Alejandra Sarmiento, a psychosexual specialist at The Soke, says…
The consummation of a marriage has very traditional roots. In the past, marriage was about power. There were carefully negotiated business arrangements and the consummation of the marriage on the wedding night was imperative for it to become legally binding. That newly acquired power would be at stake if the marriage was annulled. A way to prevent such annulments was for the consummation of the marriage to be witnessed on the wedding night. The expectation of sex on your wedding night is a hangover from these times. Today, it’s not a necessity. Most of us live in a world where we get to choose who we marry and that freedom of choice should extend to when we do and do not have sex, including whether or not we have sex on our wedding night.
Talking about sex with your partner isn’t always easy. It’s often a time when we’re at our most vulnerable. These emotions are particularly heightened on the wedding night when expectation is high. The key is communication. By having a conversation about each other’s expectations ahead of the big day, we can avoid the pain that inevitably comes from confusion. Perhaps the bride will drink too much. Perhaps the groom will fall asleep early. Perhaps the couple will both want to prioritise sex as a ritual for the wedding night. There is no right and no wrong but there is one certainty: obligation is a passion-killer. A conversation will clarify any decisions without indicating a lack of emotional desire.
Sex on your wedding night should be no different to sex on any other night. However, it’s worth being aware that in almost every couple, there is one person who wants sex more often than the other. This desire discrepancy is perfectly natural and feeling guilty about it is equally natural. The solution is to truly understand what’s driving your lack of desire. If saying yes to your partner means consistently saying no to yourself, you are paving the way to resentment. Self-betrayal is the opposite of self-care.
Equally, constant rejection is also not healthy. A healthy sexual relationship is part of an overall healthy relationship. Saying yes and saying no to sex should be two sides of the same coin. Both happen. Both are perfectly normal. But if this lack of intimacy is, or becomes, an ongoing problem, then it can indicate a deeper issue. Sanity and peace of mind will come from understanding why you do not want sex. Is it a more recent development, linked to specific stressors? Or is this something with deeper roots? For many women, arousal comes before desire. What this means in practice is that, although we may not feel in the mood for sex, once we start becoming aroused, our desire kicks in.
Relationship & sex expert Charisse Cooke says…
The idea that a marriage needs consummating is outdated. In reality, a great number of couples never get around to having sex on their wedding night, as it’s too much to ask after such an emotionally and physically tiring day. As a couple’s therapist I don’t think it’s necessary to have sex on a wedding night, I would rather my clients focus on the vows and the intention of the day, which is of joining together two lives. There’s plenty of time for sex later!
Talking to your partner about it ahead of time is a good idea. There may be expectations that you were not aware of. Both of you can discuss it and see if it is a priority. If it is a priority, planning it into your day can be fun. There’s no need to wait until the end of the day when you’re exhausted – a quickie after the photos and before the reception could start your marriage off in the right way, if it’s important to you.
Feeling bad about not having sex on your wedding night? Try not to judge yourself too harshly. Research shows over 50% of couples do not have sex on their wedding night. It’s not a big deal and as long as you’re happy with your sex life in general, you can look forward to many more enjoyable sexual moments as a married couple in the future. If you are feeling guilty, recognise you might have unrealistic expectations for yourself. It’s impossible to do everything and sex is also not performative and not a task to get ‘done’. It’s something to be shared between both of you in a relaxed and enjoyable fashion. If that’s not possible, both of you can wait until you’re in the mood.
Being honest with your partner will start your marriage off in the best possible way. Your sex life is something you always want to be able to discuss, and the more you do this, the more confident you will feel in your decisions both as individuals and as a couple.
Still not sure where you land? Here's how the wedding night played out for five of the SheerLuxe team...
“Once the music stopped, a few of us hung around the bar area having a night cap and around 2am, we all stumbled off to bed. After a day of drinking, sex was the last thing on my mind. Wedding night sex wasn’t something I held a huge amount of stock in – that’s what the rest of your life is for, right? However, my husband and I did end up having sex, although I admit it was in a champagne haze and I don’t remember much of it! In my opinion, we attach too much importance to wedding night sex – my husband and I were always adamant we’d rather spend the time on the dancefloor with friends and that we wouldn’t force it. The fact it happened was a bonus – although we decided to have a repeat consummation on our honeymoon the day after, which was more meaningful! It wasn’t the most romantic of wedding nights, but we’re a pretty spontaneous couple, so it felt right for us.”
“Sex was literally the furthest thing from my mind on our wedding night. My husband fell asleep in the car on the way back to the hotel and, on arrival, fell asleep on the sofa, face down, in his shirt, boxers and socks. Getting him to bed, and not spending our first night as a married couple apart, was achievement enough! I still think wedding night sex is irrelevant – but I do find it fascinating how fixated some people are on squeezing in a quickie on their big night. If in doubt, remember you have the rest of your life to have sex!”
“I felt pressure to have sex on my wedding night, even though I didn't hugely want to. I wanted to get drunk and pass out. We’d been together for seven years by the time we got married, so the honeymoon period was already over in some ways. But I also knew I couldn't not have sex on my wedding night – I'd regret it forever and worry it would drive a wedge between us. So, we snuck off and I’m glad we did. It’s definitely come up in conversation with our friends in the years since. For me, sex is important – at all ages. I can see how wedding night sex was important to us back then, and it’s still important now.”
“My husband and I didn't have sex on our wedding night – I was far too drunk to even string a sentence together, let alone do anything else. I don't regret it at all. The whole idea of a wedding night consummation feels pretty old fashioned to me – I mean, it dates back to when people used to save themselves for marriage! My only regret was getting so drunk I couldn’t remember more of the night. My husband and I didn't plan anything on the sex front ahead of time but if you're feeling worried, the simple answer is don't be. It's a really exhausting day (even though it’s lots of fun) so don't feel guilty. I’d wait to do it on the first night of the honeymoon, when you're both feeling relaxed and there’s zero pressure.”
“Yes, my husband and I did have sex on our wedding night. But if I’m honest, it was nothing to write home about. We didn’t sneak off post-ceremony or mid-reception, we waited until the end of the evening – traditionalists as we are! I don’t really remember much about it – other than it was a bit of a let-down. It’s not exactly a treasured memory looking back, but I suppose I’m glad we ticked the box. My advice? Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If it feels important to you then fine. If not, let go of the idea.”