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Honeymoon - The Individual And The Post-industrial Honeymoon

romantic couples identities ritual

The roles of men and women in the context of the honeymoon have also evolved. Evidence suggests that the honeymoon has become increasingly feminized over time, resulting in the ritual of today, of which the bride is the center (Bulcroft, Bulcroft, Smeins, and Cranage 1997). In America, men were generally responsible for planning and executing the honeymoon until the mid-twentieth century. As marriages increasingly emphasized companionate rather than conjugal roles, romance and individual identities gained in importance. Thus, the honeymoon reflects the emphasis that late-modern societies place on individualism, rationalization, consumption, and creating ritual to alleviate perceptions of risk and uncertainty (Beck 1992; Habermas1970).

The outcomes of modernization are a more complex, depersonalized, and rationalized world. Men and women's lives are freer of regulation such as they used to find in religion and other institutions. Thus, the need for social bonding and intimacy is more to the point than ever. As men and women long for close, intimate relationships, their very identities are based on the establishment of such bonds. The honeymoon is one ritual in the life-course trajectory that helps form individual identities, and the standardization of the honeymoon in recent times suggests that the culturally shared social scripts surrounding such life-course events are increasingly comparable. The paradox results, however, that in their quest for individualism in late-modern societies, people increasingly achieve homogeneity and sameness of experience.

From the 1970s, the honeymoon continued to function as a time of transition between a couple's wedding and married life, but it takes form as an interlude of heightened romance. More than an initiation into marital roles, the postindustrial honeymoon is a ritual that is socially framed as the most romantic juncture in one's life. The honeymoon is about forming one's self-identity as romantic, and couples make honeymoon choices as a means to secure their individual and shared romantic identities. The honeymoon of the twenty-first century requires travel to a destination that can be imagined as having the potential for fulfilling such expectations. Often, the location is imagined as a place where social restraints are eased to permit more uninhibited behavior appropriate to the lore of honeymoon sexual initiation. Tropical islands are preferred, but cities, resorts and hotels in a variety of geographic locations signify romance. Paris and Venice are historically romantic cities and draw couples from around the world. For couples who cannot afford international travel, hotels may provide rooms with such themes ranging from Polynesian timelessness to urban sleek opulence. Two universal activities of this identity-forming ritual are the purchase of souvenirs and romantic artifacts and the documentation of romantic activities with photographs and video films. Couples also post their personal biographies and travel itineraries on Internet home pages. By so doing, they not only assert their romantic identities; they circulate honeymoon practices around the world and contribute to a homogenization of them.

Because identity is at stake, couples seek perfection in honeymoon romance, but travel to unfamiliar places to realize intensified expectations establishes a context for failure. To allay this risk, couples often choose packaged honeymoons, in which hotels, resorts, and cruise lines provide an organized program of rooms, meals, and activities. This desire for a risk-free honeymoon is fueled by guidelines for successful honeymoons found in books, bridal and travel magazines, and Internet web sites, and it contributes to a rapidly growing niche in the global tourism industry.


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