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, Editor, Ask APW

Waiting to have first time sex till your wedding night can be a sort of lonely spot. While it’s 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 first time 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 having first time sex is kind of a big deal! (But also isn’t, really.)


man and woman laughing together in a field, photo for an article about first time sex

remember:  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 first time sex now. Nothing has changed about you at your core.

sex is a normal, healthy thing

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 first time 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 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 first time 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.”

don’t worry about it being “good” or “bad”

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 first time 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?”


find out what “intimate” means for you

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.

know that the first time might be awful

First time sex 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 first time sex, 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.”

but know that first time sex might also be awesome

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.”

talk about first time sex before you have it

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.”

talk about first time sex while it’s happening, too

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 about to have first time sex together, 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.”

remember that it’s ok if you have different experiences

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).”

it’s ok if you need lube (and birth control)

Surprisingly, you should consider them together. Needing lube is totally normal (no matter how many times you’ve had sex), 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 (only around 25% of women climax from intercourse alone, which means extracurricular activities for fairness, guys).

don’t put too much emphasis 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.”

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

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.

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  • Thank you for writing this very brave post! It’s incredible how much importance we can attach to sex, isn’t it? It’s four years until I will have been sexually active for 50% of my life, and still I can feel tremendously, ugly-cry guilty for perceived failings during one single episode of sex (while the other 99 that went before were all magical and fantastic and awesome).

    I completely agree with you, especially when it comes to finding other people to counsel you if you feel you need some advice or new perspectives.

    One other thing I would like to share. I was taught by my fiance to refuse to think and talk about sex as if it is only a learned skill, something technical that only requires the right moves to execute succesfully. Sometimes a technical pointer may be all you need to “get better at sex”, but he feels that way too little importance is placed on the desire to please, to learn about your partner and the self-assuredness and trust needed to lay back and accept the pleasure that your partner wants to give you.

    • That’s very Dan Savage – being GGG – good, giving game. Your fiance sounds wonderful!

  • Yes to the whole post. Specially the parts about slowly getting to know each other, and to enjoy how gentle it can be to be close and together, and really “learn” each other.

  • THIS is what frustrates me about the external* attitude and pressure, mostly by religious groups and leaders, to wait until marriage for sex. I’ve had lots of friends and classmates who would wait because they didn’t want the foundation of their marriage and relationship to be about The Sex. But then they get married and it’s ONLY about The Sex (whether good or bad) and less about The Marriage (even though sex is typically a huge part of that as well). Blergh.

    *I totally appreciate and respect that you had your own reasons for waiting – religious or not. I just get so frustrated with anyone, at any time, telling me or any other person what to do, or not do, with my genitals.

    • liz

      i think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s pressure coming from both sides. when i wrote last year, i was writing in response to what i was told i should expect on my wedding night… basically, horror stories. that it would be nothing but awkwardness and discomfort and frustration. neither is fair…. forecasts of unicorns and rainbows or of sharp stabbing knives.

      • Pressure from both directions is unfair. I hear you.

        The thing is – I wasn’t a virgin at all on my wedding night. But there are STILL societal expectations and pressure to have really great sex on your wedding night. For me, that wasn’t necessarily the case – but it didn’t cause any additional anxiety or marriage fears because I was secure in the fact that we had had plenty of great sex before and will have plenty of great sex after.

        My main issue is with the motives behind large organizations (NOT to be confused with personal decisions) that insist couples wait until marriage to have sex. I cannot comprehend it the same way I cannot comprehend practices that insist on arranged marriages (not to open another can of worms).

      • Anon for this

        I agree that, for most people, what you are saying is true. However, for some people, namely the ones in this post who have mentioned having vaginismus, sharp stabbing knives are actually pretty accurate. I, like many others, used to have this condition, and it is really awful. First-time intercourse was terrible, painful, embarrassing, impossible. It took a really long time to figure our what was “wrong with me” and awhile to get over it as well. I did not wait for marriage to have sex–I am not religious whatsoever–but the messages from my community about premarital sex being sinful and wrong and shameful still got to me, even if subconsciously. It’s one of the main reasons why many women get this condition. I am glad I didn’t wait until marriage, though I did wait until I was in a serious and committed relationship, which I am also glad for. It was definitely the right decision for us, and my partner (now husband) and I got through it together. I just wanted to point out that the messages our community sends us about sex can have profound, highly unexpected, and difficult-to-predict effects on us.

    • E

      So, as someone who has dealt with some of the same issues as the writer, I have to disagree. Honestly, if I hadn’t waited until marriage, I would have had sex one time and just given up and never done it again. It was awful and painful, and I would not have been willing to make the effort to figure out what was wrong. However, in marriage, because it is one of many important facets of a healthy relationship (and I can’t just give up, as I would have done pre-marriage), it’s been worth the effort to try and figure out what’s wrong (for me: vaginismus) and to make it better, together. Knowing that we’re in this together and that my husband is struggling through this with me makes me willing to try. Yes, waiting ensured that the foundation of my marriage wouldn’t just be sex, but it also ensured that we would have the strength to deal with an unexpectedly difficult thing.

      That doesn’t really answer your issue with other people telling you what to do (or what not to do) – and I totally agree that everyone has to make the decision for themselves. It’s just that, for me, the problem you describe where sex takes over the relationship wasn’t the issue. Yes, it’s been the thing we’ve fought about and struggled with, more than any other issue in the first year of our marriage, but not BECAUSE it was sex – it just so happened that sex is the thing that’s difficult for us (as opposed to, say, money or in-laws or any of the other myriad issues a couple might struggle with), and the way we are learning to grow and communicate and depend on each other.

      • You bring up a great point, E.

        For me, not having sex before marriage would be like not meeting in-laws or talking about finances or kids or all the other things that matter in a partnership before marriage.

        Obviously we don’t know each other but I would like to believe that if you and your husband had had premarital sex that you would have worked through it – because your partnership isn’t just about the sex (good or bad). Does that make sense?

        • E

          It sounds like there are two sides to your point. (a) You should have sex before marriage in order to know if you’re “sexually compatible” (the same way you make sure you’re compatible on things like finances). (b) It would have been fine to have sex before marriage because the partnership is strong enough to work through the difficulties.

          One says to break up if it’s too difficult, and the other says you can work through difficulties. So, that doean’t mean that having sex before marriage would have been a BAD thing, but there was nothing to be gained from it. I would either not be married to the love of my life because of some, ahem, technical difficulties, or I would be in exactly the same position I am now, but having gone through that difficult time without the relational security that I (not speaking globally!) have found to be stronger in the marriage than it was before we were married.

          • Another Anna

            I respectfully disagree with your (a) interpretation. I don’t think that Kathleen was saying that if you aren’t sexually compatible/it’s too difficult the answer is to break up. Rather, just like the discussion of finances or child-rearing or any other topic that you would bring up pre-nuptials, it is a discussion more to find out “where you stand.”

            I’m sure that there were things you discussed with your spouse before you married that you didn’t 100% agree on, and at the end of those discussions you didn’t turn and say, “Welp, I can see that we just don’t agree on ________, guess we’re not meant to be married!”

            Sex, then, is just another important aspect of your relationship that you would explore together. Chances are, no matter what, you’re not going to be 100% sexually compatible, and that’s okay! That’s why you had the discussion! Sure, you could wait until you’re married to discuss it (obviously it’s a valid choice) but I think it’s a little short sighted to say that testing sexual compatibility only serves to weed out prospective partners, because you would immediately break up with them based on this one issue.

          • E

            Another Anna, it’s not letting me reply to your comment, so I’m replying above. I’m not sure I totally understand what you mean–are you saying that people should talk about sex before they’re married, or that they should have sex? I absolutely agree that it’s important to discuss it before marriage to ensure that your views are compatible, but I don’t think that means you HAVE to have it to ensure that your bodies are compatible, whatever that means. :)

            I definitely had people tell me that I was crazy to wait–“what if the sex is horrible?!?”–so I think I was responding more to that attitude than to Kathleen’s very valid point.

      • Anna

        “However, in marriage, because it is one of many important facets of a healthy relationship (and I can’t just give up, as I would have done pre-marriage), it’s been worth the effort to try and figure out what’s wrong (for me: vaginismus) and to make it better, together. ”

        But why does marriage make the relationship more worthwhile than any other? Just because I am not married doesn’t mean my relationship isn’t as important as a married couples. I work on all aspects of my relationship regardless of the (lack of) ring on my finger.

        • A-L

          I don’t think E was speaking globally, but rather for herself. For many people there’s a difference between a nonmarriage romantic relationship and a marriage. E seems to fall within that group of people. But I don’t think she’s criticizing others who don’t share that mindset, she’s simply explaining her own.

