So many people say that their honeymoon is meant to be a trip of lifetime, a place you could never afford or have the time to go during your new busy lives. Katie and I were never really afforded that opportunity due to budget restrictions, but we decided to make our simplest of honeymoons the best experience ever, no matter what.
Katie and I had to pay for our own wedding. That's nothing new in the world of weddings and marriages to be; perhaps we should have eloped like everyone says. After many a long discussion, we honestly couldn't decide who NOT to have at the marriage ceremony, to us, the most important part of the day. And once we were fortunate enough to have same sex marriage equality recognized in New York state, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have those we love and care about witness our legal commitment. Since we love good food and wine, we decided on getting married at the Tribeca Grill in NYC.
Ah a New York City wedding. Everything in New York City is ridiculously expensive, so one can imagine what a wedding costs! And since we were paying for our own wedding (my mother had passed away when I was a teenager and my dad refused to help because of our non-traditional relationship: her parents living on a retired Pennsylvania teacher's pension. I even auditioned for Who Wants to be a Millionaire and ACTUALLY got on the show (but didn't do as well as I have always imagined!).
We first decided that we were not going to take a honeymoon. We figured since our guest list was very small (50 people total, including us), that any money we got from wedding gifts should go right back into the bank. So we discussed perhaps taking a honeymoon someday when we had more money to enjoy it. But my new wife to be wouldn't give up (it's not in her personality!), so she researched and researched a way for us to have a mini trip.
During her intensive search, she came across Traveler's Joy. Once we learned of this amazing website, we dared to dream the dream that maybe we could have a honeymoon after all. Plus, it was perfect because we didn't really need anything off a traditional registry (We have all we can fit into an 800-square-foot apartment!). We wished upon a star, and it answered us with the Traveler's Joy honeymoon registry!
Thanks to TJ (cue some sort of awe inspiring music, think "Chariots of Fire"), we scheduled the honeymoon for the dates immediately following our August 26, 2012 wedding. Because I am a teacher, we only had a one-week window to take a trip as I had to be back to work after Labor Day. Being that most of the trip was truly going to be paid for by others, we wanted to pick a destination that was not expensive so to say and not far away so that our short week was not cut even shorter by much travel time.
We decided on Key West, Florida. We had been there as a couple before, and not only is it amazingly beautiful and laid back, but it is also very gay-friendly (something that we truly wanted as well so that we could enjoy ourselves while being ourselves). And can I just say that there is live music at every bar. Even if it's an old man with a dog playing a keyboard, there is live music. My wife is a singer so this is something near and dear to her heart.
The first time we visited Key West, we stayed at the Marriott Beachside Hotel. Because of our amazing hotel experience, we couldn't imagine staying anywhere else (They even give you a free bottle of wine every time you dine in their restaurant!). We opted to try and contact the Marriott directly to see if they were willing to upgrade us for a regular room price. Not only did they upgrade us, they provided us with complimentary breakfast and poolside drinks each day. The whole week cost us about $1,500. And since we had Marriott Gift Cards thanks to some well saved credit card points, that was one expense that we no longer needed to worry about for the entire vacation. Not having to worry about the cost of our hotel stay allowed us more activities that we could add to our Traveler's Joy Registry (Note: Couples massages on the beach are worth it! If you are hemming and hawing around about adding it to your registry, add it now and thank us later!). We couldn't have afforded most of the things we did without something as awesome as Traveler's Joy (BTW, kudos to your website. It's very user friendly and allows the couple to easily upload pictures and info about their registry items!).
After a day of dancing and numerous glasses of champagne, we were ready to fly down first class thanks to Katie's amazing credit card miles and free companion ticket. We only paid about $1,000 for both of us round-trip. Once we arrived in paradise, we headed to the hotel, only five minutes away from the airport, and we got settled in. Immediately we took advantage of the wonderful restaurant there to indulge in filet mignon and wine. We ended the evening with a little dip in the hot tub and pool (they allow patrons there to have late night swims in the pool after dark).
Since we had traveled to Key West before, we made it a point to try all the activities we had not partaken in last time and we were determined to complete every listed event that we had received on our registry. Snorkeling had been a debate between us the first time because Katie has never been a "let's hang out in the middle of the ocean" type of person. However, she was willing to make a honeymoon exception.
On the first day of trip, we jetted out early on our snorkeling/Dolphin excursion and hit the open sea. Once we made it to our destination point, we were given our tutorial and supplies to submerge ourselves into the crystal clear blue sea (well actually it wasn't because hurricane Isaac had recently passed through and had made the waters very murky). I immediately put on my gear and headed in. Katie took her time saying that she was going to spend some more time on the boat and relax with a beer. Okay, no worries, there was no pressure. About half way through my swimming expedition, I heard a call from the boat. Katie was geared up and at the boat ladder ready to descend. I swam over as quickly as I could to cheer her on. She slowly emerged herself in the water and swam a few feet towards me, and then it happened. A freak out! Snorkeling was not going to happen for her that day, but I loved her to trying. (Because she didn't snorkel, I got the free pass not to have to go parasailing because I am extremely afraid of heights!) The second part of the adventure was to see the dolphins swim. If felt like hours and miles that we traveled while the crew kept apologizing that there did not seem like there was going to be any dolphin action that particular day. It almost seemed like a trip wasted, until there all of a sudden we were surrounded by them! Dolphins were so close that we could look into their eyes while physically touching them if we wanted. It was amazing. Katie and I had never been so close to a dolphin before. It was an amazing day while spending time together with some other amazing people.
Throughout our honeymoon, we met some great people while spending time down by the pool, going on a ghost tour, enjoying great food, and wine and beer at various restaurants (On a side note, the Marriott Beachside used a picture we took of us in the pool with one of their signature drinks as their Facebook picture of the day back in the fall!). We ended our final night on a sunset wine cruise on a schooner ship. Wine, sunset, hors d'oeuvres; we couldn't think of a better way to end a trip full of memories. This isn't just any wine sunset cruise, it's a tasting paired with specific foods and a sunset that looks like you are at the edge of the world while the sun completely melts into the ocean. We fell in love with one of the wines so much that we asked our local wine guy in NYC to order it in for us (Heyyy Velvet Devil Merlot!). The night was perfect and the sky a crystal clear. We met a very nice married couple on the boat whom we spent time getting to know. We provided them with various places to visit while they were in town and felt very cool when we knew a few of the wines that were being served on the boat.
We realize that many honeymooners will have wild and crazy stories about faraway exotic honeymoons that cost a lot of money. But for us, the heart and core of a honeymoon is that it doesn't matter how far away you go, or how much you spend, but rather the quality time you share with a loved one doing things that make you both smile. That's exactly what our trip to Key West was. Everything we received from our Traveler's Joy website, right down to drinks we had as we watched a turtle race at Turtle Kraals (my Turtle won the race by the way), made our honeymoon unforgettable.
As I sit here putting the final touches on my Honeymoon blog, I am wearing my Key West Margaritaville shirt and have a huge grin plastered on my face thinking of all the times we bought souvenirs in their store waiting for our Marriott Shuttle bus to take us back to our hotel for some late night swimming and wine. We are truly grateful to your website for making our dream honeymoon come true and can't stop recommending it to other couples. Cheers Traveler's Joy!