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Most luxurious honeymoon destinations

The 10 ultimate destinations for the ultimate vacation.
/ Source: Forbes

Something old, something new--and a $40,000 honeymoon? It's all in a day's work for Lisa Light, the founder of Destination Bride, based in New York's Hudson Valley.

In her 15 years as a full-service wedding planner and consultant, Light, who charges her clients $150 per hour, has planned or advised on more than 225 ceremonies--everything from a mariachi-accompanied beach ceremony in Mexico to a formal affair with three receptions for 150 people at Amberley Castle, a 900-year-old property in the English countryside.

Her work doesn't end with the reception. Of the 5 million weddings that take place annually in the United States, about 80% are capped off with honeymoons, according to the Bridal Association of America, a trade group based in Bakersfield, Calif. Light helps with those, too.

"It's the one segment of the travel industry that hasn't suffered since Sept. 11," says Light, whose customers spend an average of $250,000 on their weddings. After that, $10,000 to $12,000 for the honeymoon is just icing on the wedding cake.

"All the amazing places to stay charge between $1,000 and $2,000 a night, and if the honeymoon lasts ten days, it adds up," says Light, whose most elaborate honeymoon involved a couple who chartered a fully staffed yacht for a private two-week Mediterranean cruise.

Americans spend a total of $8.6 billion annually on their honeymoons, and that figure is increasing. In 2003, the average honeymoon cost just $3,471; it has since increased 27%, to $4,400, according to the Condé Nast Bridal Group, which publishes wedding magazines and conducts market research.

Once upon a time, a long weekend in Niagara Falls would suffice, but today's newlyweds are springing for long and lavish honeymoons to far-flung destinations. It's no wonder many Americans are looking for help financing the trip.

"There are a lot more honeymoon registries these days," says Kyle Brown, executive director of the Bridal Association of America. Honeymoon registries are popular among first-time newlyweds, as well as couples who have been married once (or more) already and don't feel the need to stock up on spatulas and silverware. With a honeymoon registry, guests can choose to give suite upgrades, romantic dinners or plain old checks for the couple's vacation.

Our love affair with honeymoons, however expensive they have become, isn't in any danger of ending soon, Brown says. "Hundreds of years ago, the honeymoon was a chance for the bride and groom to get to know one another," he points out. "Now, it's a chance to say, 'Let's get away from all this.' It's a vacation, an accepted and an expected vacation, and that's why the percentage of married couples who take one is so high. I don't see it dying down or going anywhere--it's part of the wedding experience."

That experience is becoming increasingly exotic. "People are going farther and farther away," says Light, "and attaching their honeymoons to destination weddings." A couple getting married in Tuscany might continue to Capri for the honeymoon--or even farther, to Fiji, Bali or Thailand.

Wherever newlyweds choose to go, one thing remains the same: Resorts across the world will welcome them with open arms.

"Honeymooners are a very attractive segment of the travel market in Hawaii," writes Brad Packer, the director of public relations at the Four Seasons (nyse: FS - news - people ) Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay, in an e-mail. "They tend to travel with less limits on discretionary income and will stay in upgraded rooms or suites, treat themselves to fine wines and champagne, as well as experience more activities and amenities during their stay, as it is treated as a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience. Additionally, honeymooners often make regular return visits, as the resort will hold a strong sentimental value to them."

To encourage this profitable niche travel market, resorts advertise all manner of amenities and packages for newlyweds, from the dedicated wedding coordinator and on-site Mexican chapel at One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico, to the week-long, all-inclusive $4,480 honeymoon package available at Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia.

With wedding season upon us, has compiled a list of some of the luxurious honeymoon packages offered around the world. As with so many things, you can always spend more if you want--with first-class transportation, extra services, add-on activities and the priciest food and drink. We think these far-flung resorts are places we'd certainly want an excuse to visit--and return to. Let us be the first to say bon voyage.