The newest and fastest-growing trend in wedding travel is the pre-honeymoon, stepping away from stressful wedding plans, pushy in-laws, bitter bridesmaids, and eccentric wedding experts to just get away from it all. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming in an already overloaded life, and when financial worries collide with parental input and a jammed daily schedule, the result is an almost universal cry: “Get me out of here!”

Countless brides and grooms are escaping their too-hectic, almost manic “Wedding World,” and packing their bags for a well-earned vacation to re-bond, decompress, and banish any wedding jitters. Rather than fittings, site tours, and yet another meeting with the caterer, smart wedding couples prefer laying on the beach, jet-skiing, and getting his and hers massages in front of an azure sea and a pink and lavender sunset.

The "Ultimate Escape"

The pre-honeymoon is the ultimate pre-wedding escape, one more and more brides and grooms plan, look forward to, and enjoy. They leave their homes frazzled and almost resenting their wedding planning process, and they come back renewed, refreshed, reconnected, and really looking forward to the wedding again. They get that newly-engaged bliss back.

The beauty of the pre-honeymoon is that it’s not a lengthy getaway. So it doesn’t interfere with work schedules and pre-planned wedding meetings, social lives, or family obligations. According to Kyle Brown of the Bridal Association of America (www.bridalassociationofamerica.com), the vast majority of pre-honeymoons span just 24 to 48 hours. “It’s most often going to be a quick trip,” says Brown. “The destination is usually within 250 miles, and most couples drive rather than fly.” That opens the door to a spontaneous getaway, delayed only by the time it takes to pack. That certainly suits the escapism instinct and may remind stressed and distant couples of their earlier, more impulsive and unencumbered days together.

Where are these couples going? It depends on where they currently are. Brown, who is based in California, says that most of the couples he speaks with are heading to Las Vegas, Tahoe, or Catalina Island. Disneyland is also a big draw among couples who want to play, laugh, and escape the real world.

In the New York City area, the drivable getaway often leads couples to Vermont, the Adirondack mountains, quaint Cape May in southern New Jersey, or just a subway ride away to a luxury hotel in Manhattan. Northeast couples do report that they’re more than willing to hop on a plane, though. The quick two-hour flight to Bermuda gives them not only an island getaway but the emotional signal that if they’re flying, they’re actually ‘going away.’ It’s a strange phenomenon: Some couples say that they only feel they’re on vacation when they’ve air-traveled more than 300 miles away. Yet for couples who are planning and paying for their weddings, the larger trend is to drive to their destination.

When financial worries collide with parental input and a jammed daily schedule, the result is an almost universal cry: “Get me out of here!”

The key to a great escape is choosing a location that offers the greatest departure from your everyday scenery and everyday routine. If you live in a small town, perhaps a beach or big-city getaway is the dream locale for you. If you’re a city-dweller, consider a bed and breakfast in the country. Suburban? Try wine country or Vegas. Your options are endless. This is also the time to take a unique getaway, perhaps the ski trip you originally considered for your honeymoon yet replaced with that two-week bliss trip to idyllic Fiji or tropical Hawaii.

Another big option: Taking the big trip now. Perhaps your available vacation days will only allow you a short honeymoon after the wedding. You may have had to take a few vacation days to visit wedding sites, or travel to the city of your wedding for meetings with planners or dress-shopping trips. The way the calendar year has dealt the timing, you can only take five days for your actual honeymoon. But now, in this calendar year before the wedding, you have a full two weeks open. And perhaps you need an extended getaway more now, with all the pre-wedding stress piling up, than you would after the romantic and fun-filled wedding weekend you have planned. In that case, your pre-honeymoon would be more exorbitant.

Consider Seth and Tara Immell from Vancouver, Canada. They planned a Maui wedding and decided to take part of their honeymoon before the wedding, and part afterward. Before heading to Hawaii to celebrate with their 23 friends and family, Seth and Tara jetted off to New Zealand — with a stop in Tahiti — where they went black-water rafting, among other adventurous and romantic outings (read their travelogue and view their photos at www.immell.com). “Taking part of our honeymoon before the wedding forces everything to be done a bit earlier, and once you get on the plane or hop in the car, that’s it,” says Seth Immell. “There may be a few details left, but you can delegate them if possible or just plan for them. For us, it meant me having to get a tux in Hawaii (easily accomplished) and us covering a couple of small issues with the hotel wedding planner.” Seth and Tara said that their pre-honeymoon was ideal in giving them time together to unwind and to enjoy their actual wedding more, plus they had amazing travel stories to share with their wedding guests once they arrived in Hawaii. Tara warns, though, that you be careful of not eating too much on this pre-wedding vacation. Her wedding gown, which fit perfectly three weeks before the wedding, had to have one button removed so that she could more easily fit into it on the wedding day.

Seth and Tara decided to ‘sandwich’ their destination wedding with a pre- and post-honeymoon, but you are free to take your pre-honeymoon however far in advance you wish. In fact, more couples are taking several pre-honeymoons — including one immediately after getting engaged. This is a wise and wonderful trend, as it allows you to bask in your newly engaged glow for a romantic weekend before you get deluged by questions, requests, and demands from eager-to-plan parents. It also stops you from diving too quickly into intense wedding planning, which can swallow you whole. Too many couples out there immerse themselves in finding sites and interviewing photographers, bands, florists, and cake bakers before they’ve even taken the time to think about their happy future together. So take a few days to let the joy sink in, perhaps while you’re sipping daiquiris on the beach or swimming with dolphins.

Beyond the first-thing pre-honeymoon, your additional pre-honeymoon can take place whenever you need it most. For some couples, the stress gets to be too much around the six-month mark, when the bills are piling up and grandparents are threatening not to come to the wedding if great-aunt Ida can’t bring her canasta club to the wedding. When the time is right, you’ll know. Among couples who pre-honeymoon, the majority say they take their pre-honeymoon about a month before the wedding. All of the big planning is done, and the last-minute details are still a few weeks away. The showers are complete, and they could use some relationship time before the wedding itself. For them, the four-to-six-weeks-prior mark is perfection.

Where They Go

Most couples plan their own getaways with the help of a travel agent or through online travel sites, and they surf unique travel sites like ResortsandLodges.com for the newest options in adventure travel and ecotourism. They crave something different, something unlike the same summer vacation they’ve taken at the beach every year since they were five years old. We’re seeing more requests for Western ranches, spa getaways, big-city romance packages (including those with helicopter pickups, Broadway plays, and lavish dinners out), jaunts to wine country, and ‘dream trips’ to destinations one partner has always dreamed about. For instance, one groom surprised his bride with a weekend at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Wisconsin, where the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour movie Somewhere in Time was filmed. The couple had watched that movie on one of their first dates, and the bride had long expressed a wish to visit that island and its car-free streets, horse and carriage rides, fudge shops, and movie museum. Their pre-honeymoon, then, had a much deeper meaning than just getting away from it all.

And of course, there’s always the option of turning your pre-honeymoon into … your wedding. As a surprise, one partner plans for the other, or as a spontaneous decision —  particularly when life back in “Wedding World” is truly heinous — you’ll find plenty of resorts and wedding planners wherever you go that can help you pull together the wedding of your dreams in the spur of the moment. And what could be more of an escape than that?