          • W

            As a guy, I’d add that for me what marriage (as opposed to being pre-married) adds is that we have a foundation of mutual commitments and community support for working through things. That may happen for a couple without a marriage ceremony, but I think a big part of a marriage is that you are making a formal declaration to each other with witnesses present of how you plan on loving and caring for each other. You are also saying in a clear way, “I’m going to live out these promises until we die.” It gives you a clear starting point and a clear goal, so that when things get tough you can point each other toward that common goal (the rest of life together) and figure out how to make that happen.
            Like I said, that might happen between a couple that isn’t married, but I think a wedding and marriage ceremony makes it so the couple articulates their goals and promises in a way that doesn’t happen otherwise.

        • I never expected that marriage would change anything. Not our relationship, not our daily routines. But, stuff did change. Like whoa.

      • Anon today

        Hello E! Just have to comment to say hello to a fellow person who knows what vaginismus is like. Sorry to comment late.

        I know what you mean. In my case, though, I found out a lot about my partner by seeing how he reacted to my having problems. It sort of contributed to finding out that he was someone I wanted to marry. The other thing I suppose is that we did feel very committed to each other from the start — we never even contemplated giving up. I don’t know why, and I don’t know whether anything will change when we get married.

        Also, I think giving up wouldn’t have been an option for me for another reason: vaginismus is after all a problem with my body which I would have had with anyone else I’d tried to have intercourse with. So there would have been no advantage in giving up on the relationship I’m in due to ‘technical difficulties’. It wouldn’t have been the same as giving up on it due to being sexually incompatible (whatever that means, no one seems to want to be specific, can’t think why) where there’s hope of being more compatible with someone else.

        So all in all I’m glad we didn’t wait, but everyone’s different.

        • Tessa

          Sorry this is so late! I just had to comment about the vaginismus as well: I have it, and it is so hard to find someone who understands what I’m going through. And in my case, like yours, I am so glad that I chose to explore sex before marriage because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have discovered the full extent of my problem until our honeymoon and I wouldn’t have been able to see how my partner reacted to it. Thankfully, he has been incredible and patient; it has strengthened our relationship so much and I without a doubt know I want to be with him. It’s been hard for both of us, but we are pulling through together and I am so happy that we are dealing with this now rather than later. It is definitely a matter of personal preference and beliefs, but this was definitely right for me.

  • I’m waiting. Sort of. I mean, I’m actually waiting in this relationship, and so is my guy (well obviously.) But I mean, we’d both decided years before we met that we wouldn’t have sex again until it was with our spouse. He’s had intercourse with an ex-fiance, and I’d done pretty much every type of sex BUT intercourse with a couple boyfriends. But both of us realized that’s not what God wanted for us, and are happy each of us did. Actually, both of us haven’t even kissed anyone for 6 years! (We’re not opposed to kissing before marriage. I just think it’s cool that it’s the same time for both of us. lol)

    I also think this is an incredibly brave post to write. I’m sure people will benefit from it. Actually, just a couple days ago a married friend of mine was shaking her head and saying “I can’t believe you two won’t have sex before you’re married. I mean, I’m already married but if I was doing it again I would want to have sex at least ONCE. What if it SUCKS?” And I smiled and said “If you really love someone, do you think the sex sucking would make you break up?” And she admitted no, but it’d be tough. And I told her exactly what you’re telling everyone: If the sex sucks, then he and I will work at it. If it sucks at first, then there’s no reason it has to STAY that way! (For the record, I do not think the sex will suck. :-P But if it does, we’ll work through it.)

    • Annoying devil’s advocate note to say that, well, I do think that if the sex sucks with someone you love it could change things. Maybe even enough to break up. Not meant to be doomsaying, but different sexual expectations, needs, varying sex drives, etc. can be incredibly alienating and cause very separate and lonely feelings if you have both agreed that your spouse is the only person permitted to meet or not meet those needs.

      Also, a friendly note to say sex is awesome and lovely and you guys will likely have a grand, sexy time.

      • I think my issue with the viewpoint that you should have sex before committing to someone to make sure that you’re on the same page sexually is that it seems to make sex very… static? In that it works under the assumption that if you’re compatible *now,* you always will be, or if you start off not-compatible, you won’t be able to work through it. I just think that our bodies change so much over the course of a lifetime and a marriage that I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable banking on compatibility now. What happens when she hits menopause or he starts working really grueling hours or one of them gets depressed, etc? Our libidos will change, but if there’s the work of communication and really hearing each other put in first, I think those things will stand us in good stead.

        (I’m not saying you shouldn’t have sex with someone before you marry them… just that you should do it if you really, really want to, and not because someone told you that you’d better “check things out” first. That decision should be born of desire and not fear.)

        • lou

          for sure, these are all good points. but some things just can’t be changed – like libidos that wont ever match up, or one person being into really kinky sex whilst the other is more vanilla in taste. not to say that these things are insurmountable, but for a lot of people they cause great heart ache and they can lead to relationship difficulty.

          even if you are making the decision to wait until marriage, or for a period of time, communication about what you both like/how important sex is to both of you is a really good idea.

          • Gotcha. And yeah, we definitely had a lot of those kinds of conversations. (Which I think is really valuable for *everyone* prior to first-time sex, whether that is first-time-ever or first-time-with-this-partner.)

          • Anonymously waited

            In my experience, the people who have kinky/vanilla differences for sex also don’t match up in a lot of other areas that would already be red flags for the relationship.

            I think of a few guys I dated/knew who had very different views on sex than me and I then immediately think of a hundred other things that would’ve made it a bad match.

            And I didn’t have to have sex with any of them to find that out.

      • Anonymous for this post

        Having been in the similar situation of having EXTREME difficulty with sex when I first got married, problems that lasted for months and months after the wedding, I can back up Evie’s suggestion that bad sex (or in our case, complete lack of sex due to pain) can most definitely “change things.” I was 18 when I got married, and we waited to have sex for moral/religious reasons, and were totally unequipped to deal with such problems. This was in the late 90s before the internet was as helpful as it is now, so researching the problem was extra challenging, and we both felt totally alone. Nobody we tried to confide in could understand what the problem was. It was nearly detrimental to our marriage, and gave us both serious self worth issues while the problem persisted (it was the only time in my life I ever had suicidal thoughts). Eventually we sought professional help, which eventually made a difference, but it wasn’t for nearly a year after the wedding that we were able to have sex (intercourse, I should specify) at all.

        Now I am divorced (not because of those early problems– our marriage went on for another 4 years after that). And from the other side, while I support anyone’s decision to wait if that’s what is right for them, I am now whole-hearted supporter of sex before marriage… not because I think you should “try out” or “test drive” your partner as a lover in case the sex is bad, but because I think couples should have sex when they’re ready, instead of setting an artificial date in the future after which sex is suddenly ok. I think people can be prepared to have responsible, healthy sex long before they’re prepared to commit their entire lives to a partnership with someone else… or as I learned, the reverse can be true: people can end up getting married before they’re ready to have sex. Doing what is right for you, rather than letting social pressures dictate and confuse when you are and aren’t ready to be intimate with someone, should drive your decisions.

        • sb

          “… not because I think you should “try out” or “test drive” your partner as a lover in case the sex is bad, but because I think couples should have sex when they’re ready, instead of setting an artificial date in the future after which sex is suddenly ok.”

          This is so wise, and so true.

        • liz

          i don’t think that marriage is some “artificial” date chosen arbitrarily. for many, marriage represents all of the ways in which one can be ready for sex. if i’m choosing wisely, cautiously and carefully in picking my husband, then it would make sense that he would also be a good choice for a sexual partner.

          if i’ve found a person with whom i feel comfortable sharing a bank account, a home, a family, a lifetime- hopefully i can be sure that i am comfortable sharing my body with him.

          there is a large degree of self-knowledge and emotional maturity required in choosing a spouse and making a commitment to stay with them forever. i think seeing sexual readiness in tandem makes perfect sense.

          • Anonymous for this post

            Ooh, I should clarify. I am definitely not saying I think marriage is just some arbitrary, artificial day that doesn’t have significance. I am saying that it’s an event, after which some things are different and some things are not. I’m frustrated that social pressure in some cultures (for example the one I was raised in) give us the black & white idea that sex before your wedding night is a bad, negative, destructive thing, while sex after your wedding night is blessed, beautiful, and even mandated by God. This message gave me the experience of having difficulty flipping that switch, and I ended up confused about what was wrong with me when I was not able to do what I was “supposed” to do once I was married. It took some healing for me to develop different messages about sex that allowed me to have a healthy sex life. And I feel for others who experience similar things.

            I respect that for you, Liz, “seeing sexual readiness in tandem [with choosing a spouse] makes perfect sense” which is great for you. I’m just trying to point out that there may be unexpected, usually-not-talked-about challenges with waiting until after marriage to introduce a whole new facet to the relationship. Those challenges should be talked about, and sex should be introduced when the individuals in the relationship decide they’re ready, not based solely on whether the couple’s culture tells them they’re being sinful or not.

