As someone who is getting married at the end of the year and also the owner of a travel company that organises bespoke honeymoons, I'm pretty well placed to share my guide to the art of honeymoon planning. A lot of couples choose to plan the honeymoon together, and if so, these tips will all still be very useful. However, legend or tradition has it that responsibility for the honeymoon has long fallen to the groom and oh what a duty this is. Not only does it need to be impeccably slick and thoughtful, it must also hit that 'once in a lifetime' note ... in a good way. So, if you're in the traditional camp and taking charge of the planning, let me share my essential do's and don'ts guide to organising the ultimate honeymoon for your bride. You'll be living off the brownie points for years.
DO start planning the honeymoon well in advance. I'd recommend 6 months prior to departure so that you have plenty of time to chat through your ideas together or with a travel expert, secure availability and play around with the itinerary until it is literally perfect.
DO surprise her with something special. Even if she knows where you're going, it's a nice touch to plan a little surprise such as a hike before sunrise or a hot air balloon ride. Whatever it is, make sure you hold a little something back to surprise her with.
DO consider a mini-moon. And a bigger trip later on. Obviously. I know, daft name, but mini-moons are becoming increasingly popular with brides and grooms taking a few days after the big day followed by a bigger trip a little later in the year. Why do one, when you can do two, I say.
DON'T just book the exact same honeymoon your best friend found for his bride-to-be. Make her feel special by putting a little bit of time and thought into proceedings, personalising the trip.
DON'T fall into the honeymoon-trap. The honeymoon-trap is a metaphorical place that could become all too real if some simple steps aren't taken. I'm talking about those conveyor-belt style honeymoons where you find yourself all tables-for-two virtually on top of the couple next door. You might as well be eating the same piece of spaghetti as your next door neighbour's wife a la Lady and the Tramp. If this is not for you, flag this at the outset. This nicely flows on to...
DON'T assume you have to 'fly and flop' on honeymoon. Yes, it's all about the sumptuous Egyptian cotton sheets and miles of bleached white sand but you can still hike a mountain, swim with whale sharks or spot giraffes if you've always wanted to.
DO stay in amazing hotels. This is the one time you need to find somewhere incredible to stay, especially for the debut night. There are so many beautiful boutique hotels with authentic interiors set amidst staggering scenery; you just need to know where to look. For this, try a tour operator that knows boutique hotels, inside out.
DON'T try and book it all by yourself. Yes, everything is available at your fingertips thanks to the internet, but a honeymoon (more than any other trip) really needs to be planned by someone that can give it their undivided attention. Don't take on too much and get overwhelmed. Try a specialist tour operator who can add some creativity to the proceedings, then you can pass it all off as your own work.
DO talk about it as a couple. Okay, so you might have always wanted to go cage diving with crocodiles in the depths of South Africa but she might just want to chill on the beach. Sounds obvious, but talk it through - there's always somewhere than can suit you both. And if it is a surprise, 'compromise' is the buzz word.
DON'T assume flight upgrades are complimentary as standard. Unfortunately, this is becoming an incredibly rare occurrence for honeymooners. If you want to fly in first class for the special trip, you'll need to book it.
DO take some advice if packing her suitcase for a surprise honeymoon. This could result in near disaster, don't forget her underwear, swimwear, and footwear ... in fact, definitely consult a close female friend. Or better still; book your bride-to-be in for a stylist day to kit her out for her trip.
And my honeymoon? Well, I can't tell you in case the bride is reading -- but it is going to be epic.