Paradise for a price

Weddings are about family and friends. Honeymoons are about the newlyweds.

"The honeymoon is something where you will create memories that you will carry with you and savor for the rest of your life," said Rob Sexton, owner of Magic Carpet Travel in Craig and Steamboat. "We try to provide seamless travel. It's so smoothly arranged and planned that it's a no-brainer from the time you leave your house."

That is precisely what a couple looking to unwind and enjoy their first days as husband and wife want to hear.

"We love honeymoons," Sexton said. "It's the happiest trip people are going to take, so we tell couples, 'We can't guarantee your wedded bliss, but we can give your marriage the best possible start.'"

For most honeymooners, the place to be is Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico or more exotic destinations in the South Pacific. Sexton described a honeymoon he booked in Tahiti.

"They are staying in a bungalow on stilts in a lagoon," he said. "You can sit on the bed and watch the fish swimming under the bungalow. Breakfast will be brought to them by natives on an outrigger canoe."

Romantic seclusion is the top priority for honeymooners, said Charlene Regan, owner of Travelers Edge in Phippsburg. What each couple considers romantic varies, making each honeymoon unique. Some want a more active honeymoon, so Regan recommends a place such as Costa Rica. Others want a luxurious, all-inclusive resort, so Regan recommends a Sandals package that includes everything, including airfare and snacks.

"Honeymooners are usually looking for more quaint, remote, smaller properties," Regan said.

Increasingly, a bride and groom are willing to spend extra for the perfect vacation. The average couple spends $5,000 on its honeymoon, Sexton said.

"That's partly because the couples are older and likely have two incomes and more money," he added. "Couples are getting married older than, say, five years ago. Wisely, in our opinion, they are dedicating more money to their honeymoon."

In addition, couples frequently don't need as many household furnishings for wedding presents. Instead, guests can give money to be used toward the honeymoon. Magic Carpet Travel provides such a service for free.

"You send the link to 100 of your best friends," Sexton said. "They can go to the registry and instead of buying you a toaster, they can put $50 toward the price of entertainment on the honeymoon."

Couples, when planning the wedding, also plan the honeymoon. Couples likely know where they want to go before they even select the wedding invitations. Travel agents have access to resources that enable them to put together great vacations in hours, but most would prefer more time to make it perfect.

"I would say four to six months in advance," Regan said. "Usually you only have to put a $200 deposit down a person. Full payment is usually expected 45 to 60 days in advance, but they can get the price and info and hold it."

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