            My original point to Pamela was that I have just as much problem with people passing judgment on those who are waiting by saying “you’re crazy for waiting!” or “but what if the sex is bad!? I just can’t imagine waiting!” as I do with people demonizing pre-marital sex as something that lacks value and that can only negatively complicate your relationship. People make their own decisions for their own reasons. Sex is an inevitable component of romantic relationships, so of course it can complicate things, no matter when it happens. People just need to decide for themselves– as you said Liz, using self knowledge and emotional maturity– when their relationship is ready, whether that’s before, on, or after their wedding night. (Thought I agree with Meg that some sort of sexy time on the wedding night should be a priority.)

    • NH

      See, to me it doesn’t make sense to have sex ONCE. Because that tells you only a tiny bit about what your partner is like over the long term.

      At the same time, some sex problems aren’t fixable. Different levels of desire, radically different sexual interests: really hard to deal with. And yes, I would end a relationship over that.

      Which is why it’s a good thing (for me) I’m not waiting.

  • This post was full of all kinds of smart, but this really stood out to me:

    “…all marriages can benefit from an outside perspective (as long as that outside perspective is of the “I’m committed to helping you two honor your commitment to each other” variety, of course, and not of the “Let’s bash marriage!” sort).”


  • Thank you for writing this. I’m so glad to get this perspective – I think we need a whole lot more of it. Our wedding night experience was incredibly similar – we both waited (so worth it), and all that other stuff.

  • LPC

    “What I learned from that experience was that if you start thinking that your partner is the enemy, then sex becomes a zero-sum game and you both lose.”

    This will stand you in good stead over the years, especially when the kids start showing up. Hold that thought:).

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say this post applies not just to first time wedding sex, but to first time sex in general. After my fiance and I started dating we waited a year to have sex (my first time, not his). By that point we both had very high expectations and when things didn’t go perfectly at first, we had a few serious fights and many misunderstandings.
    Thinking back on it makes me totally understand all of the “wait until marriage” advice I got growing up. sex can make things instantly more complicated and confusing, it would be so easy to get confused and upset by all of those feelings and let a relationship fall apart. Being married (or at least in a trusting and committed relationship) before hand means that you already have many of the tools needed to work through all of those complicated issues. I don’t wish I had waited (we’re going on 8 years together and will be past 9 by the time we get married, that would have been a LONG time to wait), but I have a serious appreciation for those who do.

    • lou

      but sex can also just be fun and awesome. that’s the thing that i personally don’t get about the waiting thing (not that this applies to everyone – people should do what works for them always, this is just my view), whenever i hear people talk about it (outside of a religious context) it’s always about ‘sex makes everything complicated and difficult/confusing/etc so it’s better to leave it out of the equation’. in my experience though sex is mostly fun. i haven’t been in love with everyone i’ve had sex with and the act of having sex alone has never made me fall in love with anyone. sure, it can be intense and full on, but that isn’t the whole story.

      i don’t know, i just think that (like the poster above) waiting for sex can sometimes make it into a really big deal for some people. and then there are so many expectations that are difficult to work through. because sex isn’t the be all and end all. but it sure is a good time when you’re doing it right!

      • Jackson Riley

        i can only speak to my experience, but sex has helped me get through a lot of shitty moments. it can be the lighthearted, fun, joyous thing going on in an otherwise shit storm. both before and (counting on it) after we’re married.

        that said, i waited until the right time for me, and that way sex could be fun and lighthearted. i think that’s key. if you rush it, it can become too complicated. and when the right point is? that’s a deeply personal decision, and one we should support each other in making, not hold it as validation or condemnation of our own.

        • meg


        • Yes yes yes.

        • Kess

          My mother really only had one thing to say about sex when I started dating my boyfriend – it complicates things. She was totally right.

          I didn’t wait until I was ready, even though I thought I was. Long story short, our relationship is so much healthier now and I have tons of fun with my SO during ‘happy fun time’, but I really should have waited for at least another 1/2 year because I wasn’t ready.

          We had tons of issues to work out, and while we haven’t worked all of them out fully (I suspect we never will), being personally ready and collectively ready is perhaps the most important thing ever.

      • But sex isn’t like that for everyone – & it certainly isn’t for me. Sex works in conjunction with a highly emotional connection I have with someone and I don’t want to just bust my goods out for anyone who may tickle my fancy.

        My first time was with my exhusband, two months before we got married. It was awful, miserable, and stayed that way – but we had bookus of problems. No surprise. I slept with my now husband early on, but we had such an intense connection from day one and I didn’t doubt we’d end up where we are now.

        In the midst of this, there was ONE GUY I dated who I had sex with without feeling super attached (lots of dates, lots of guys, I didn’t sleep with 99% of them) and I still regret it. I regretted it immediately afterward. It wasn’t fun… it was mortifying and shaming and did I mention mortifying?

        I firmly believe (for me) sex isn’t to be taken lightly. And it CAN mess things up. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.

        So if you have the ability to distance yourself, all the better. I don’t, can’t, and probably never will. And to be totally honest, I wish my husband was the only man I’ve ever slept with. If I could redo it, I totally would.

        • Class of 1980

          I think that having sex TOO SOON can mess things up.

          If you’ve met someone that you feel could be a potential marriage partner, putting off sex while you’re getting to know them helps you to keep a clearer head and view them more objectively.

          And there’s no such thing as too much discernment when you’re deciding to tie your life to someone else. Your future children will thank you.

          • Kee

            I don’t agree. I slept with this guy on the first night we met. It was a lot of fun. But of course I did not see him as a potential marriage partner at that point, as who in their right mind would see a guy as a potential marriage partner the first time you meet?

            5 years later, we’re married and having a kid in one month. I doubt that anything would have looked different if we would have waited a random “appropriate” time to have sex and I’m pretty sure that the little baby will not hold it against us in the future.

          • Re: Kee

            But that’s the point to an above poster who said they view sex as mostly fun and don’t necessarily understand why it could complicate things. Everyone is different. Everyone holds it in unique ways, for whatever reason that may be. It works for some, doesn’t for others as with just about everything else in the world.

        • Anon

          I’m totally the same way–you articulated it very well.

          Who knows if it has to do with brain chemistry or what, but I can’t separate sex and emotional connection AT ALL. To be honest, I’ve always kind of wished I could (it certainly would have made dating more fun).

          But it’s one of those things that’s very, very valuable to know about yourself either way.

          • Class of 1980

            Yes. Perhaps some people don’t get their objectivity hijacked by immediate sex, but I’ll wager those people are in the minority.

      • liz

        what you just said is exactly why it complicates things.

        you said that you weren’t in love with every person that you had sex with- totally. i consider it to be like dating in general.

        i had fun dating guys (usually… sometimes it was horrific and boring and face-meets-table… but usually it was fun). i enjoy getting to know people, feeling those butterflies, waiting expectantly for the first phone call, and moving on from there. but figuring out reciprocating emotions is a tricky, tricky thing that often gets pretty messy, hurtful, and… complicated. i was very careful in my dating life, as a result. like you said, i didn’t love every guy i dated. i’m sure many of them didn’t love me. dating was just a fun thing. but navigating who had emotions for whom and were they mutual was often messy and sometimes ended with me tearfully singing along to dashboard confessional while eating through a half gallon of cookies and cream. though dating was fun, figuring out the emotional end was tricky enough to make me choose carefully when i chose with whom to share those experiences.

        the more of your person is involved in the relationship, the more complex it becomes. physicality is just one aspect. some people don’t let boyfriends/girlfriends meet family for a long time. some people don’t go on vacations until they’re serious. each piece of your life that you entangle with this person adds a new level of complication.

        sex and physicality can be especially powerful for a variety of reasons. one being that it represents different things for different people. you can’t be sure that your definition of sex is the same as the person with whom you’re sharing it. like i said above, you can’t know for the sure the emotional impact its having on the person and how that correlates with your emotions. there are aspects of self esteem and self image that come into play. a level of vulnerability. each of these can be more or less complex from person to person.

        kind of longwinded, but that’s why i see sex as “complicating things” though it can be fun.

  • ElfPuddle

    I’m not waiting for our wedding night, but I did wait for my fiance. (This wouldn’t be as cool if you didn’t know that I was 34 when I met him.) So, from my “almost waiting” point of view, thank you! for this post. For your bravery, for reminding people that couples need to talk about sex, and mostly for reminding us that we all need to talk about sex…and not just waggle our eyebrows.

  • Ianthe

    There is no other physical activity that we expect our bodies to perform perfectly the first time, why do we expect sex to be any different?

    THIS. This this this. I think we as a culture, conservatives, liberals and libertines alike, need to remember this. I remember feeling weird and awkward about the process it took for me to officially Lose My Virginity, But then I thought, this is a thing I have never done before. Why do I expect to be amazing at it on a first go? After that I managed to let go of some of my expectations of myself and just relax–and guess what, it got a whole lot easier and more fun.

    Sex is a pretty basic biological function, but that doesn’t mean we automatically know how to do it. Giving yourself permission to treat sex as a process and learn about yourself and your partner relieves so much of the pressure and weirdness and leads to way more awesome authentic sex than a performance-based model ever could.

  • KD

    I love this community.

