Photo by Vivian Chen How to Make First Time Sex Good (Even on Your Wedding Night) Sex-positive tips from those who've come before you. Hah. by Liz Moorhead Waiting until your wedding night to have sex for the first time can be a sort of lonely spot. While choosing to be a virgin till marriage is a completely valid choice, it’s unfortunately one that’s often met with some judgment, some assumptions, and very little actually helpful information. Which is tough, because chances are you’ve got questions, concerns, and are just flat out curious. So I’ve rounded up some stories and quotes (anonymous, obviously) from ladies who waited to have sex, sharing what the experience was like for them. Having also waited till my wedding night, and being completely incapable of keeping my opinions to myself, I threw in my own two cents. Because first time sex is kind of a big deal! (But also isn’t, really.) What every Virgin needs to know about first time sex 1. Sex does not change your identity. Society tries to catalogue a woman based on how much sex she does or doesn’t have, in very black and white terms. Don’t buy into that. You haven’t had sex before; you’re having sex now. Nothing has changed about you at your core. 2. It’s also normal, healthy, and something your body is made to do. You are not dirty. Sex is not wrong. “In the lead-up to our wedding, I wasn’t particularly excited to have sex. Part of this might’ve been that we hadn’t been restraining from all sexual activity, and part of it was definitely that my upbringing had made me really worried about sex. In the back of my mind, it still seemed “wrong” somehow. “But instead of analyzing these feelings and coming to terms with them, I just ignored them completely. In the crazy days leading up to the wedding, there were plenty of things to think about. And then on the morning of the wedding when my husband mentioned the fact that we’d be having sex that night, I panicked a little. I actually had to pull aside one of my bridesmaids at the end of the reception and tell her how freaked out I was. (She was no doubt totally bewildered by this attitude, but gave me a good pep talk anyway.) “If I had it to do over again, I would definitely spend the week before the wedding psyching myself up for the first time we had sex. I would have spent a LOT of time telling myself that sex was good and positive and would be fun. I think that would’ve helped a lot.” 3. You are not “bad” at it. Regardless of what society says, there isn’t an objective measure of “bad” or “good.” Yeah, you can practice and perfect certain motions, but at its core, sex isn’t a skillset. Whether sex is enjoyable or not is a question of you, as a couple, working and fitting together, and that’s something that can change and improve and grow. Put another way, it’s not, “Am I doing this right?” so much as, “Do you like this?” and “Is this working for us?” 4. Sex is being intimate with one another. That word “intimate” means private, personal, familiar, close. All of those things mean you and your partner, exposed and sharing. Intimacy isn’t false, isn’t mimicking what you’ve seen on TV. It’s parts of you bared (maybe some of them squishy or freckled). It’s possibly funny noises, maybe awkward laughter. It’s sharing yourself in a very personal way that isn’t possible if you’re putting on a show or trying to fit a specific mold. 5. Yes, it might be terrible that first time. It might be awkward. It might not feel very good. It might even hurt. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! It will get better. Doing anything for the first time is usually awkward, whether you’ve waited or not. (Be sure to go slowly and gently, communicating the whole time. If it’s too painful, move on to other things.) “It helped that I didn’t have crazy expectations of unicorns and fireworks. I knew it would get better and we knew each other so well we were able to laugh off the awkward or painful parts. It didn’t take as long as I thought to get better. It was actually much harder to get back into the swing of things after having a baby than it was to adjust to newlywed life, so I felt like that period of waiting until marriage prepared us for other periods in life where sex is off the table.” “Honestly, immediately afterward there were some disappointed tears on both our parts. Our first time wasn’t strictly awful—more like awkward in the extreme—but it was so not the big freakin’ deal everyone had made it out to be. The overall feeling was: “That’s all?” Fortunately, with time and practice, and a little less self-pressure and a little more self-confidence, things got much, much better—and just continue to get better! Now, nearly six years into marriage—and dealing with the added challenges of third-trimester pregnant body—I can happily say that our sex life is continuing to get better every time.” “It wasn’t great. He was on top, and we’ve since learned that it works a lot better for me if