the form of family life in general: the increasing interiority and privacy of the family unit, as well as marriage becoming obsessively all about the two individuals and their bond.

It’s easy to understand why, for the first half of the twentieth century, the honeymoon was so appealing. Until relatively recently a marriage came after courtship: after semi-public calls to an eligible girl, usually in her living room. The honeymoon provided some much needed one-on-one time. Naturally, in its privacy, this was also the time to cleave, carnally, finally, to one’s new spouse. In fact at first the honeymoon was a bit scandalous for this reason, because of the attention it drew to the bridal bed. But as the twentieth century softened in its attitude toward sexuality that turned around. To my grandparents’ generation, the thundering of Niagara Falls was a trope for newlywed sex, and going to Niagara was about giving in to an irresistible force of nature. (Thus the rhyming of “Viagra,” which is meant to draw on that association.)

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