Q and A: Why would you want an awkward wedding night?

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*

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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.

*Real person, fake name. Click here to read more posts in the Q and A series. Would you like to submit a question? Leave it in the comments below, or send it to me via email.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Carolyn Astfalk

    Having sex with a series of men whom I wasn’t committed to sounds a whole heck of a lot more awkward to me than having sex for the first time with someone who loves me unconditionally and has vowed before God and family to be faithful me until death. My experience is purely my own, but I don’t remember anything awkward about it. That doesn’t mean it was perfect, but like a thousand other facets of marriage (communicating, sharing a house, parenting, etc.), it is an area in which we’ve grown and learned together.

  • Ruth

    There are some really good points here. But as someone who was in the same boat a year ago, and is now married, I want to let you know that the wedding night was not awkward. It was something we patiently waited for and were very excited about- it was beautiful and not scary or weird, and certainly not something I’ll regret. I am very attracted to my husband (which was the same when we were dating!) and I hope all married couples experience that. Real, deep love and intense attraction= awesome time. And it was great knowing that that one night was just the beginning.

  • John Morgan

    Excellent insights, Arleen. When we consider that earthly marriage symbolizes Christ marriage to the church, Bible verses like Matthew 18:3 make more sense: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” So I’d say he’s quite pleased with us not know everything on wedding nights. All children are awkward.

  • Rocio Cosme

    This was such a good explanation! This really motivates me to practice chastity. Thank you!

  • Caitlin Marchand

    Speaking from the other side of the wedding night, I would say that while it may have been “awkward” in the sense we weren’t pros etc the beauty of the commitment we had just made and of sharing this first time together was so overwhelming that the impression left of the night was of that joy and love not any discomfort or awkwardness. Meanwhile I often wonder how much more awkward and uncomfortable is sex for the first time outside of marriage, especially with the understanding that this isn’t your forever person but somebody you are having sex with because you like then well enough and hey, we should get some practice in before we find The One. Without that amazing bond of lifelong commitment what is there to counteract the awkward? I think waiting til marriage probably saves you a lot of awkward in the long run.

  • Caitlin Marchand

    Also I think this awkward worry may spring from our watching too many movies and TV. Screen sex is not awkward, unless it’s played for humiliation or laughs. But real sex isn’t for the benefit of an audience. Sex between two people who have just agreed to go through life together can BE awkward without actually being awkward in a humiliating or unpleasant way. It can be the awkwardness of a shared experience and the awkwardness becomes part of the beauty of it because it is a private personal experience of discovery together.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      AMEN.

  • Sean Byrnes

    I get exactly what you’re saying, that the entire marriage does not depend on how night goes. but I think the way you’re expressing it needs to be tightened up. The wedding night is important as it is the consummation of the marriage. for a just and reasonable cause, a marriage which has not been consummated may be dissolved under the petrine privilege, ie the Holy Father can dissolve it, even if one of the parties of the marriage doesn’t want the dissolution cf CIC 1142. This indicates that the consummation of the marriage “seals” as it were the quality of indissolubility as it is in the marital embrace that gives expression to the communion persons. Thanks for your article, I enjoyed reading it.
    Fr Byrnes

    • Arleen Spenceley

      In retrospect, I should have written that very little depends on how not-awkward sex is the first time you have it with your spouse. But I do know you caught my drift. Thanks, Father!