    I enjoy the views you all share, and sometimes we all (me especially) need a reminder to take our heads out of our arses, see the whole picture and not base our “knowledge” on the narrow experiences we’d had before.

    It’s nice to realize there are people out there who work at it…. to make it good. When my only 2 friends that waited were both eerily similar. (she decides she hates intercourse on the honeymoon, gives up on sex in general, and sexless marriages ensue).

    I didn’t get how people wouldn’t want to find out if they were sexually compatible before marriage, but now I do! I get it!

    Thanks for opening my eyes :)

  • lana

    What a great post. I did not wait but took my time when I was 16 and decided to have sex with my long term (4 months felt like a lifetime back then) boyfriend. It took us another 2 months and a doctors visit until we got the intercourse part working so I totally get this story!

    People should know it’s a journey whether they’re 16 or 35. No one is a great swimmer as soon as they are pushed into a pond!

    Love, patience and communication will get you a great sexlife!

    • Liz

      “Love, patience and communication will get you a great sexlife!”

      I’m pretty sure it will also get you a great life. :)

      I think the pivotal point in any committed relationship is when you realize that everything, sex, finances, putting away clean clothes takes love, patience, and communication. We didn’t wait to have sex and we banked on the new relationship newness for a little to long, so now are solidly stuck in a very deep rut. After many fights about mundane things like cleaning and finances we have developed the communication skills and personal understandings to apply to the “sex issue”. We are ready to get down and dirt (haha…) and find a way to dislodge ourselves from the rut and create a beautiful and meaningful sex life that can be sustained throughout our marriage.

      Love, patience, and communication should be the foundation to any relationship.

  • I cannot give enough HELL YES’s to “Expand your definition of sex”. It amazes me how many people ask me if I’m still a virgin because I’m gay. “Sex” means many different things to many different people, and all are valid. It is super offensive to assume that I never experience sex because there’s no penis entering my vagina. I think everyone can benefit from distancing themselves from cultural ideas of “real sex”, “the right kind of sex”, and even “virginity”.

    • Liz

      Haha! I was just about to write the exact same comment. So I’ll just say ditto instead. :)

  • Anony Mouse

    I am anonymous because this is not my secret to reveal, but I wanted to share the story. My husband was a virgin until he met me, I was decidedly NOT. I gave him a copy of “The Guide to Getting It On” (shortly after we’d had sex for the first time) and let him peruse at his own pace. We also talked about the “people DO *that*?!” reactions that he had.

    Giving him the book beforehand might have been a good idea, but it just didn’t work out that way for us. For those of you out there who are waiting, engaged and waiting, or married and finding it difficult, I highly recommend that book. Not only is it full of useful information, but it gave us a way to talk about things without it feeling awkward like, during dinner, “So how do you feel about oral sex and do you know where the clitoris is?”

    And remember, something that has been covered here before, sex can be funny too and that’s okay! After we had sex in a non-him-on-top position for the first time I remember distinctly him saying, in a gratified and astounded sort of way, “I didn’t even know that was POSSIBLE. WOW.”

    And I laughed, and he laughed, and it was funny and fine. :) We’re still working on things but I have found that with a good sense of humor, care, concern, communication, and a spark of passion everything will be just fine.

    • Aurélie

      Oh yes, sex books! It sounds like very good advice, Mouse!
      Any other recommendation? (this one hasn’t been translated to french, so we wouldn’t be able to read it together…)

      • Just me.

        I think this one may be faith based (not sure) but my very conservative friend had never been told what sex was until she asked her boyfriend the year before they got married (they also waited, which is a very common practice in my circle and no complaints heard so far) and I got her “Getting Your Sex Life Off to a Great Start” because it was much less condescending in tone or male-biased than many of the books I looked at for her (such as the oft-recommended “Sheet Music”, also faith-based). I also got her “what your mother never told you about sex” which is non faith-based and written by an obgyn who waited until marriage. My friend joked if the title were true it would be much bigger.
        Her journey was an interesting one because she learned what sex was in college and we all sort of rallied around her (most of us virgins ourselves, but more informed virgins) to provide support and information. She got a lot of lube at her lingerie shower.
        I think the important thing is to remember that people are all individuals. We all make our own choices and have our own reasons for them.

      • Anony Mouse

        I don’t know anything about which ones have been translated into french (sorry!) but aren’t the french supposed to be expert lovemakers? Surely there has to be something out there …

        (I kid, I kid)

    • Anon

      Yes! “The Guide to Getting it On” is a fantastic sex-positive, nonjudgmental, realistic-but-not-too-heavy book. It was a staple in our early sex life, especially since my husband and I came to our relationship with very different sexual histories and knowledge. The book definitely helped us manage expectations and share ideas in a non-awkward way. It also allowed us to gently point out things the other person should know (such as where the clitoris is!). We still pull it out occasionally to peruse together, especially when we’re not up for actual sex but still want to talk about it.

    • Ianthe

      The one thing that bugs me about that particular tome is that it seems oddly anti-lube (or at least, it was in my edition, which is a few years old–I’m not sure when it was last republished). Which, no.

      I really like Urban Tantra by Barbara Carellas, even if it is a bit hippy-dippy. Even if you’re not interested in tantra, the advice it has for readjusting your thinking about sex is super helpful and interesting. I found it to be a very interesting and thought-provoking read.

      • Anony Mouse

        The latest edition has lots of praise for lube.

    • Nicole

      I just recommended this too! Dang – should have read more thoroughly through all the posts first. This book helped me a lot before I had sex for the first time.

    • andthebeautyis

      Yes! Sex can be funny! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve experienced the flesh-fart (you know, where 2 concave parts of bodies stick together and make a noise when air gets pushed between them?) during sex. Sometimes you have to ignore it, but sometimes it’s too funny, and for me at least, the laughter increases the intimacy.

      • Anony Mouse

        Yes, when I told the husband that the other kind of sex fart (the lady parts one) had a sexy french name “queef” he about lost is laughing. There was this whole crazy world of fun and funny that he’d never known existed. HA!

        • My partner hates the word queef, so I’ve begun referring to it as a “vaggy fart.” I’m not sure which is better/worse. :)

    • My favorite was “Hot Sex” by Tracy Cox! It has a very light tone and comes at everything with the attitude of “different people know different things and that doesn’t mean you’re dumb or nieve, so I’m just going to tell you everything.” My freshman roommate in college had it and reading it made me so much more comfortable talking about and understanding sex. I was definitely in the “I didn’t know that was how that worked” camp before hand.

    • R

      Emily Nagoski is awesome, and writes about sexuality from both a science and a women’s perspective. Sometimes it helps to remember that both biology and emotions are super critical to good sex. She’s written two books for the Good in Bed series, and although I haven’t read any of them, if she’s involved, I’ll bet they’re top notch.

  • Thank you for your brave & honest post! While I didn’t wait until our wedding night, I know several people who did. It’s not as rare as some people believe & those who are waiting will find much comfort & wisdom here.

    Plus I agree with other posters above that this post has wisdom in it for all of us, not just those waiting to have sex on their wedding night.

  • Cassandra

    These are just generally wise words for any couple, first time or not, who are having trouble with sexytimes. The Boy and I didn’t wait (in fact, our first time was the first real time we hung out… oops!) and we had months of sexytime fun until all of the sudden, things just weren’t going right in that department for either of us. Sitting back and talking it out and getting rid of the stress as a team was key to getting back into things. There are definitely just times where things don’t feel right or not as good as usual and working through it together without blaming the other person makes all the difference to fixing the problem, I think.

    • anon

      Yes to all of this!! Great sex advice for any stage of a relationship! As someone who had mind-blowing simultaneous orgasms the very first time we had sex together (though, no, not virgins), even having an awesome sex life can create high expectations that it will be rainbows and unicorns forever with zero effort required.

      Cut to 5 years later, add in less time spent together, way more work stress, hormonal birth control, and recurring yeast infections and uh, yea, it takes WORK, and as the commenter said above: love, patience and communication.

  • This post is amazing and valuable. I want to offer one small comment around the suggestion of “a couple of glasses of wine” to prepare for sex. I think perhaps the sentiment behind this is a way to relax and let go of some anxiety and worry – and this is critical! Perhaps using alcohol to do this – especially in terms of sex – while a common cultural narrative isn’t actually the safest coping mechanism. In relationships that are not totally trusting and healthy alcohol can be used as a way to make someone more vulnerable in sexual situations. Even in lovely relationships it can reduce your ability to be present, negotiate what’s happening to your body, or someone may not drink and therefore it isn’t an option. I would encourage people to relax in ways that they can still be mindful and present with the partner(s) and the activity!

    • meg

      Sure, while alcohol isn’t ALWAYS a good solution, it can also be a perfectly fine solution. We tend to have a puritanical view of booze = BAD in our culture, and that’s definitely not always true. In the “we’re married and sex is tough” case, a glass of wine can be a brillant solution. I can be very mindful and present after a glass of wine.

