If you’re engaged to be married, how do you feel about talking about your expectations for your wedding night?
Are you comfortable talking to your partner about sex?
I ask these questions because I think perhaps it’s helpful to figure out where we’re at and think about where we’d like to get more comfortable in conversation when it comes to this topic.
Even after eight years of marriage, my memories of our wedding night are still very clear—and not because it was the incredible night of passion one might have hoped for. Even then, I wished for more candid conversations about all of this, and this is a piece I’ve been mulling over for a number of years.
Church & Sex
I grew up in a church where I was taught that God had designed sex for marriage. Actually, I’m not sure if I was ever really taught that. The emphasis fell heavy on how wrong it was to have sex before marriage. Sex became this huge, slightly terrifying thing, something which I ended up fearing rather than seeing as something special which God designed. I used to have nightmares that I got pregnant and then my parents would kick me out of the house not because I was pregnant but because I’d had sex. I didn’t have sex before I got married. I’m glad that I made that decision but as I reflect back I feel sad that I made the decision mostly out of fear.
When it came time to get married it still felt like talking about sex and expectations for sex was a taboo. However now, suddenly, this scary, illicit thing was going to be allowed and was even supposed to be treasured. The language around it changed during our marriage preparation course, but no one talked about expectations. Instead they simply stated that it was now going to be this perfect, wonderful thing.
Me & My Soon-to-be Husband
My soon-to-be husband and I had different experiences than each other before getting married. We talked a little about how it was ok if it wasn’t immediately wonderful on our wedding night, but we didn’t broach the subject much more than that, or at least not in any detail. I was incredibly nervous of not meeting his expectations—even though I didn’t actually know what those expectations were.
The wedding day itself was exhausting. By the time we got to the night we were both knackered and running totally on adrenaline.
To cut a long story short, we tried, but we didn’t manage to have sex on our wedding night. It was painful and there was some bleeding. Thankfully we were in our own flat so putting sheets in the wash overnight was doable! Unable to sleep, we watched a movie instead!
On the honeymoon, it took us a few more attempts—more midnight trips to the washing machine and more being gentle and kind with one another—before we actually managed to have sex. A few days into our honeymoon I found myself processing all of the expectations I had and all I’d been taught about sex within marriage. I reflected on this with my husband and remember saying, “It’s not really as big of a deal as I thought it would be.” It was wonderful to finally be able to be that physically close but I realized sex had been built up to be this huge, scary, unknown yet wonderful thing. I expected to feel like a totally different person once I’d had it and that hadn’t happened.
Realising that was incredibly freeing.
Our wedding night (and honeymoon) was special not because it was the passionate night one might have hoped for but because it was the start of a journey of learning to communicate with each other and learning to enjoy being together.
It was the beginning of a lifetime journey of intimacy with the person I’ve chosen to be with. For us that journey—so far—has included endometriosis, a bad back and other health problems, sleepless nights, and the incredible exhaustion that comes with kids! Sometimes sex is great, sometimes it’s not. We are always working at communicating better about our own expectations because even now, eight years into marriage, we realize you cannot assume each other’s expectations.
Maybe, for some of us, our wedding night will be completely wonderful. For others (and you know now where I am in this scenario) it isn’t incredible from day one. Maybe, it’s even really difficult.
A friend of mine got married a year after us and told me she was really nervous about their wedding night. The only “advice” she’d received was from a friend who said theirs was amazing! My friend had a sense that this might not be true for everyone so she asked me about my experience.
She got an unabridged version of what you’ve just read and told me a few months later how helpful it had been. This week I asked on my social media what others would share about the wedding night and another friend came back and thanked me for my honesty before she got married.
What to Expect
So, here are the things I’d probably tell you if you were my friend and we ended up talking about all of this…
I am so excited for you (and your partner)!
There is so much “advice” that can be given but ultimately this is all about you and your partner, and no one else.
So, start the conversation with your partner before you even get to the wedding night. Commit to keeping that conversation going and to listen well to one another. Eight years in and I can honestly say the more you communicate, the better it gets.
It’s ok if you don’t have sex on the first night, or even on the honeymoon. It’s not always as idyllic as you might hope it will be. I also know of more than one couple who ended up with sickness bugs for the whole of their honeymoon!
It might hurt.
Maybe because it’s new, because you’re (understandably) super nervous, or maybe because there’s something health-wise that’s worth looking into. Keep talking about it and don’t be afraid to ask for medical help if you’re unsure.
Learning how to make your bodies work well together is new. It can be awkward, but you’ve probably chosen to marry your partner because you have fun and laugh together—let sex be a part of this!
A practical tip—genuinely had a few people tell me how this is helpful to prevent UTIs.
Expect it to be messy.
You know in the movies how they snuggle immediately after sex and then just go to sleep? It’s not like that!
Finally, enjoy yourself and forget about all your expectations! Don’t listen to what anyone else says you should do or compare your experience to theirs. You’re committing to a journey and building a life together with your partner. Sex is just one part of that journey. An extension of the intimacy you already share.
Let’s talk about it! How did you prepare for your wedding night, and what have you learned about intimacy since?
*This was originally an article written for an online publication. It’s no longer online so I re-published when someone asked to read it again! We’ve now been married 11 years rather than eight but my reflections remain the same.*