Today we all understand honeymoon as a period of relaxation, when the newlywed couple jumps on a plane to spend time together, and in some (or most) cases de-stress after the wedding. But has its meaning and definition changed over time?
To find the origins of the word honeymoon we need go back to Babylon some 4,000 years ago. It was during this period that many people followed a ‘moon cycle’ calendar. During the first moon cycle immediately after a wedding, it was customary in many parts of Europe for the bride’s father to present the groom with enough mead (a honey wine made by fermenting honey with water) to last the entire month. Mead was thought to have aphrodisiac properties, ensuring a fruitful union between the newlyweds. The original term hony moone literally comes from honey (from the mead) and moon (referring to the cycle).
Moving forward in time to the 1540s, it was thought that people were very sceptical about the success of marriages. At that time, honeymoons referred to the sweetness of a new marriage (the honey) and the fleeting nature of the moon – a little cynical some might say! This cynicism was first recorded in 1542, when Samuel Johnson wrote: “The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure; originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full that it begins to wane…”
In 19th century Britain, the tradition of going away on a honeymoon as newlyweds actually began, but not quite as we know it today! Newlyweds back then would embark on a bridal tour to visit relatives who were unable to make the wedding celebrations, so time for romance was minimal. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the concept of a honeymoon (as we recognise it today) took hold.
The usage and implications of the term honeymoon have certainly changed over time and will probably continue to evolve with many couples now opting for a less expensive mini-moon and the current global travel restrictions standing in the way of a traditional romantic trip for two. There will however probably always still be a need for a restful period after a wedding!