After months of wedding preparation, the last thing that Beth and Rob Puno wanted to do was to plan an elaborate overseas honeymoon.
So they didn't.
"My husband and I threw our bikes onto the bike rack on the car and drove up the California coast from the Bay Area to Mendocino," says Puno, 30, of Berkeley.
They stayed at a bed and breakfast, packed their lunches and explored by bike for 5 or 6 hours a day.
"It was perfect," Puno says. "We just got to exalt in that feeling of love, and we got to relax, and we got to explore some really beautiful redwood forests, just the two of us. It was so quiet and peaceful, I couldn't believe it."
The Punos aren't the only ones rejecting tropical getaways and European tours in favor of less conventional honeymoon options.
"There are a lot of people taking road trips, or taking the train, or doing a staycation, or doing a more scaled-down version," says Meg Keene, publisher and executive editor of A Practical Wedding website, apracticalwedding.com, and author of a guidebook of the same name.
There's even a word for the smaller, simpler options: mini-moons.
Part of the story is the economy, Keene says. Newlyweds in their early and mid-20s have been hit hard by unemployment and underemployment, and big-ticket items like international airfare and luxury hotels may not fit their budgets.
But fans of the alternative honeymoon see other advantages as well: the chance to connect with your new spouse without major distractions (the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame), the lack of stress and planning at a time when you've probably had your fill of both, and the opportunity to carve out a unique adventure that truly reflects your tastes and interests as a couple.
At the website Offbeat Bride (offbeatbride.com), Offbeat Empire associate publisher Megan Finley sees the alternative honeymoon as a reflection of a larger willingness to question wedding conventions.
"Just because when someone says 'honeymoon' most people think of their toes in the sand and a drink in their hand, doesn't mean you have to book a tropical vacation. Unless you and your partner love the ocean, surfing, snorkeling and sunbathing! Then the tropics are the way to go," Finley said in an email interview. "But never because 'that's just how it's done.'"
Among the real-life alternative honeymoons that Finley cites is one inspired by the New Orleans episode of "Man v. Food." A foodie couple honeymooned in New Orleans, where they sampled the city's storied restaurants.
Finley also points to a pair of history buffs who delayed their honeymoon so it overlapped with the anniversary of D-Day, and then took a self-guided tour of France, and a Texas-based couple who went to Reykjavik, Iceland, for their honeymoon because they wanted to go somewhere they had never been before. Enticed by cheap winter airfares, they decided to "experience what a real winter feels like."
There was also a philanthropic couple who bought a week at a safari lodge in South Africa from a nonprofit auction, and a couple who rented a camper and spent three weeks visiting as many state parks as possible.
Keene says she wishes more people would take alternative honeymoons. But she does have one caution: When it comes to honeymoons, timing counts.
"I always advise people, it doesn't matter where you go, just go somewhere for a couple of days (immediately after the wedding) or stay at home and unplug the phone, because what's important about the honeymoon is the time period when it takes place," she says. "Have a little bit of time to absorb what happened and emotionally process what happened."
Keene, who dated her husband for five years, says she was surprised at how much she treasured time alone with him during their honeymoon in Britain. Even an evening with a British relative, while wonderful, seemed like more of an interruption than she would have expected.
Puno's honeymoon was similarly emotionally intense.
"I was in a daze after the wedding, and it took those five days to just kind of calm down, let everything sink in, to understand what really happened," she says.