The Q, regarding a person’s decision to save sex for marriage: “Many people say that your first time having sex is awkward, and every time you have sex for the first time with a new partner is awkward. Why would you want to have an awkward wedding night?” -Katie*
The A: We don’t. Nobody does, because nobody’s decision to save sex is rooted in his or her hope for an awkward wedding night. But that doesn’t mean the risk doesn’t cross our minds. Of course it does.
I am 29, and I have never had sex. Not even close. My decision to practice chastity implies that I never will, unless or until I am married. Which means I will not know what I am doing on my wedding night. It probably will be awkward. Gratification will be neither effortless nor intuitive, if existent.
The thought of that disturbs a lot of the people I’ve encountered who have responded with shock or pity to my decision to save sex. But their discomfort with sexual inexperience at marriage is normal. I expect it out of the culture that surrounds us, a culture that prefers preparedness for a wedding night over preparedness for marriage — a culture that probably doesn’t even discern the difference.
It’s a culture that is curious as to why I can expect initially difficult sex and not be disturbed.
I’ll tell you why: because we don’t have to be. Not knowing what we’re doing but doing it anyway expresses confidence in our commitment, and not knowing what to expect authenticates it. A couple that won’t communicate on a wedding night won’t communicate in a marriage. And if we practice the virtue of chastity, the sort of wedding night the world wants pales in comparison to the virtue we preserve by saving sex — a choice we can make, despite a potentially awkward wedding night, for the following reasons:
We can save sex despite a potentially awkward wedding night because in holy matrimony, very little depends on wedding night sex.
If you’ve gotten married in the Church, you have agreed to love and honor each other all the days of your lives. All the days. Including the days during which the sex is awkward. In fact, very little is supposed to hinge on wedding night sex. It cannot undo what God did when he made you one. It — even if awkward — is an expression of the unity achieved by the sacrament of matrimony. And it isn’t static. Awkward once (or twice, or more) does not imply awkward forever.
We also can save sex despite a potentially awkward wedding night because authentic love transcends that awkward moment.
Love is patient, and kind, and doesn’t dump you because the sex is awkward. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. All things. Including the courage, compassion, creativity, and communication newlyweds who have saved sex get to practice. A couple that has entered a marriage based on authentic love has been given a safe space for trial and error, in which to discover sex together, and to try again.
And we can save sex despite a potentially awkward wedding night because the pursuit of virtue is worth some awkward sex.
Chastity is a virtue. It’s a decision we make over and over to do the right thing regarding sex, which we as Catholics define as a sacred, physical sign of the vows a husband and wife made at the altar. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, “the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” The virtues require us to wait and work in a culture that doesn’t wanna, to live lives that don’t align with what the world around us values, and to risk, by being chaste, having an awkward wedding night. But when it’s the result of our efforts to become like the one who created us (who created us able to love the same way he does), an awkward wedding night is a risk worth taking.