      • Totally, I am in no way anti drinking and definitely tried to stress that w/in your super healthy/trusting relationship do what works. From my experience working in a domestic and sexual violence organization, I think often the two (sex and alcohol) get mixed in a lot unhealthy ways from avoidance to violence, so I thought it was worth mentioning that the key is relaxing, however that happens for you!

      • Remy

        In the segment(s) of “our culture” — I was born and raised in California in a liberal household — I’ve encountered, the attitude has more commonly been “Alcohol = GOOD”. Accompanying that have been the ideas that *I*, as a non-drinker, am puritanical (not so much) and that booze is a healthy and normal component of all adult lives (true for some but not as many as you’d think)… maybe kind of like sex?

        I’m not arguing with you, Meg, but I have a different experience and I am REALLY, REALLY glad Kate brought it up. I wasn’t going to say anything, because I have been shamed liek whoa in similar situations when I’ve suggested, nicely, that there are other relaxation tips than alcohol.

        • meg

          As always, posts are written by one person, in their voice. She found a glass of wine worked, awesome. That’s not a reflection on it not working for you. Had you written a post, you would have suggested another relaxation technique. That doesn’t mean she wrote something wrong.

          I don’t eat wheat right now. That doesn’t mean if someone says, “eat some cake to relax” that her point is invalid. I’ll just sub in “cake” with “wine.” Feel free to do the reverse.

    • yeah also! alcohol is a depressant and might make you feel sort of sexy, but can be very detrimental to, umm, performance. I would not recommend more than 1 glass of wine, better to skip it if there’s something else you can do to loosen up.

      • Yeah, I think in this case we should take “couple glasses of wine” to mean “whatever helps you relax and feel less pressured.” Orgasms are good for that too, ahem. ;)

      • liz

        dumb. i just basically said the same thing. so, um. DITTO, DDAY.

    • liz

      i think also it should be noted on a practical/logistic level that alcohol can sometimes… inhibit… the punchline. just physically speaking.

      but yay, bourbon, for loosening things up from time to time.

  • Anon.

    Thank for this. I love that APW includes perspectives like yours, which are often missing from wedding blog land.
    The next barrier to break, if I can suggest one, the waiting story written from a male perspective. Not an easy one to find, coz not that many men read this blog I guess, but if there’s a bit of a stigma (in feminist circles, and hip circles) on women talking about this stuff, I think there’s an even bigger one for men.
    I’ve had sex before, but decided after a couple of tough relationships decided not to again before marriage. My fiance is a virgin, and I think he’s a little nervous. Maybe a lot nervous. He could do with some man talk around this. If anyone can recommend a good article about this elsewhere feel free!
    Oh and before anyone suggests that he write this post after the wedding…. No chance in hell! He’s lovely but super private. Happy for people to know he’s a virgin but not happy to share details of any other personal kind. Hence my anonymity.

    • Anony Mouse

      My guy was a lot nervous as well. We talked a lot, I made sure to emphasize that there was no way to get it “wrong” and I did a lot of “Mm, how about you touch me … there?” sort of talking after the first time, but for the first time … well, I was the more experienced one so I sort of just was the lead on that one. Though I was always asking if it was alright or if he wanted to stop, etc. This was why, after the first time, I got him that book. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    • W

      As a guy who waited until marriage, I thought wedding night sex and sex in general was going to be this glorious thing that we’d figure out pretty quick. I was surprised how hard intercourse can be, and how much we had to figure out to make sex possible before figuring out how to make it good. I am incredibly thankful that I and my wife waited for marriage because when we face difficulty with sex we do so with the security of our commitments to each other to sustain us through the challenges, and the assurance that we both want to go to bed with each other tomorrow (and 20 years from now) even if tonight was not great. And we have the rest of our lives to get better, so there’s not pressure to perform or figure it out right away.
      The other thing that is great about having waited is that we get to figure it out together. We get to explore together and experiment together and I don’t have to worry that someone has done it better than me before because there was no before. So if I am not very good at something, I get to practice on her and get better not to live up to some standard, but as a way to learn how to love her better. For me, it’s great when my wife communicates clearly what I’m doing well and encourages me when I’m not doing a very good job. It’s a thrill when she says “why don’t we try this” not just because it’s sexy, but also because it gives me a new tool to use in loving her. Sex is a partnership, and she knows her body better than I do, so the more she directs me, the more I learn and the better I become.
      I think too often guys have a sense of machismo and that we’re some sort of sex gods, but in marriage you quickly learn how inadequate you can be. One of the coolest things about marriage for me is that I get to work harder every day to love my wife better, and to know that she loves me even when I fail miserably at doing all those things.

  • Paige

    Something that has helped to prepare me (our wedding is on Saturday) is a book called “Sheet Music” by Dr. Kevin Leman. Parts of it are Biblically based. But he has chapters for men and women specifically to let you know what to expect, there’s also a chapter devoted to positions and things you can do other than penis-vagina intercourse. Most of the stuff he tells men is to take it slow and to romance your wife by doing sweet things for her. My fiance is reading it now, and we’ve been able to talk about it and get some of the touchier subjects in the open before they become problems.

    I highly recommend it to virgins and non-virgins alike.

  • Nicole

    I didn’t wait for the wedding night or even the ring but my fiance was the first peron I had sex with and, for me, that was perfect. I was not his first and that was okay too. He was so patient and never brought sex up at all while I researched the heck out of it (PS. I totally recommend “The Guide to Getting it On” by Paul Joannides and Daerick Gross Sr. Not all of it was relevant to me personally because it is super comprehensive but man-oh-man did it help me feel more knowledgable before I… you know. And actually, a lot of my friends (even married ones) keep borrowing it from me I would redommend it for everyone). For me, it was so helpful to talk to people I trusted and find out as much as I could beforehand because I felt more confident and knew what to expect (like for example, lube can be helpful for a lot of couples during their first time). Communication was so important for us too (and patience) as I asked questions THROUGHOUT and we kept checking in with each other. You have to be able to laugh at yourselves too, I think. Plus that makes it more fun. I even stated my goal before we had sex for the first time (okay okay I did a lot of research in grad school!) – to have fun and feel good but not necessarily to orgasm and that took the pressure off of both of us. I am so glad that you shared this (and that the bedroom sector has started rocking for you guys). We don’t talk about this enough as ladies – in the communal education type of way. And really, I think we could all benefit.

  • Arya

    Not to be a Devil’s advocate here, but there IS one thing any woman, single or dating, can do to make her first time having sex go a little smoother. It’s called masturbating. However you feel about masturbating as an activity, there’s a lot to be said for getting to know your own body, learning what it feels like to be aroused/enjoy yourself, and, God forbid, give yourself an orgasm. Learning how to get yourself in the mood also helps sex go a LOT smoother (literally and figuratively, ahem.) I think if more women were comfortable touching themselves, there’d be fewer instances of the moment where the man asks, “What do you like?” and all he gets in response is a bewildered look.

    • lou

      this is a great point. how can you expect someone else to make you feel good if you don’t know how to do it for yourself? we can all take responsibility for our own enjoyment in this area.

      however, i know that for many people who are coming at the ‘waiting for marriage’ situation from a religious background, there is often a lot of rhetoric about masturbation being sinful/wrong etc too. It can be very difficult for people from this background to enjoy masturbation or use it as a useful tool for learning what they enjoy. which is a shame.

      • Anonymous for sex talk

        Of course, for some of us, the belief that masturbation is wrong could be a deeply held belief arrived at after years of study, prayer, and self-examination . . . not “rhetoric” or “a shame.” I thought APW was supposed to be a place for “shame-blasting,” not telling other people their beliefs are a shame.

        (Part of my rationale? Seeing my sexuality as transcendent more than as “a useful tool.”)

        • I do get frustrated for this reason when people put a negative stigma on waiting for marriage due to religious reasons. I wasn’t aware waiting for sex was a bad thing? (not aimed at OP, but in general.)

          I didn’t wait… but it was an interesting relationship I was in. And I planned to wait. And I preferred to wait. Either way, it DID stem from my religious background, but not as a blind acceptance. And religious beliefs are deeply personal and can be very beautiful and powerful. Why, then, is this looked down upon? It’s just sad.

        • lou

          this comment is for anonymous for sex talk, can’t seem to make this comment go in the right place.

          i come from a religious background where masturbation was taught as shameful. so that’s my experience. and my opinion, having experienced that for myself, is that i don’t agree with an organization that tells people that enjoying their bodies is sinful. go ahead and have whatever beliefs you want – that’s fine, whatever works for you as an individual. but i am allowed an opinion based on my experiences, just as you are.

          • Anonymous for sex talk

            You’re absolutely entitled to your opinion, but when your opinion is that my beliefs are shameful, don’t expect me to smile and nod and pretend that doesn’t offend me.

            My experience, and the comments below, bear witness to the fact that many people who don’t masturbate experience more shame from people expecting them to/telling them they’ll never have good sex if they don’t than from whatever beliefs prevent them from doing so in the first place.

