I have weddings on my mind because my friend is getting married in a few months & as his best man, I’ve been busy planning & preparing with him. So, Scott & Laura, this one is for you.
As celebrations of two people sharing their lives together, weddings are always fun times. The party does have to come to an end, though, & once everyone goes home, the bride & groom get to extend their own festivities by going on vacation. Planning & preparing for the wedding can be tiring & stressful, so a break from life & time to enjoy the company of each other is well deserved. We call this the honeymoon.
It’s a weird word when you think about it. The word as we use it doesn’t have anything to do with honey or the moon, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot easier than saying “the vacation the bride & groom take after the wedding.” So, honeymoon, it is. Despite its apparent meaninglessness, the word has been part of our language for centuries & we use it without thinking. So, what does it mean? Does honey actually have anything to do with it? What about the moon, for that matter?
Luckily, you read this blog because I’m going to let you know.
There are a few vaguely connected theories as to how this word came to be. I learned the first one independently from researching for this entry, way before I even had the idea to write about the bologna.
In 2012, my family & I went to Ireland. It was one of the best trips of my life & if I ever get the chance to go back, I will in a heartbeat.
We spent a few days Dublin & quite a bit of time in the beautiful countryside. On our last full day there, we went to Blarney Castle, kissed the Blarney Stone & walked around the town. After a little ways, my father & I came across a little shop which sold various odds & ends. That’s when I saw the bottle. It was full of a golden brown liquid that looked like alcohol, & hoping it was something very Irish, I picked it up. It was mead, a liqueur made from honey. It’s not Irish in particular; it comes from all over Europe & is traditional in some form in almost every country. This brand was Irish mead, so I decided to buy it.
I flipped the bottle around & on the back was a little paragraph, which told of the origin of the word “honeymoon.”
The text explained that in Medieval England & Ireland, mead was thought to make couples fertile. Paired with the notion that a full moon also increased fertility, newlyweds would take a trip to the countryside, so they could try to conceive. That was the entire reason for going away. They’d shack up for a month, drink mead, & when the moon was full, try to have a child.
Other variations of this history include having the wedding on a full moon for luck, followed by a month of mead drinking, while trying to conceive. Either way, mead played an important role with Irish wedding couples.
The Online Etymology Dictionary describes it a little differently, breaking up the word into its parts. It strictly describes the etymology & doesn’t give much insight into the tradition. According to the site, honeymoon was originally two words spelled, “hony moone.” It referred to “indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple.” When broken down, “hony” described the the “new marriage’s sweetness” & “moone” described how long the period of tenderness was to last, as dictated by the changing lunar phase.
During my research, I stumbled upon an Indian resort’s website. The Pavilions advertises itself as a honeymoon destination, & on one of their pages page, they give a history of the word. Here’s where it gets a pretty dark. The page claims that the honeymoon is a remnant of bridal kidnapping, which is exactly what it sounds like. The tradition was apparently started by Attila the Hun. His men would kidnap women, & force them into marriage. The period of time the bride was held captive eventually evolved into the honeymoon. The story is a bit morbid for a resort that wants to be romantic, huh?
Anyway, The Pavilions didn’t cite any sources, so I dug into it myself. It turns out that bridal kidnapping did occur fairly frequently, especially in South Eastern Europe. Many historians do, in fact, believe that this was the honeymoon in its first stage of evolution. By the beginning of the Middle Ages, marriage had become legally & religiously binding, & the outing had naturally transformed into something willful for both parties.
Thankfully, today, it’s is a much lighter & happier tradition. The bride can spend time with her new husband because she wants to & not because she has no choice. Thankfully we don’t live in the Dark Ages, huh?
Now you know; you’re welcome.