Wedding night sex is officially as passé as using Febreze or talking on the phone. Rather than get it on, newlyweds are wont to do any number of things post-nuptch that do not involve consummating the marriage. Consider this historical trajectory though: Medieval couples had to do it. Modern couples simply ain't care.
Though facts here are easily fudged — who can ever know for sure how often anyone does it, when, why, or how, or count on the doers to be reliable narrators — surveys hint at some recurring just-hitched issues that lead to one of you spending your Big Night with your true soul mate playing Words With Friends on your phone. And what's more, being fine with it.
A recent survey from a wedding stationary company Paper Shaker claims a quarter of couples don't do it. A few years ago, the Daily Telegraph covered a survey by Bride to Be magazine, which found that 90% of couples expect to do the deed, but only a quarter see their dreams realized. The Daily Mail, who may or may not be forever a bridesmaid, insists that over half of couples (from a survey double the size of the previous) don't make it official by ancient religious standards on the wedding night.
The biggest reason? Drunk dick. Second biggest reason? Too tired. Last year, a financial advice website asked newlyweds why they bypass the action (in this survey, fewer than 48% got around to sex). All had been married within the previous three years. Their reasons:
Groom too drunk (24%)
Bride too tired (16%)
Bride too drunk (13%)
Had to watch kids (11%)
Had fight before reception ended (9%)
Needed to leave for honeymoon (9%)
Pulled an all-nighter partying (7%)
Groom too tired (4%)
Neither felt like it (4%)
Question: Does a rice facial count?
Anyhoo, this is all very curious, but probably pretty understandable. Though most of us grow up with the culturally supported notion that wedding nights are for steamy eroticism heretofore untold, unknown, and un-had, I would assume most of us have already slept with the person we are marrying — like, a bunch, unless you're crazy — and there are probably not a lot of tricks left to be unveiled after locking it down.
Hell, you probably woke up next to the bride or groom the day of the wedding, and they already saw the tux/dress, and everyone took their same morning shits before heading off to this epically , frantically planned shindig which caused no shortage of arguments, debt, stress, and general misery. Think about it: Everything involved in planning a wedding — a madcap performance, truth be told — is the opposite of sexy, anyway: Lots of talking, logistics, looking at each other in fluorescent light? Sweet, but no wonder you need to drink that much, and no wonder you can't get it up after. Both of you. Whoever you are. You know who you are.
Last year, the owner of a wedding planning company decided to look into exactly where things go off the connubial rails. Writing at HuffPo, Sandy Malone rounded up a slew of such true stories. In one case, the couple discovered the babysitter watching their place back home was throwing a rager of a party. But in every other case, the culprit was the same dirty dirty sauce:
G. was a beautiful bride. However, she didn't eat all day and by the end of her wedding reception luncheon, she was completely potted on the lovely champagne cocktails that kept being put into her hand. Her new husband took her back to her hotel room, where she proceeded to pray to the porcelain God for most of the night.
B. and her new hubby bid their guests adieu and left under a hail of confetti to go to the honeymoon cottage on the property where there wedding was being held. When they arrived, the groom helped B. get the pins out of her hair, and freed her from her gown. Then he suggested a bubble bath while he ran back to make sure that his family was all taken care of, and to say some goodbyes that he would miss the next day.
Two hours and two Law & Order episodes later, the bride finally took off her naughty negligee, put on clothes, and went to hunt down her husband. She found him in the bar, wasted, with his friends.
First one gets a pass. Second one is a garbage groom. Science! But it isn't all terrible boozehounds and oblivious drama. Sometimes people just do some sweet things together like a comfortable old pair of shoes instead of sexing it up. In a Reddit asking married redditors what their wedding night was like, we discover sweeter stories:
Varicose_veins said: For the first time in my life I said, "Can we just cuddle tonight?". I was too drunk.
HereticHousewife wrote: We were both mentally and physically exhausted by the time we made it to the suite so we went straight to bed. To sleep.
rohlinxeg said: We slept hard.
The day was exhausting from all the... everything. I anticipated this, so our flight out for our honeymoon wasn't until the next day. We left the reception and drove an hour to a nice hotel near the airport. We spent the evening eating leftovers from our reception and talking/laughing about the big day. Then we slept, and it was wonderful.
Yes, there was sex on the honeymoon, so it's all good.
In a post earlier this year at The Stir, we learn bridal takes on what went down on the wedding night. (All bolding is theirs).
"My ex-husband sprained his ankle badly while drunkenly dancing with one of our bridesmaids to 'Cotton-Eyed Joe.' His parents came up to our hotel room later that night to check on him, because he was so swollen. Needless to say, the only moaning coming from our room was him ... moaning in pain!"
"We had sex, but I barely remember it, because I was hammered! Keepin' it classy."
"We got into an argument, because a group of his friends got drunk since we had open bar and was being disruptive and rude and he thought I had them leave our wedding. I didn't, [but] we spent our wedding night in separate rooms."
"My husband got drunk on champagne, and the sex sucked, and he passed out right afterwards. I spent the night watching TV. We are divorced now."
"I was six weeks pregnant and sick as a dog, so we got through the courthouse wedding, suffered through my mother taking us out to dinner, went home and went right to bed!"
"I put on some lingerie in an attempt to look nice. My husband was more excited about opening the envelopes and counting the money from the checks. He said, 'Don't feel obligated to have sex.' We were too tired anyhow and went to sleep."
"We spent our wedding night in the emergency room. Whoever set up the cake table didn't lock it in place properly, and it crashed on my foot."
Even though not consummating the marriage can certainly be grounds for an annulment, I think the takeaway here is that the modern wedding experience is probably the antithesis of hot, loin-stirring fun, and whether you do it or don't is your business, and your prerogative and not any kind of harbinger of doom. In a way, it all bodes well for the state of marital relations. For one thing, at least your wedding night is (usually) a private experience, which wasn't always the case. And for two, at least it's OK to not have sex when you know it won't be any good.
In the wonderfully researched book History of the Wife, Marilyn Yalom writes that sexual relations in medieval Europe, for instance, were not only mandatory after betrothal, but also only for procreative purposes.
"Sexual relations were considered a debitum conjugale — a solemn duty that each spouse owed the other, but not an approved pleasure in its own right, as we hold today," she wrote.
In lieu of it being good — not likely when you are drunk, tired, and probably just pissed into a hotel hamper — try waiting it out. Hey, you've definitely got time.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.