        • Another anonymous

          I think Lou meant it was “a shame” in the sense of “too bad,” not in the sense of “shameful.” It probably wasn’t the best word choice. There ARE people who would like to masturbate but feel guilty about it because people told them they should feel guilty, which is different from your own serious reflection on the subject convincing you that masturbation isn’t the right thing for you to do. I’m not sure why you think it’s offensive for Lou to say that some people come from religious backgrounds where there is rhetoric about masturbation being sinful, but it’s not offensive for you to say that masturbation is flat-out wrong. If someone believes that the earth is flat or that homosexuality is evil, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s a deeply held belief they arrived at after years of study, prayer, and self-examination — I’m still not going to agree with them. Knowing that you’ve thought really hard about masturbation being wrong isn’t suddenly going to change my mind about it.

          If you just meant that masturbation is wrong for you personally, that’s fine, of course; not everybody masturbates. If you meant that masturbation is wrong for everybody, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m also allowed to disagree with it.

      • I cannot “exactly” this suggestion enough! (And various faith traditions have different/nuanced views on masturbation, so even for those coming from a religious background, it can be worth discussing with your premarital counselor or a wise and trusted older mentor to parse out the implications for you.) Learning your own body’s responses can be incredibly empowering and valuable for both you and your partner.

      • I’m going to agree with anonymous. Whenever this topic comes up, those who don’t masturbate are shamed into thinking they can’t know what they like and can’t possibly be having a good sex life. And that’s just a shame.

        The idea that finding out what you like WITH your partner through experimenting and talking TOGETHER just doesn’t seem to be enough for those people.

        You need to be able to tell each other “yes I like that” and “no I don’t like that” (although timing that is important) and THAT’S how you figure out, not just your body, but your partner’s body, and how the two work together. If your partner asks “what do you like?” you can respond with “let’s find out.”

        And don’t fake it! That just reinforces the wrong behavior. Faking it tells your partner what they are doing is good when it really isn’t.

        Masturbation is NOT necessary for a good sex life.

        • Arya

          Giggles, I’ll agree, it’s not NECESSARY. But it is helpful, for some people, heck, for many people. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it, and God(s) bless you for it. If you do, then do. It doesn’t bother me much either way. (This is my attitude about just about every social controversy in our country today. If you’re a consenting adult doing it behind closed doors and it makes you happy, it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.)

          HOWEVER, I do think that there are some women who are uncomfortable with the idea of masturbating, not because of religion, but because of our mainstream society at large, in which women historically haven’t been permitted or viewed as openly healthy sexual beings. I don’t demand that women everywhere think it’s OK or right for them. I DO demand that it exists for every single one of them as an option, a choice they could make.

          • THIS. YES. One million times over.

          • And if they do feel uncomfortable with it, for whatever reason, be it religion, society, or another source, they need to know it isn’t the only option and it won’t mean they have an inferior sex life. No one should feel shame for not masturbating.

        • Thank you! I feel this way often when this conversation comes up. I waited until marriage and have never been comfortable with the idea of masturbation.

          “finding out what you like WITH your partner through experimenting and talking TOGETHER”

          THIS has been so instrumental in my relationship with my husband and despite the unavoidable bouts of frustration, has brought us so much closer together on a level that I never even thought possible.

          That’s not to say it’s “better,” but it’s an equally valid choice!

          • Kay

            I appreciate the correction here about masturbation. Masturbation has always left me totally unmoved, as a concept—I cannot get up enough interest in it to feel strongly opposed to it, but so also I have never been interested in trying it, either before or after marriage. And I’m grateful that this reminder has been put out there: masturbation is not necessary for a good sex life.

            The salient points about me are: I’m deeply, wholly, joyfully religious; lovemaking with my husband is one of my favourite things in the world; I’ve gotten perfectly well-acquainted with my body through his exploration of it, and, like tickling myself, have never had any physical response to masturbation.

            So thank you for reminding the community at large that plenty of us religious non-masturbators are far from pitiable. :)

  • We waited for marriage. And it was the best decision (besides the decision to marry each other) we could’ve made for our marriage.

    We approached the sex aspect of marriage the same way we approach most every aspect of life, we read books about it and did research. One book we read was “The Act of Marriage” by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. As long as you stop reading before it gets to the end and gets super preachy, it’s a great book. I was able to read about what happens on his end. He was able to read about what happens on my end. It had suggestions for getting through the awkward beginning. And definitely was big on communication.

    • NH

      I don’t come from a religious perspective at all, but I want to say something about this anyway: any book that claims it can tell you what sex is like “for men” or “for women” is missing stuff. Let me just say that in my experience, and from the accounts of my (female) friends, things are REALLY DIFFERENT for different people. If you or your partner doesn’t experience sex as described in the book, that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you.

      • Maybe you should read the book or maybe I should explain that a bit better.

        The book never says what specifically and exactly will happen, instead it says what the basic physical responses are for both men and women. What the hormones and other bodily fluids are, what they do, and what they are responsible for. It explains how different body parts work and respond. I don’t have a penis. He doesn’t have a vagina. It is useful to know what body parts you don’t have can be like.

        Knowing the basic mechanics of a car won’t tell you how your car will perform in every single situation, but it will give you a place to start from, a place to start asking questions and talking about how it corners or how it responds to pressure on the gas peddle. Knowing the basics of the male and female anatomy won’t tell you exactly how you or your partner will specifically respond, but it gives you a great starting point.

        Knowing the basics will also give you an idea of what to do when things aren’t going the way you expect. You can solve problems a whole lot faster if you have a basic starting point.

        • Arya

          That sounds like a great book, honestly. I ended up coming by my information from a couple of good, helpful websites on the internet, which was all I had available at eighteen when I first embarked on that part of my life, but knowing the basic nuts and bolts really helped.

          I just want to say, also, I envy people who wait until marriage in a way, because they come to sexuality with an innocence that leads to a certain kind of joy that can be hard to reclaim if you’ve had a number of mediocre or bad partners. While I don’t have a problem with no-strings encounters for those that want them, in my experience it can lead to a sort of jadedness about sex, as in it’s something fun, but not necessarily “special.”

          There’s nothing like finding your future spouse (or someone you truly love) and rediscovering how fresh and joyful sex is SUPPOSED to be. Hence the different between “farking” and “making love.” So for that, I salute the folks that wait!

        • NH

          Sounds super useful. My apologies.

          • I should do better at explaining myself better the first time. :)

  • Wise, wise, wise post.

  • Anonymous

    What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with us. I love that many of your suggestions, while coming from a hetero perspective, apply to all different types of relationships. My wife and I didn’t wait until marriage to have sex (let’s be honest, legal marriage could be a long, long wait in many places! ;)), but the first time we had sex was certainly less than pleasurable for either of us. I’m so glad that we were able to talk to each other and be patient with each other at the beginning because I certainly felt like a huge failure and feared that it would never get better. Fortunately, we stuck it out and got to know each other’s bodies, and sex became (and has continued to be) a much more enjoyable experience.

  • “if you start thinking that your partner is the enemy, then sex becomes a zero-sum game and you both lose.”

    I don’t know much about waiting for marriage, but this bit is true even years and years down the line. There are times when my husband and I just aren’t on the same sex page (even though we mostly are…) and blaming each other is NOT sexy. Working as a team to get the sex-a-rollin’ is.

  • MinnaBrynn

    We did a lot of “messing around” but saved penis-in-vagina sex for after the wedding. Maybe because of that, we spent a few frustrating months feeling that if we weren’t having PIV sex we weren’t Doing It Right. In utter frustration, he complained that our sex life was better before we got married. And that was the turning point, because he was right, it was. So, instead of continuing to pressure ourselves into making PIV the Thing we’d expected it to be, we worked on broadening our definition of sex to include that messing-around-stuff we were already comfortable with. We also worked to think of sex as a lot of little, ongoing things instead of one big isolated event. No, we haven’t turned our back on the goal of PIV getting better/easier (and it is), but once we let go of the idea that sex only counted if it was PIV (where did that idea even come from?) things have gotten way more fun, and more enjoyable.

    In some ways, I wish I’d had this broader understanding of what can be sex before, but on the other hand, I’d have struggled even more with the Guilt of sex before marriage, so I wouldn’t have been much (if any) better off. It really gets me thinking how I’ll talk to my future kid/s (and anyone else who comes to me for advice) about sex, and wondering if I can find a way to explain to others what I had to learn by frustrating experience… I hope so.

    • R

      Yes. This. (Well, substitute “after we were ready and everyone’s blood tests came back clean” for “after the wedding”). But seriously, the ability to drive each other out of our minds without PIV sex is still totally awesome. And even when the PIV stuff wasn’t working (I am not a terribly sexual creature when sleep deprived), the fact that we had other sex “options” really helped the both of us feel a lot less frustrated that one aspect of our sex life wasn’t working.