I’m on top. However, we literally figured that out the next night. We had sex every day of our honeymoon, and I think that by the time we got back we’d really come a long way in figuring out what worked for us. So it wasn’t like we had terrible sex for months and months and our honeymoon sucked because of it. We were figuring out what worked! It was fun! And a treasured honeymoon memory will always be the morning we spent trying to figure out how to have sex in our tiny, tiny hotel shower.” “It was great, painful, and really special. I was prepared for some uncomfortable-ness, but I was surprised to be sore for a couple days afterward. We had a three day honeymoon, and had sex two or three times total, I think, because I was so sore.” “You can wait till your wedding night to have sex for the first time, or you can have the most physically perfect, Cosmo-style mind-blowing sex of your life on your wedding night, but I don’t think you can have both. First time sex is not going to be physically perfect, the kind of sex you dream about and read about in idealized erotica. It’s awkward figuring out where everything goes, and it’s usually at least a little painful for the woman. But physical perfection in sex often eludes even the most experienced couples. And it is not important. Like, not important at ALL. It doesn’t matter whether you both get off, or either of you. Awkwardness is not a big deal; this is supposed to be the person you’re most comfortable with in the world! Laugh it off (did I mention laughing is the sexiest thing you can do in bed? Yes, sexier than that). Focus on your emotional connection and the way this new physical closeness marks your new commitment. Perfection is a silly thing to chase, but I’d be lying if I said a moment of infinitely perfect emotional connection is impossible to achieve on your wedding night, regardless of your sexual experience.” 6. But it also might be awesome (who knows!). Low expectations are one thing, but don’t go into this dreading it! “The thing I was surprised by was what an incredibly bonding experience it was. There was something really special about having just experienced such a momentous public life event surrounded by our friends and family, and then undertaking a similarly momentous but very intimate life event between just the two of us. Afterward I absolutely did not want to stop touching my husband. I just felt very close to him. It was a totally unexpected but amazing benefit to waiting to have sex until the wedding night.” “It was one of the most vulnerable, somewhat awkward, and emotional moments of my life. I knew I was with the right guy when my ridiculous crying/laughing afterward reaction didn’t faze him a bit. It was beautifully worth the wait, and now that I’m several months into marriage (with a wedding night on which we both immediately fell asleep, by the way—it was a long nights of dancing!) I can see the positive impact that the conversation elicited by my waiting has had on our relationship. I’ll never know how it would have been different otherwise, but am grateful every day that I trusted my gut for all those years.” 7. Talk about it before. There is sometimes this tip-toeing fear that if you’re committed to making waiting work, you’re always right on the precipice of finding yourself accidentally having sex if you mention the word “sex” or kiss someone too roughly, or who knows. But, beginning communication about sex is important. Yes, yes, you’ll be doing it for the first time on your wedding night (or, you know, the next day if you’re really tired), but that shouldn’t be the first time you start communicating about it. Talk about a load of transitions for just one little evening. Instead, start discussing sex now. “I had always planned to wait until marriage so sex and our expectations around it was actually something we talked about early and often in our relationship. All that boundary setting, are we okay with this but not that, stuff is good practice for future conversations after marriage about meeting each others needs, frequency, how crazy are we comfortable with, etc. We did talk much more in depth about sex and intimacy during our engagement and it was part of our premarital counseling sessions as well, which was helpful.” “We tend to take the Hermione approach to a problem—we go to the library/Internet and read up on it. So we found a book that explained the anatomical process and common issues and problems in a respectful way but in more detail than any sex-ed class ever had and read it together. One thing that the book pointed out that should’ve been obvious is that while the first time can be painful for the woman, she needs to keep in mind that hurting her is the last thing her new husband wants to do. Keeping that in mind can help mentally to make it more relaxing.” 