Today is my 26th anniversary! We’re celebrating our anniversary in Kingston, which is the city where we first met and where we married (and about an hour away from where we live). Usually on our anniversary I write something sweet and sappy, because I really do love my husband. But I thought that this year I’d do something different, and talk about what our night was like 26 years ago.
I shared a lot about our spectacularly awful wedding night in my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. In writing it, I conducted a bunch of surveys, which many of you participated in (thank you!). And one thing I found was that, for most people, sex wasn’t that great early in the marriage. It gets better with time, trust–and practice!
In fact, my absolutely awful wedding night was really the main reason that I wrote the book. And I explain why in this excerpt:
A few weeks before my wedding, I bought a bestselling Christian sex book. I read it cover to cover while sitting in the bathtub. (That’s where I get most of my reading done. It’s just a little dangerous when I’m reading library books.) Instead of helping me feel confident about my wedding night, it left me a nervous wreck. And a little angry besides.
First, it was all about the mechanics of sex. The book’s focus was on making sure that you, the woman, had an orgasm on your very first sexual encounter. It went through everything you were supposed to do and everything he was supposed to do in explicit detail, complete with a time schedule. After reading and raging at the book, I drowned it. I stuffed it under the water and held it there until it died, and then I unceremoniously dumped it in the garbage.
Let me try to explain why I felt so homicidal toward a book. I didn’t like feeling as if my every action was prescribed. I didn’t want sex to feel choreographed. I didn’t want to feel like there was a right way to do things. But perhaps most importantly, I didn’t want the night to be so stressful that it could be measured based on whether I had “succeeded.” What if I simply wanted to get comfortable with my husband and have fun exploring rather than trying to force my body to do something?
Given that that particular book sold hundreds of thousands of copies, I’m sure it helped many women enjoy their wedding nights. But there is a trend in Christian thinking that goes something like this: the wedding night is the big night you’ve been waiting for your whole life, so you had better do absolutely everything right or you will ruin it.
A lot of pressure, isn’t it?
Perhaps I’m being a party pooper. Perhaps that book is right, and we all should be aiming for physical bliss. So I decided to test my own hypothesis. I took a survey of married Christian women, some of whom had waited for the wedding to be sexually active and some of whom had made love before, and I asked them to rate the sex on their wedding night.
I discovered that despite selling so many copies, its message hadn’t succeeded in making wedding nights more explosive. Of the women in my survey who had been virgins when they were married, only fifteen percent reached orgasm on their wedding night through intercourse. Another seventeen percent reached it another way (we’ll talk about that later), but sixty-eight percent didn’t experience an orgasm at all. In fact, even among those who weren’t virgins, in no category did over 50 percent of women reach orgasm through intercourse on the night they were married. It simply isn’t that common.
Here’s the way I see it: fireworks are great. Everyone wants fireworks. But the point of the wedding night is that it’s a wedding night. It’s about the marriage. The bliss is that you’re now together in every way. So you can now explore, have fun, and discover all on your own time. For some people, that’s going to mean fireworks right off the bat. For others it may take longer. But it doesn’t matter, because now you’re finally married, and you have decades to get it right!
Remember those 85 percent of virgins who did not have an orgasm through intercourse on their wedding night? Today 63 percent of those women usually or always do, and another 13 percent sometimes do. They got better with time.
(Have you read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex yet? Check it out here!)
I think that’s good news! And so maybe one of the best things that we could do is to stop all this pressure about the wedding night and start saying something more like:
The wedding night is wonderful because it’s the beginning of a journey together.
That journey is awesome! But let’s celebrate the journey, rather than expecting the arrival all at once. Perhaps that would calm down a lot of nervous brides! Maybe you’re in the 15-20% of women who had amazing wedding nights, where not only did the earth move, but rocks split, trees fell down, and mountains shook. You know what I mean. But for another 20%, they didn’t even have sex (either because they were too tired or too scared or had their period). And the other 60%? It seriously was nothing to write home about.
But follow all those people, and in 10 years, the bottom 20% and the top 20% are in roughly the same place. It doesn’t matter where you start. Things get better once you relax and know each other well!
Personally, I had a horrible wedding night. I was so stressed to do everything right that I totally tensed up. And I felt like a total failure.
I would have been much better off if the wedding night hadn’t been such a big deal.
Now some people may argue, “well, the wedding night wouldn’t be such a big deal if you Christians didn’t insist on saving sex until marriage“, but that’s not the issue. Sex is best when you’re married, and God said that’s where it belongs. So that’s non-negotiable. And incidentally, even those who weren’t virgins didn’t tend to have great wedding nights. Whether you were a virgin or not really didn’t impact how good the wedding night was. Sex changes after we’re married; and there’s so much pressure on that night that it can be overwhelming.
That’s why the problem with the wedding night isn’t that we’re virgins; the problem is that there’s too much pressure!
So I want this post to serve as a pressure valve to engaged women. Don’t worry about it too much, and you’ll have much more fun!
Now some of you likely had great nights, and more power to you. But I don’t think that’s the norm. Many of us prepare with the bridal lingerie, and the dreams, and the bridal suite, but it doesn’t turn out like we had planned.
When I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I wanted to write the kind of book I would have liked to receive, that wouldn’t have put pressure on me (virgin or non-virgin!). And I hope I succeeded.
And I’ve shared some of those pointers, too, in this post on wedding night tips!
But in the meantime, I’m sitting here, 26 years to the day that I was married, and while I still mourn a little bit for that scared girl, I’m so grateful that things really do get better with time!
So let’s start changing this conversation! Let’s stop talking “up” the wedding night so much, and instead start talking “up” the journey that the couple will start. The night doesn’t have to be amazing fireworks; just being together is wonderful. And things will keep getting better!
Did you have an awful wedding night, or a great one? Let’s talk about it in the comments! (And if you had an awful one, please share! For such a long time I thought I was the only one who “failed” on her wedding night. Let’s change that conversation!)