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Shelling out for sun, sea and sand

The perfect honeymoon: palm trees, turquoise seas and white sand.


Are expensive honeymoons worth the money?
Yes - it should be the trip of a lifetime
No - it's the company that counts


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(CNN) -- For many newly-weds, the honeymoon is what makes it all worthwhile.

After months of hectic planning and the carefully choreographed blur of the big day, it's a chance to slow down and unwind.

Little wonder then that many couples are spending almost as much time and money on their honeymoon as on the wedding itself -- and that means luxury hotels in exotic locations.

Finding the perfect getaway requires a lot of effort -- but get it right and you are guaranteed memories that will last a lifetime.

For London couple Clare and Chin Nwokoro, a honeymoon in the Maldives was the ideal antidote to the stress of organizing their wedding.

"It's amazing how exhausted you are after planning your wedding," said Clare.

"The adrenalin keeps you going, in the weeks before the wedding and as soon as we arrived here, my goodness, we were exhausted. We slept for 12 hours the first couple of nights and lay around the pool."

After inviting 160 family members and friends to celebrate their marriage, Chin says the pair just wanted to get away from it all.

"We wanted the sense of being miles away from anywhere," he says.

"You know, that Robinson Crusoe tropical desert island. Palm trees and turquoise seas and white sand. We wanted something that looked like a picture postcard.

"I wanted somewhere where we could have some peace. Where we could say we've done it and just relax. A place that was going to be beautiful and sunny, but in a fairly natural feeling way, and where we weren't going to be sitting in the pockets of lots of other couples and groups."

Clare and Chin chose the newly opened One&Only Reethi Rah Island resort, located in the North Male Atoll.

It's name means "beautiful island" in Dhivehi, the official language of the Maldives.

Six percent of the 44-hectare island is reclaimed land, from which 12 secluded beaches have been sculpted. The architecture and villa interiors were designed by Jean Michel Gathy, creating the aesthetic and seclusion Chin and Clare were looking for.

And with the cost of a basic villa starting at around $800 a night, exclusivity is virtually guaranteed.

"It's a fairly exclusive place and there is something about that that means the people around are people with the same sort of mind set," said Chin. "They are people that want to have some peace and they want to enjoy themselves and they don't necessarily want to be getting wrecked on the beach with loud music and noise."

Liz Savage, the editor of Conde Nast Brides, says that growing numbers of couples are prepared to pay out for the combination of luxury and tranquility that were once the preserve of the super-rich and famous.

"Couples today are looking for the wow factor in their hotel or wherever they are staying," says Savage.

"They want to have beautiful views. They want all the high-tech gadgets. The toys for boys. They want fabulous lighting, the best coffee makers. It sounds ridiculous but it all counts towards their amazing holiday of a lifetime."

Liz says that Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius are the new honeymoon hotspots, while Italy also remains popular.

But for Clare and Chin, it is the Maldives that will always be in their hearts.

"The most popular honeymoon destination? Well it has to be the Maldives," says Clare. "It's just so romantic and heavenly. You got everything: beautiful beaches and wonderful people."

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