Beach wedding

There’s a lot that goes into planning your dream wedding, from the dress, to the venue, to the number of guests, and it’s easy for the costs to start climbing. But how about planning the honeymoon?

Statistics show that 99 percent of couples who choose a traditional wedding will go on a honeymoon, but only around 1 out of 4 of them really get the dream honeymoon they imagine. A big reason for this is probably because couples don’t get as much financial assistance with the honeymoon as they do with the wedding, so you and your future spouse can be left trying to plan and budget a trip on your own.

While your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, your honeymoon can be the voyage of a lifetime if you want it to be. All it takes is careful planning and smart decisions, which you can start thinking about as soon as you know the date of the big day, if not earlier.

1. Brainstorming for Two

When you start imagining your dream honeymoon, allow yourself to think of money as no object, just in theory. You and your partner can spend a fun night after dinner making lists of everywhere you’ve always wanted to go and everything you’ve always wanted to do, and you might be surprised by the ways in which your dreams overlap.

Do you prefer beaches or mountains? Europe or Asia? Adventure sports or relaxing spas, or maybe both?

Some of your ideas might seem out of reach, but if you both have a luxury destination you’re interested in, it’s worth it to talk to a travel agent about how to make it happen on your budget. You can even rank your top 2 or 3 choices, and if the first one turns out to be less than feasible, you’ll have another plan you’re both excited about.

2. Consider the Season

The affordability of your honeymoon may be directly related to the time of year when you get married. Quite a lot of couples choose to wed in spring or summer, so the options for a luxury honeymoon are wide open, but the prices can be much steeper. If your wedding is in from late summer to early spring, you will probably avoid taking trips to places experiencing harsh winters, but off-season voyages to places that are warm all year round can be surprisingly easy to fit into the budget.

An annual study by The Knot suggests the most popular destinations for luxury honeymoons are Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Island destinations that are less popular might be even more affordable in off-season months, So Seychelles, the Maldives, and the Virgin islands are also worth researching.

3. How Much Will You Spend?

According to the Knot’s research, the average couple spends about $4,500 on their honeymoon. But if you’re aiming for a luxury trip, that cost can be around $7,000. Most of this money goes to airfare and hotel, because part of the honeymoon experience is usually staying in a honeymoon suite at a resort where you can both be pampered. If that’s what your honeymoon means to you, that’s where you should splurge.

But a lot of what you’re budgeting in depends on your interests as a couple. If you want to sightsee, take day trips, do some major shopping, partake in sports like sailing or diving, or just dine out at various restaurants, you’ll have to account for what’s most important. It may be better to decide on your third or fourth choice for a honeymoon destination if it means you’ll have more money to spend when you get there.

4. Continental Honeymoons

No matter how much planning you put into an international honeymoon, you may find it just isn’t possible. Maybe wedding costs are too high or maybe you can’t find a travel package that suits your needs, either way, you’re far from alone. Around 85 percent of couples in America honeymoon to domestic locations, and this can still be a dream experience. The U.S. is filled with many different landscapes and climates, from the sweeping Oregon coast, to the bustling nightlife of New Orleans or New York City. If you’d rather save up for your wedding day and take a more modest trip, you will still find plenty of options close to home.

No matter what kind of honeymoon you prefer, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by spending as much time planning an amazing vacation as you do planning a ceremony. Your honeymoon is the perfect way to reward yourselves for all the time, energy, and stress that goes into a wedding. When you walk down the aisle, you’re taking part in a celebration with family and friends, and you want everyone to have a great time. But when you take off for your honeymoon, it’s all about you and your spouse, and the romance, relaxation, and adventure you’re dreaming of can be the perfect start to the rest of your life together.

Amie Gottschalk is an adventurist who blogs about her travels. She recently returned from an exotic honeymoon to the Seychelles, an island paradise. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.