  • Stephasaurus

    It boggles my mind that society EXPECTS people to have sex on their wedding night. Where do they get the energy?! I’m anticipating both of us being too exhausted to do anything but go to sleep on our wedding night. We like to party, and our reception will certainly be a party. ;)

    • H

      I certainly didn’t wait for marriage, and I was also expecting to want to party all night long. We had so many great friends at our wedding, and it was lovely to see them, but after a certain point I just wanted to be with my husband (not just in the biblical sense :), but to spend time alone together). I think it’s super important not to put pressure on ourselves to act a certain way or want certain things on our wedding day/night– we should just make sure we get what we need out of the experience. Congratulations to you, and I hope it’s a wonderful day!

      • Stephasaurus

        Oh yeah, we didn’t/aren’t waiting for marriage either. I just had to step back from all the serious comments and wonder why everyone expects newlyweds to have plenty of energy for sex on their wedding night! I mean, every wedding I’ve ever been to has big a big, energetic party…there is no way we’re sitting out on any of that at our wedding, which is why I figure we’ll be too tired to do anything besides cuddle and pass out that night (possibly even in our own bed, since our venue is approximately 10 minutes from our new apartment!). I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one thinking along those lines.

    • We did not have sex that night. I was exhausted, and we lay in bed for a few minutes giggling about being married and then I promptly passed the eff out. Mission freaking accomplished, dude. We have our whole lives to get it on.

      • Stephasaurus

        “We have our whole lives to get it on.”

        AMEN. :)

    • Class of 1980

      Sex on the wedding night is an ancient expectation.

      A century (and more) ago, most people got married in the morning and had all day to rest, plus they were usually virgins and had already waited so long they didn’t want to wait anymore. ;)

      • Stephasaurus

        How times have changed. :) We’re getting married in the [late] morning too, but our reception will go until early evening, followed by an after party…there will be no time for rest! Which is A-OK with us!

    • Anna

      I dunno… I vote get it on on your wedding night. tired and all.

      • Stephasaurus

        Our view is that, hey, we’ll already have been doing it for over 4 years by the time we get married, and we’ll have the rest of our lives to do it too…if we don’t get around to it THAT NIGHT because we’re too tired (it’s kinda hard to do that if you both fall asleep first), no big! It’s just another night…but we’ll be married. And that’s awesome.

    • meg

      Y’all, long time readers know I always say it: BUT YOU GUYS! Leave the party 10 minutes early if that’s what it takes to get laid on your wedding night. Make it a priority!

      Wedding night sex: not the best sex of your life. But something you can never repeat. It has it’s own kind of exhausted magic, and it makes me sad that we’ve let all the expectations of the modern wedding take it away from us.

      Leave ten minutes early. Get laid.

      • Zan

        Unless you have a third degree sunburn and the idea of being touched sounds like the WORST. THING. EVER.

        In that case you can wait to get laid until it starts to peel.

      • Sarah

        I was totally exhausted on my wedding night. It was like the clock struck 11:17 and this Cinderella hit a wall. When we got to the hotel I was hoping for a sudden burst of energy, but it never showed up. And I’m glad. Because we did it anyways. And there was something comforting about our sleepy wedding night sex. It was the craziest, most amazing day and I felt like I was running at 150% percent the entire time. But then we said our goodbyes and all the chaos melted away.

        Then it was just us. Just me and my HUSBAND. And we made love the way we’ve done a thousand times before and the way we have a thousand times after. It was life changing or earth shattering. It was just our standard. But in my barely awake state I realized something. I put on the dress, and the makeup and the hair extensions for everybody else. I put on the rocking purple heels for myself. But he didn’t need any of that. He didn’t need the girl who was running on overdrive. And he didn’t need some Victoria Secret-clad vixen. He just needed me.

        He was more than happy with his sleepy little bride.

      • Anon

        Absolutely agree. Or sneak away during the day. You may have the rest of your life to sleep with each other, but you only get one wedding. It is so worth making the time, and in my opinion is an important part of what the wedding is meant to mark and celebrate – the beginning of your marriage.

      • Anonymous

        It’s only a priority for us if we aren’t too exhausted. If we get to it, it’ll be fantastic. If we don’t, I think — I THINK — life will go on. We have the rest of our lives. We aren’t the type of people who would let ourselves feel disappointed or unfulfilled just because we didn’t have sex on our wedding night — most people ARE those kind of people, and that’s fine. We plan to leave the party early no matter what, but I think it’s more important to have alone time on your wedding night than just be expected to get right down to business. And that’s our choice. Should other people care what we do on our wedding night? Heck no. And it makes ME sad that people are so easily judged by what they do or don’t do on their wedding night.

        • Anon

          I’m not judging. I chimed in because there is so much out there now saying it’s just another night, you have the rest of your lives together, etc., and I hear so little about how great and meaningful wedding day sex can be. It is important to be encouraged by both sides, I think, then do what feels right for you.

      • Anonymous for sex talk

        (outing myself anonymously as the commenter with ALL the old fashioned ideas about sex today . . .)

        Also, unfortunately, not if you are postponing pregnancy using NFP and happen to be fertile on your wedding night. As I was. Wedding night sex would have been great, but first time, week after the wedding sex was pretty great itself.

      • FM

        It’s funny. I can’t remember for sure if we ended up having sex on the wedding night. I think we might have, actually (very sleepily) because I vaguely remember being surprised about it. But I definitely remember having sex the night BEFORE the wedding. That is I was totally all about and insisted on, because that’s something I’ll (hopefully) never have again – non-married sex.

  • Amy

    This is such a great post! I think the tips everyone has outlined are so wonderful for couples new to sex. I have another to add that I think may have been mentioned in passing briefly–LUBE! When I first started having sex, I didn’t know how incredibly helpful lube could be.

    And secondly–while we decidedly did NOT wait to have sex, we also didn’t have intercourse on our wedding night (though we did the next morning). We were both just too tired after the long day, so we laid in bed and talked about the day and fell asleep in each other’s arms. Sex is one way to be intimate with your partner, but as has been pointed out earlier, it’s not the ONLY way.

    • R

      This is crucial, and I too wish I had known this- latex condoms tend to short circuit a woman’s natural lubricant. And “pre-lubricated” condoms don’t tend to last very long. A good silicone or water-based lube (without glycerin! glycerin is a type of sugar and can aggravate yeast infections) makes a big difference.

      • Coconut oil is amaaaaaazing, doesn’t dry out immediately like some artificial lubes, and is very, very safe to have near manbits and ladybits. (Though oil does degrade latex, so be sure to take that into account if condoms are your primary means of birth control.)

        • I’ve been thinking about the coconut oil…but how messy is it and how hard to clean up?

          • Very minimal mess. Coconut oil is actually solid at room temperature, so you can just peel up a little bit with the back of a fingernail and let it melt in your palm/on skin. It absorbs really quickly/easily, so you can just rub any excess into skin and not have to worry about getting it all over everything. It also doesn’t get sticky/tacky the way that KY tends to. I’ve never noticed sheet stains with it either. Overall, I think it’s a great alternative to synthetic lubes and definitely doesn’t cause anywhere near the kind of mess that would necessitate you to stop what you’re doing and grab a towel, etc.

  • Just me.

    I have a mechanical question. What happens in the case of a very small woman and a very tall man? Are there logistical problems? Curiousity from a complete and total virgin.

    • Other Katelyn

      There are tons of positions you can try– I’m positive you’ll find something that works very well for that pairing, and there’s always sex that doesn’t involve intercourse.

      • I’m going to have to agree with this. Also, even if it hurts, even if it rips, even if you are bleeding badly and are trying to decide* if you’d rather die of blood loss or die of the shame of going to the ER of the hospital you WORK AT to get stitched up, it gets better.

        *I decided to die of blood loss. But I didn’t. And now it’s a secret between me and APW.

    • liz

      i’m a foot short and 100 lbs lighter than my husband.

      the author of this post was correct in that communication is HUGE. make sure you feel really comfortable asking him to go slow, telling him when it hurts badly enough that you need to stop, and that he feels comfortable telling you when he’s frustrated by the pace… because then you can move onto something else.

      some other things that help are hydration (drink lots of water!), having some water-based lube on hand (if it’s something you never used before, you may want to have a few kinds. it can be expensive, but worth it if you find this one stings and that one burns), and foreplay. foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. getting yourself worked up.

      i will be honest in that when the size disparity is there, it can still continue to hurt for sometime. i’ve been married nearly two years and have had a baby, and still we need to go slow getting started each time. but once we get started…

    • R

      a) Planned Parenthood has a site for teens that is probably the best resource I have ever seen for people in the totally virginal “so what is sex like” kind of position. And even if you’re not a teenager, it is both educational and very reassuring- because pretty much everyone has the same question at some point!

      b) From a “where do the legs go” standpoint (and personal experience), there are some positions that might just not work. However, the great thing about pretty much any horizontal position is that you can pretty much always get things to line up. Also, as the short girl, you pretty much always get to be the little spoon when cuddling- which personally, I think is awesome.

      c) From a “what if he’s to big” standpoint- see the above comment about lube, and make sure you’re super aroused- as the overall configuration of things tends to open up at that point (medical issues not withstanding).