8. …And talk about it during. Lots. Like lots and lots. What’s working, what’s not, how you’re feeling. Stick to the topic at hand, of course. (I once made the mistake of, during sex, asking what my husband would wear to dinner, and have yet to live it down. I’m a multitasker!) But, if you’re just starting to have sex together for the first time, you’ll need to communicate about it a lot in the beginning. Eventually you’ll both be better at picking up subtle cues, reading signals, and intuitively knowing what your partner enjoys. Just don’t expect that to come naturally without some talking. “It can take some time to figure out how to ask for sex, how to gently turn your partner down, how to communicate about sex. I think it took us both by surprise that we didn’t feel sexy-pants all the time, and learning to talk about it took time.” 9. Differences in your experience might be an unexpected hang-up. Hint: talk about it. “I learned early on that the gift of the first time was not something we would be equally exchanging. No matter how many times I told myself to let his past be his past and focus on us, I couldn’t help but think of those other women. Of how unfair it was that he could know, without a doubt, he was the first person to be trusted with that part of me, while I had to wrestle with the competition of his distant past. This reaction shocked me, since I’d intellectually accepted I would probably not be marrying another virgin years before, and was typically pretty live-and-let-live when it came to people I cared about. But there it was. My gut had warned me this was going to be emotional. So we kept waiting. We argued a bit. We decided that open and honest communication was the only way to move forward through this and agreed that waiting necessitated that we continue to talk about each of our feelings on this journey. And boy did we talk. He, fortunately, understood and supported me and my gut. I, over time, made peace with his past choices (and my own internal shock that they bothered me).” 10. Pack some lube. (And quite possibly some birth control.) Surprisingly, you should consider them together. Needing lube is totally normal (not even just for the first time), but picking one can be tricky because, for example, not all lube works with condoms. (Here’s a little more on how to pick lube.) If you just want something easy, and condoms aren’t an issue, we hear great things about coconut oil. Other logistical things you might want to consider: drinking alcohol can make you numb, making it hard to finish the job (or even start it). Be aware of your cycle, and do some research about birth control options. You don’t want to pop your first pill the night-of, and it might not be the right time to be fumbling with a condom (they work most reliably if you know what you’re doing). Make sure you pee after sex (otherwise you can get a UTI). And if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, the lady gets to finish, too (a very small percentage of women climax from intercourse alone, which means extracurricular activities for fairness, guys). 11. Don’t put too much pressure on the wedding night. Set expectations with your partner to start slow and just see where you end up. In fact, you might just be too dang tired. “The other thing that people tell you but that I didn’t really understand until it happened to me was how incredibly TIRED I was the night of our wedding. Had we had sex before, we absolutely would not have that night. I was utterly exhausted. Combined with the fact that I was already a little freaked out about doing it, being so completely tired made me absolutely NOT want to have sex that night. My husband had definitely been looking forward to it a lot more than me, but he was really patient and understanding and told me we didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to. But we ended up taking a shower together, which relaxed me a lot, and then I put on some lingerie and we got to it.” “If you end up not able to have sex before falling asleep on your wedding night, it’s not the end of the world. You can sleep in each others’ arms and then have morning sex on the first day of your marriage (maybe after a shower). Especially if this is your first time having so much physical contact, or sleeping in the same bed with your partner, you might be content to enjoy each others’ nakedness and just let your hands explore that first night. There’s no need to rush right to sex without taking the time to fully enjoy all of the intermediate steps on the way there. What most people call foreplay, these activities deserve to be the main event for a while. They’re fun for their own sake, not just as a precursor to intercourse. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time.” 12. And try to remember: sex is not some separate-from-your-relationship, amorphous thing. Don’t freak out about Doing Sex. You’re just being with your partner, enjoying your partner, doing stuff with your partner. That’s way less intimidating, yeah? Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.