Summer is here, which means it’s officially wedding season—which means it’s also honeymoon season.
Lining up a dream postnuptial vacation can be just as high-stakes as planning the big day itself. (Remember Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s widely publicized indecision: Was it Africa or Canada?) It can be especially complicated, it turns out, if you are a billionaire.
Nobody knows that better than the planning team at Ovation Vacations, a leisure travel consultancy for ultrahigh-net-worth individuals. (Think media moguls, real estate tycoons, financiers, movie stars, talk show hosts, and pro athletes.) The company’s team of 30 agents plans more than 200 honeymoons a year, at an average of $50,000 per trip. That’s almost $1 million in honeymoon bookings each month.
Ovation’s president, Jack Ezon, is like the Olivia Pope of travel, handling myriad client requests from the practical to the absurd. And as I learned during a consulting crash course with Ezon and his team, there are many odd asks from the world’s richest honeymooners. By the end of my second day, I had arranged a couple’s hard-to-get dinner reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame), booked a private meet-and-greet with the pope (for a Jewish man, no less), and helped organize a transatlantic charter flight for a sheik’s bird.
But wait, there’s more …
1. Someone Has to Carry the Meat
After signing a nondisclosure agreement, your first rite of passage with Ovation is to travel with the meat. Literally. The agency’s clients include many kosher and halal travelers (along with plenty of otherwise picky eaters), and one of the most common requests Ovation fields is to have specific cuts of beef flown from a client’s butcher in the U.S. to a location on the other side of the globe.
The title of T-bone chaperone always goes to the agency’s most junior planner. It’s their unenviable task to lug the filet mignons through airport security in chilled briefcases, then onto a commercial jet and eventually to their desired hotel kitchen. Cooking the meat can be an exacting science, too: One planner, Amy, has received paint swatches in the mail from a traveler showing precisely how medium-rare he wanted his steak.
Food requests go far beyond shuttling rib-eye. On my second day at the office I processed a request from a new client who wanted his al dente pasta boiled for an exact number of minutes. And one pop star client fulfilled the stereotype by requesting freshly picked dragonfruit every morning for her daily “pink drink” smoothie … in Iceland. The local authority had strict regulations against the importation of exotic produce, so Ezon had to volley test fruits with the Icelandic government for weeks before securing customs approval.
2. Celebrities Aren’t the Only Ones With a Dreaded Rider
Riders are compiled for every one of Ovation’s honeymooners; often they’re so complex, they make J. Lo seem easygoing for wanting the green M&Ms picked out of her candy bowl.
On the manageable end, particularities range from specific plies of toilet paper to strange bed-making methods (two top sheets, with the duvet covering only the bottom half of the mattress, for example). One newlywed visiting the Seychelles would drink only Fiji water; a crate was duly flown in to supply her nightly. Another wanted Elchim hair dryers everywhere she went—including far-flung Laos and Sri Lanka. Once, Ezon was provided with a typed list of 16 condom types a new husband wanted stocked in his minibar.
Sometimes the requests are so massive in scope that construction crews need to get involved. For a five-night trip, one prominent television actress paid $40,000 to have her hotel bathroom’s granite sink lifted 7 inches higher—all so she wouldn’t have to bend over when washing her face. Similarly, a husband recently spent $80,000 to have a 210-foot yacht completely carpeted, so his new wife could wear her stilettos on board instead of having to—gasp!—go barefoot.
3. Sometimes You’ve Got to Build the Beach
Why customize the perfect hotel room if you can’t do the same for the beach? That’s what Ezon’s team did when one couple’s dream Caribbean vacation—in a presidential villa with a small private beach—was nearly destroyed by a storm that permanently washed away the seafront. The planning team’s quick solution? Hiring a motorcade of dump trucks to move sand in from another part of the island. It cost a cool $50,000.
Sometimes the solution isn’t quite so extreme. One agent, Christiana, recently traveled to St. Lucia to personally guarantee a picky couple’s beach bliss. The resort had a strict first-come policy for use of their chaise lounges, and refused the client’s offer to buy the entire beach (yes, you read that correctly). So Christiana checked in to the resort herself and claimed the best beachside seats for them before sunrise each morning.
4. Most Wishes Can Be Granted … Except If They’ll Land You in Jail
“We’ll do anything for our clients as long as it’s legal in the country they’re visiting,” says Ezon, who has fielded only one request for a prostitute in his 18 years of honeymoon planning. (We’ll get to that story shortly.) There have been asks for cocaine and even money laundering—which are both a hard no—but most of the boundary-pushing demands tend to revolve around exclusive experiences. Tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party are low-hanging fruit. More impressive, Ezon has organized an overnight at Versailles for honeymooners who wanted to sleep in King Louis XIV’s bed. Another time, he arranged a meet-and-greet with Vladimir Putin (no Trumps were involved). Within two hours of joining the agent team, I was on the phone with the Vatican, sorting out the logistics of having the pope marry an interfaith couple on their elopement-cum-honeymoon.