You said your vows, had a beautiful wedding, and now, it’s your wedding night.
While the Church may provide us with a spiritual and theological understanding of marriage, there are some, let’s say, more “practical” aspects of a couple’s first night together and subsequent attempts at “renewing their vows” that no one in the Church ever quite talks about.
Enter Hollywood, where “the deed” occurs seamlessly, effortlessly, and with a fantasy-like quality, whereas the actual, lived experience is far more raw, funny, and intimate than it ever appears on screen. In real life, there are no makeup artists, lighting and sound specialists, body doubles, or crews of people to assist the moment.
Fortunately, we do have grace, humor, and patience. I therefore suggest, with humility, the following seven tips for your real Catholic wedding night, which I will explain by way of the following metaphor:
In real life, there are no makeup artists, lighting and sound specialists, body doubles, or crews of people to assist the moment. Fortunately, we do have grace, humor, and patience.
Someone has given you a car. You don’t know much about it or what’s really under the hood, but after learning the theory of how to “drive,” you and your spouse are now about to embark on your first road trip together. You are nervous and uncertain, and, while you have a solid knowledge of what this adventure will entail, the following “roadside” tips may still be of assistance.
1. Sometimes, cars don’t start.
Especially the first time you learn to drive, you may not leave the parking lot before burning through all of your fuel. It happens — especially when you are getting used to the car — so don’t worry. As the old saying goes, “Try, try, and try again.”
2. Sometimes, cars break down mid-trip.
Breakdowns can occur for a variety of reasons, including performance anxiety, fatigue, and stress. No need to panic; you can’t always reach your preferred destination when you plan to, but the journey is just as important as the destination, and mishaps are part of the adventure. You can always laugh, hug, and talk about the future.
3. You may need to adjust the front seats.
Yes, this tip is all about height, angles, and positioning the “seats” in order to get on the road. Trial and error might be involved, along with adjusting, readjusting, and sometimes resetting mid-trip. It’s human, it’s normal, and it’s nothing you can’t keep in perspective.
4. Sometimes, you need to oil the parts.
Just like a real car, sometimes, some parts need a little “greasing” to reduce friction. As couples familiar with NFP may be aware, the female body produces its own natural lubricant at certain times of the month to indicate fertility. What NFP doesn’t tell you is that, outside of that fertility window, a little lube can keep the road trip smooth.
5. You might be in different gears.
If one spouse is in fourth gear while the other spouse is still in second, the first spouse will arrive at his or her destination much more quickly than the other. Don’t worry; it takes time and practice for you both to reach the same destination at the same time.
6. Be OK with what’s under the hood.
We are not all Instagram models. Everyone has something under the hood that is imperfect: Some parts might be vintage, some parts might look different, some parts might make us self-conscious, and some parts might have been repaired and/or restored. Fears, shame, and vulnerabilities can be hidden from the outside world, but the gift of self in marriage means allowing someone to look beneath the shiny exterior. If you or your spouse is struggling to fire on all cylinders due to one of these reasons, don’t rule out seeking help from a mechanic (i.e., therapist, trusted friend, etc.).
7. Cars might get messy.
It’s a good idea to have an extra set of “car mats” (read: bed linens) on hand, especially the first few times, when there can be all sorts of spills. It never happens in Hollywood, but it does happen in real life, because bodies — like cars — can produce all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds and sight. A real road trip is very different from the rehearsed trips on screen, which is all part of the fun. A chuckle or two is highly recommended in these circumstances. You take each other for better or for worse, and that includes the sometimes-awkward stuff that bodies do!
It takes time to learn how to drive. Like any new skill, it takes practice and, maybe, a few accidental speed bumps while you work out the practical aspects of driving a car together. Don’t be shy about communicating verbally while on the road. Like any good navigator, audible directions can help guide the way until you know the route like the back of your hand.
Hollywood may have conditioned us (without our even realizing it) to expect that sex is something that happens flawlessly — and without the slightest reference to the One who gave it to us.
But, just as you might place a rosary on the rearview mirror in your car, keep your faith and a sense of humor within easy reach on your wedding night (and all occasions of “renewing your vows” thereafter). This perspective will help make sex the loving and sacramental experience that God made it to be.