Photo: Rennie Solis
The ceremony? Tender, funny, emotional. The reception? Tropical and boozy. The after-party? Increasingly unhinged. That's when my new husband and I slipped away, wandering hand-in-hand through the sultry darkness of Key West after midnight. We reached our hotel room. We gazed at the vast bed. We felt the same desperate, primal urge. And so we satisfied it...by collapsing, unconscious, onto the smooth white duvet. A sexless wedding night.
Yes, sadly, this is a thing. According to the Brides 2014 American Wedding Study, 27 percent of couples fail to do it after they say "I do." A totally unscientific survey of my friends came to a similarly unsexy conclusion. "Too drunk," said Jennifer.* "Too tired," said Petra. One couple fell asleep while eating leftover hors d'oeuvres and counting their checks. Others managed to do the deed, but barely. "We were buzzed and exhausted and had just eaten a whole pizza," said Melanie. "I wouldn't say it was terribly special. It was marinara-y?"
What's going on here? Well, unlike in Ye Olde Tymes Past, most couples have already had sex by the time they stagger into the honeymoon suite — 95 percent, according to our study — so the wedding night has lost some of its erotic luster. But the biggest barrier to mind-blowing wedding-night sex is, of course, the wedding. You've just thrown a once-in-a-lifetime party that required more money, attention to detail, and coordination than some military engagements. You're exhausted and elated, surrounded by people you may never see in the same room again. Sex? It's happened many times before, and it will happen many times again. It's just not your priority.
But I strongly suggest that you make it one. You've spent months planning every detail of this day. You've compared swatches and devised menus and agonized over the metaphorical significance of various flower species and God knows what else. The one part of the day when the two of you get to be alone deserves at least a fraction of that consideration. Why? Because sex matters, now and to your future marriage. Life is only going to become more hectic from here on out. If you don't start prioritizing and, yes, planning sex now, at the beginning of your marriage, when are you going to?
To that end, dearly beloved, I have gathered here today ideas from some of the country's top sexperts to help you generate some passionate, lusting wedding-night want.
Talk about it.
"If you plan sex, it's like getting to have it twice, because you're thinking about it and savoring it," says Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of Why Him? Why Her? It also takes some of the pressure off, says Lou Paget, sex educator and author of How to Be a Great Lover. "Talking about it ahead of time means you get to deﬁne what and even when your wedding-night romp is going to be," she says. So if you know you're going to be partying all night, you can agree in advance to do something quick, simple, but meaningful and save the elaborate sexcapades for the next morning and the honeymoon. "Attention to sex is your most seductive behavior," says Paget. The more you focus on your wedding-night action, the more satisfying it will be.
Practice "conscious celibacy."
Think about how much fun it is to jump into bed when you haven't gotten any for a week. Add the heightened emotions of your wedding day? Fireworks are basically guaranteed. "Not having sex makes it more novel and more exciting," says Fisher, who recommends abstaining for two weeks before the wedding.
It happened; you just got married. Mazel tov! Now go knock boots, stat. According to Fisher, you may find yourself feeling lusty right after the ceremony: Excitement drives up your dopamine levels, which boosts your testosterone (and his!) and can ramp up your sex drive. So capitalize on it. Find a secluded spot, or plan for a pre-reception rendezvous in advance. Yes, you just spent hours on your hair and makeup and generally making yourself the most beautiful you possible, but a little mussing up will be worth it. Besides, afterglow is a great beautifier. Just have powder and lipstick handy for a touch-up and Mom will never know.
Break your patterns.
Your wedding night probably isn't the right moment to go full-on Fifty Shades for the first time. But you can still switch things up a bit. Do you usually rush to get horizontal? Stay vertical for a while. Is he usually on top? Sorry, pal, not tonight. The trick is to pick moves that are hot and connecting. Ava Cadell, sexologist and author of NeuroLoveology, suggests the lotus position — when he sits cross-legged and you lower yourself on him, wrapping your legs around his waist. "It's slow and intense, and since there's eye contact, it's very romantic," she says. So you get the hotness and the yay-we-get-to-do-this-for-the-rest-of-our-lives in one awesome move.
For me, not planning the night is my one wedding regret. It's not a huge deal; my married sex life is hardly a howling void, thanks very much. I just wish we'd given the same amount of thought to our first night as we gave to our first dance. Still, everything turned out fine. And after we had our 10 hours' sleep? We woke up the next morning with lots of energy.
*Some names have been changed
Eliza Kennedy is the author of the new novel I Take You, about the week leading up to a Key West wedding. She lives in New York with her husband and son.
Want more genius planning tips? For the best wedding dresses, advice, and big-day inspiration, pick up the BRIDES June/July 2015 issue, on newsstands now and available for download here!