What Happened to Wedding Night Sex?

Published: JANUARY 2, 2014 | Updated: FEBRUARY 15, 2022
Changing social norms mean that more than half of newlyweds don't get it on during their first night as a married couple.

Did you have sex on your wedding night? If you didn't, you might feel embarrassed to say so. After all, wedding night sex is a tradition ... or, that's what we hear anyway. Some even assert that your first marital giggity is indicative of the quality of your entire marriage. A poll of couples in the U.K. showed that more than half of couples did not engage in sex on their first night as man and wife. Reasons cited include many of the same reasons people prefer to skip sex on any other night - feeling drunk, stressed, tired, or just not being in the mood. So what's with all the pressure to have outstanding wedding night sex? And is it even reasonable?


Wedding night sex has been viewed very differently depending on what part of the world you're in, and in what time period. In medieval feudal systems it was customary to offer the local lord the opportunity to bed a new wife before her husband does. You know, because women were property and virginity was the big prize. In modern Bengali culture, sex is forbidden for at least two nights after the wedding ceremony, I guess to make sure no one changes their mind. In Mario Puzo's novel "The Godfather," we learned that the traditional Italian custom was for the mother-in-law to accompany the couple to their honeymoon destination so that the mother can answer any questions the new bride has in case her, um …, deflowering doesn't go well. In that instance, Michael Corleone's new bride packs her mother up at dawn and sends her home. The post-wedding sex was just that awesome.

Expectations for wedding night sex seem to revolve around the belief that the bride and groom are both virgins who may now enjoy each other fully under the law and according to custom. Since modern couples often live together before marriage, and because virgins at the altar are less common than ever, wedding night sex seems less vital. According to the most recent polls, 24 percent of couples don't have sex on their wedding night because the groom was too drunk. A further 16 percent say that the bride was too drunk. Both of these sound odd to me. I put so much planning into my own wedding that the last thing I wanted was to be too drunk to remember it. But, to each their own.

For many couples, weddings are a big bag of worry. Both sides of the family are as stressed as the bride and groom, possibly more so. There's an absurd amount of time-sensitive planning, caterers, flowers, family and friends coming in from all over the place. It's no wonder that roughly 10 percent of all couples argue before the end of the reception. All that stress can have a cooling-off effect that can impact displays of affection later on. Combine that with rich food, free-flowing booze, and sleeping in a strange hotel bed and it isn't surprising that so many couples want to take the night off from sex. After all, they can always make up for it later.

Wednesday Lee Friday

Wednesday Lee Friday is an eclectic writer of fact and fiction. She has worked as a reptile wrangler, phone sex operator, radio personality, concierge, editor, fast food manager, horror novelist, and she owns a soap shop. She prefers jobs that let her sleep during the day. Everybody knows all the best art and literature happen at night! Wednesday's work has appeared in Women's Health Interactive, Alternet, Screen Rant, The Roots of Loneliness Project and Authority...

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