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What happened to wedding night sex?
Changing social norms may be killing newlyweds' libidos
I

t turns out that when most brides and grooms hit the sheets, they're really just hitting the hay.

The hallowed romantic notion of passionate first-night sex between newlyweds is becoming a myth. A new survey of brides and grooms reveals that 52 percent do not have sex the first night of their lawfully wedded lives.

Which prompts the question: Is honeymoon sex passe?

The latest survey was conducted by U.K. company Voucher Codes Pro, which approached more than 2,000 people over the past three years. There are a few obvious reasons for the trend stemming from the boozy nature of modern weddings: 24 percent of the couples that didn't have sex chose not to because the groom was too drunk, and 13 percent of the time the bride was.

But the trend of not having sex on one's wedding night illustrates larger social and economic shifts that have changed our perceptions of matrimony, suggesting honeymoons and wedding nights are not as special as they once were.

Eleven percent of the couples that didn't have sex on their wedding night cited having to put their own kids to beds as the reason not to do the deed. It's no shocker that a crying baby or a whining toddler completely kills your libido (most likely because they are a glaring reminder of the less sexy things that sex leads to), but it's a clear sign of the changing demographic makeup of newlyweds.

The old adage "first comes love, then comes marriage" doesn't hold much water in the 21st century. Forty-seven percent of American women who have babies in their 20s do so out of wedlock, and one in four babies are born to unmarried couples living together.

These numbers also clearly illustrate that the concept of the chaste virginal couple waiting to have sex until they're "sealed in the holy bond of marriage" is pretty much dead. A study from the Guttmacher Institute showed that 95 percent of people had sex before they married, which means there's a combined greater likelihood of surviving the Hindenburg and being stabbed in the heart than being a virgin on your wedding day.

In fact, 48 percent of women moved in with a man they weren't married to between 2006 and 2010. If there's a good chance that the bride and groom have had sex together, they've probably also taken a vacation together. As a result, "the honeymoon is less likely to be a major turning point in their relationship," Professor W. Bradford Wilcox told The New York Times.

Also, honeymoons are pretty damn expensive, adding to the costs of a pretty damn expensive wedding. Considering that the average wedding costs about $28,000, there just might not be the cash leftover to do a luxurious, two-week-long, sex-filled vacation. In this economy, it makes sense for many couples to just opt out of the expensive suites with chilled Champagne and rose petals littering the bed.

Which leads to another issue: Weddings have become not only costly but also highly stressful affairs filled with tremendous pressure to look perfect and entertain hundreds of guests. Spending a ton of money, making sure your octogenarian aunt remains happy and alive for three hours, and dieting for three months to fit into a designer wedding dress doesn't actually provide you with the desire, let alone the stamina, for a night of crazy hot sex.

Sex and relationship expert Dan Savage, writing in the Seattle Stranger has articulated a solution to this conundrum in characteristically forthright fashion:

At the end of your wedding day you'll be too physically and emotionally drained to fuck each other. If you don't fuck first, i.e., before the ceremony, you might not fuck at all on your wedding day, and then you'll have to worry about What It Means that you didn't fuck on your wedding day. Or, worse yet, you'll force yourselves to fuck on your wedding night, despite your exhaustion and all the food in your stomach. [Seattle Stranger]

But whatever you do, don't put the pressure on yourself that first night — after all, you have a lifetime of sex ahead of you. "There will be plenty of time for passionless fucking after you have kids or you're sick of each other," writes Savage. "Whichever comes first."

Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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