Together 2004
Published: February 4, 2004

The honeymoon's the sweetest part
Creativity and planning make for happy memories

by H. Tom Nguyen

Think "honeymoon" and the best part of a wedding comes to mind: Romance, fantasy, adventure, relaxation. It's a welcome respite from the long months of planning a wedding and reception. But make no mistake -- honeymoon planning is also a careful art.

There's a lot of work involved to make honeymooning look easy, and that's why Lauren Doud and her then-fiance Darren hired a specialist in romance and honeymoon planning.

"We wanted our honeymoon to be full of rest and relaxation." said Lauren, who married Darren last year. Entirely focused on putting together her wedding, she hired Calla Griffith, a romance and honeymoon planning specialist. Griffith owns Calla Lilly Productions in Palo Alto, a travel-planning firm catering to honeymooners who have the kind of dollars and fearless imagination to make a dream honeymoon come true.

"My clients spend an average of $10,000 to $25,000 a trip," Griffith said. "For some, it's their first time traveling and they want to see the world. There are others who have fallen in love with one place and they want to revisit it. They come to me for help in getting the most out of their experience."

And the most is what they shall receive. Griffith plans itineraries loaded with sunset dinners out on the beach, shopping excursions, golf lessons, private tours, wine tasting, horseback riding, luxury cars, spa treatments, massages, and even helicopter rides.

"The most extravagant honeymoon I've ever planned was $25,000. The newlyweds wanted to go to Tuscany and Amalfi, which is off the coast of Italy," said Griffith, who can spend up to six months planning a honeymoon. "They wanted true indulgence and total pampering.... And I treat my clients like royalty."

Lauren admits that her honeymoon was not at the top of Griffith's extravagant-spenders list, but it was still worth every penny. She and Darren chose to honeymoon in Hawaii. A favorite honeymoon memory included an exclusive gourmet-cooking demonstration for only her and Darren, where the head chef was their personal waiter. Later, he taught them his recipes.

"We had romantic dinners every night we were there," Lauren said. "It was some of the best food I've ever had in my life."

The Douds chose Hawaii for its promise of rest and relaxation; plus, it was exotic and hassle-free. "There was no language barrier, no need for passports, lots of activities, and it was only a five hour flight. It was easy and what we really needed."

They are not alone, according to Anita Douglas, president of Travel NOW, Inc., a Menlo Park travel agency. Douglas, who founded the company 20 years ago and has since been named the best travel agency in Menlo Park in several competitions, said most couples prefer warm and exotic places for their honeymoon.

Along with the ease and romantic allure of the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean is also a very popular honeymooner's paradise.

"Taking cruises in the Caribbean has also been a very popular choice in recent years because it's more affordable now," Douglas said. "There are more ships, more competition, and the rates are the lowest I've seen them in a while." Add to lower rates, the gorgeous tropical water, great weather, and island landscape so dreamy it could make Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks gear up for another romantic comedy.

"That's the thing, sometimes couples come to us with all sorts of ideas for their honeymoon," Douglas said. "But we have to tell them whether those plans are possible."

To plan a memorable honeymoon, both Griffith and Douglas agree that along with budgeting for lodging, activities and food, taking weather and time of the year into account are also very important.

According to Douglas, the Caribbean is hot and rainy in the summer, but it's a good choice from February to March. Hawaii is very popular during the summer, but Christmas time is the worst, because it can be rainy and cold, and travel costs can be very expensive.

"There was one couple who wanted to go on their honeymoon during New Year's Eve," said Joyce Ricktor, manager of Travel NOW, Inc. "We advised them it was a bad idea because everything would be twice as expensive during that time of year. Plus, it would make planning for future anniversaries that much more difficult because everything is so booked during the holidays. It's not about just planning the honeymoon, it's also about making good decisions."

And good decisions do not come without good planning. To find the best travel deals and a host of options for dining, hotels and activities, couples should plan as early as possible, Ricktor said.

"The key to a memorable honeymoon lies in the details," Griffith said. "You need to be creative with your budget. With the beautiful place you've chosen, focus on the details and be imaginative."

So plan, plan, and plan.

Whether you decide to hire an event specialist or pick a trusted local travel agency for your honeymoon, newlyweds should still be able to find elation and relief in each other's arms.

"It's definitely who you go with that makes the trip memorable," Lauren said. "It doesn't have to be the scenery, so long as you're with someone who can make you really happy."