    • Anon today

      Totally second everything everyone said about communication, lube, being aroused first etc. Also, just bear in mind that the vagina is stretchy — obviously there is a maximum size but it varies a lot depending on how relaxed you are. And how much it will stretch seems bizarrely influenced by how much you believe that it will stretch. Did we mention lube?

      Thank heavens for anonymous commenting, eh?

      • anonymous

        With a height difference of 10 in, some positions were awkward at first but now we don’t even think about it. We actually found that straight horizontal missionary or standing were the most awkward positions since we didn’t really line up that way. Standing has always been more for the giggles than anything else, unless you are very light and he’s very strong. Some keys are 1) use a pillow under your butt, esp a wedge pillow or a sex pillow if you have the $. 2) lift/have your legs lifted up 3) go on top 4) try sitting on something tall, like a bed or countertop. 5) If you do it doggy style, stand on a step-stool or something.

  • Great post. Well written. I’ve read every single one of the comments and have come to this conclusion… People take sex way too seriously! Have a little fun with it. If you can’t drink (as I can’t now) then listen to some music to loosen up. If you or your partner have no idea what you’re doing then just laugh about it. Embrace your awkwardness. If you have smiles on your faces then it can’t be that bad. :)

  • I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments yet, but I have to say this.

    I think it is ridiculous to expect that two people can go from not having had any sex-type nakey-nakey contact, to having p-in-v action straight away on the wedding night. BUT, if you are the person in that situation, you wouldn’t know that! Which sucks.

    When you do it before marriage, generally it is something that you build up to… from base to base, if you will ;) There is no way my virginal self could have gone from kissing and groping straight and skipped all of the awkwardness of getting to know each other’s bodies, straight to intercourse. It is too much to expect of yourself and your partner. But the trouble is, who is going to tell the people that wait that it is okay not to go all the way on the first night (or first month)?

    • Ann

      You make a good point here, but I just want to share my experience. My husband and I dated for 5 years before we were married and we waited for marriage to have sex. I mean, there was a lot of making out, but nothing more than that, no touching certain parts… you get my drift. But after 5 years in a relationship and communicating before the wedding about our expectations, fears, desires when it came to sex, I have to say that honestly, going all the way on the wedding night was not really very difficult when that time came. I won’t say that it wasn’t a little bit intimidating or that things were perfect and amazing… it was our first time, so of course there were no rainbows and unicorns. But I think that by the time in our relationship where we felt comfortable trusting each other with every other aspect of out lives by committing to one another in marriage, giving all of ourselves physically was relatively easy and comfortable.

      I know this probably isn’t everyone’s experience. Especially for those who have been told to wait and have heard “Don’t have sex!!!” there whole lives, it could be very hard to suddenly flip a switch to “Sex is great!” overnight. And that’s why it’s so important to be honest with your partner and start communicating what you are thinking and feeling about sex before the actual event. My husband and I both knew we were nervous and unsure how things would go the first time (although we did some reading in the weeks before the wedding to become a little more, um… educated on how things work beyond the very basics we already knew). But once the wedding was over and we were alone together (and I took and a nap and had a shower….a morning wedding was a great choice, by the way) things got going naturally and the anxiety really disappeared.

      • Anonymously waited

        That was our experience exactly. We’d done a lot of making out before hand. We’d done a LOT of talking about ourselves as physical beings and sex and our expectations and feelings. We did some research. And then when we got back to the hotel after the wedding we started out with just being naked together and taking advantage of the tub in our suite. It was the most natural thing for us to have gone from absolutely no sex the day before to sex that night.

        Our communication and intimacy in other areas (mental, spiritual, emotional) were our base and they were a strong base.

    • J

      I was actually scrolling to the bottom to say this exactly! I had years as a teenager where I considered saving myself because I thought that it was a pure and wonderful gift (not religious) to give to your future husband. I changed my mind but it was extremely GRADUAL. So I guess because I was not a raunchy sexually active teen, I was a bit of a late bloomer. And found no interest in penetration with what little experimenting I did on my own body.

      It was a lot of building up.. touching and kissing from my first boyfriend that struck my interest. Doing things slowly, with your fingers with your mouth. It wasn’t until my first serious boyfriend, and six months of dating and various touching and manual stimulations leading up to finally me deciding I wanted to try real sexual intercourse. I was 21 years old. I’d been sexually “active” for over a year before losing my virginity.

      It still hurt and it still wasn’t amazingly wonderful but it was everything I wanted really. And over a year of practicing sexual activities, gradual steps, was what made me feel so ready and so willing. It really blows my mind that some people’s first encounters with any sort of sexuality with another person is going all the way within 1 day. That freaks me out and I would not have been prepared or happy about it at all if that had to happen to me. Umm I guess if I had to give advice to those ladies who are waiting.. do some stretching. . Sorry if TMI!

  • Amy March

    Can I just say I’ve had Katy Perry Teenage Dream stuck in my head for all of these comments?

  • W

    From a guy’s perspective, thanks for the post and all the comments, they’ve been great to read and think about. Especially the advice about communicate, remember you are a team and seek help. I think too often guys aren’t encouraged to do those things (my wife does a great job reminding me to do those things). For me, the more open and honest I can be with my wife, and the more I can make sure we’re approaching our problems as a team the better things go (especially in our sex life). Along the way I’ve also had a few great friends that have been able to listen and give me someone with whom to process through my frustrations when sex didn’t go the way I’d envisioned.

  • I’m going to apply this line: “”Okay, this is our problem and we’ll figure it out as a team” to many aspects of my soon-to-be-marriage!

  • Anonymously waited

    The sex on our wedding night was not rainbows and unicorns. But it was the best sex we’d ever had. And things have only gotten better since.

  • Kati

    OMG thank you for writing this post, I just got back from my honeymoon 1 week in beautiful Costa Rica. Both my husband and I waited until our wedding night to have sex and needless to say it didn’t go well. I’ve been achy and crampy and feel like my organs have moved around. I also feel like a huge failure because we haven’t gotten it right a single time yet.

    Even though I know it will get better with time and patience I was still feeling really bad about it until I read this post. I’m so relieved now!

  • Kayakgirl73

    Yay for this post, I really could have used it before my wedding almost two years ago. Sorry for the late reply as I was on vacation. We were virgins in our 30’s. We did fool around and do some things before the wedding. I did a lot of reading, including some books mentioned here and gave him so of the books to read but he did not read them. The whirlpool in our wedding night suite helped a lot. One important thing to remember is to please try your lube out ahead of time, what I had made me burn and not in a good way, it was even supposed to be the sensitive skin formula. Things didn’t go great that first night, but we did try again in the morning and things went where they were supposed too. Things have gotten better over time, we talk and let each other know what we like. It’s not always been easy but I wouldn’t change much other than I had hoped he would have prepared a bit better, I know quite a bit from girlfriends, Magazines, and books.

  • Anne

    Very interesting post… I don’t know many girls who waited, even when raised religiously but I guess in France we don’t have all that “wait until marriage” preaching.
    I wasn’t raised in any religion or belief and my parents certainly never tried to tell me to wait until marriage (wait until I was ready and with a “right” boy, yes, of course…), and so at 16 or 17 I knew I wouldn’t wait so long.
    I lost my virginity at 19, with a boy who was a virgin too (not expected before I began dating him !), and although the 2 or 3 first time weren’t so great of course, it quickly became better and in a matter of 2 or 3 months was great enough for me to have orgasms. And I guess that as somebody above said, yes, masturbating beforehand can help a lot (because I knew what an orgasm was, what I liked and so on).
    What I didn’t expect was that… I would marry that boy. And nine years practicing have made things better and better ;-).
    I’ll never regret not to have waited because even if it go on better quickly, I think our ages at the time helped (all those hormones)…

  • RJ

    Rereading this I’ve realised first-time sex should be like learning to dance.

    You don’t expect to be like “dancing with the stars” first time, or even to be able to move in time together, why would first night sex (sex is really like dancing in many ways – good dancing depends on rhythm, awareness, and close attention to your partner)

    • Toby

      this is a good analogy of sex

  • HH

    I just wanted to thank you so much for writing this article. It was so positive and loving. I’m getting married on Saturday and my husband-to-be and I have both been waiting until we’re married (we’re Natural Family Planning practitioners, by the way–haven’t seen that mentioned in the comments yet–I recommend a look at this method for planning/avoiding pregnancies). It was so helpful and encouraging to read this article–thank you.

  • Hello!!

    What to do not to do ? only decide by our-self not by others. Article and responded views are very informative and justified accordingly.
    if we are happy with pre-married sex then what wrong ? I don’t think so , but it matter of choice. if both of you feel u should and enjoy it.
    It’s perfect personal moments where you can not only enjoy but you can understand other also whom u r meeting at first or before.

  • Kelsey

    Thank you for this post! My SO and I are training to be pastors, so premarital sex is off the table. Also, props to APW for having a variety of perspectives on so many different topics!

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