Sex on the wedding night isn’t so much a need as a want.
If you don’t sleep together on your wedding night, are you screwed? (And yes, sleep means sex).
It used to be that consummation was a major aspect of the marriage act. Scholarship on medieval marriage – when bonds were forged for dynastic reasons not romantic ideals – reveals the functional significance of sex in matrimony. Maidenheads had to be claimed to properly seal the deal and demarcate the wife as a taken women not a virginal girl. Masculinity and virility needed to be proven and illustrated in blood on sheets for the sake of honour and husband title-holding.
The sex didn’t have to be fun. You didn’t have to feel like it. As writ in Saint Augustine’s On the Good of Marriage, “[The] lust of the flesh is repressed, and rages in a way more modestly, being tempered by parental affection”. This was especially so come the night of the day when you were officially made husband and wife. Sex was the making, so to speak.
But that was then. Nowadays, sex plays a very different role. We enjoy sex. We can have sex outside of wedlock. We can enjoy sex, have sex, and not have to worry about bringing forth fresh flesh and blood. Saint Augustine would have been mortified.
Chances are you shagged before you proposed, and you proposed because you liked the shagging, and the rest. Less willing are people to buy without a try these days, though the similarly crass notion of cows and free milk still, unfortunately, stands. Some people are still virgins before the big day, and only really become man and wife once the spell of chastity has been broken with the perfunctory prod (OK. I’m being unfair. First-time, first-timer sex is not unavoidably appalling... right?).
So for the most part, sex on the wedding night isn’t so much a need as a want. You could not do it, and not be any less married than if you had. You may actually be too shagged to shag, especially as big days are only getting biggerer and biggerer. Would doing the deed from a sense of obligation get your happily ever after off on an ominously wonky foot?
Not necessarily. But you have to make sure you and your partner are on the very same page. There cannot be any room for miscommunication. Indeed, it would be absence of that, and not the absence of the sex act itself, which would prove terminal at the last. A union is nothing if not an exercise in mutual understanding. A married union particularly so.
But here’s the trick.
You’re only supposed to have the wedding once. You’re only supposed to have the wedding night once. Life is otherwise full of second chances – choice is mundane reality. Marriage is the opposite – in a sense, it’s a divine fantasy. That’s what makes it special. And even if we know the statistics, even if we know life happens and things change, we still walk down aisles hoping and expecting and dreaming about the notion of one-time-only grandeur. And every step is marked by the mantra ‘no regrets’.
Would you regret not sleeping with your dearly beloved the night of your official binding?
Is that reason enough to do it?
Or, if you’re too tired, or too drunk, or too overcome with expectation, is it better just to be honest and say, ‘Not tonight, my darling, for even if this is our first, it certainly won’t be our last’.
Should you make love on the night you make your vows for the sake of the symbol if nothing else? Or is such an idea antiquated and outrageous – futures aren’t ruined by one night alone.