What do you think it'll be like to lose your virginity on your wedding night? Expecting a scene out of a romance novel, complete with an attentive husband, rose petals and a toe-curling orgasm?
If you're about to be married, now's a good time to remember you don't live on a movie screen. The first time you have sex can definitely be a precious bonding experience, but chances are it won't be perfect.
As California sexologist Isadora Alman warns, "The first time is often messy, can be painful and can be awkward."
But that doesn't mean you can't be a virgin when you walk down the aisle. A December study from the Journal of Family Psychology found that couples who waited for marriage rated the quality of their sex lives 15 percent higher than those who didn't.
"Sex is not just a physical happening. It's mental. It's emotional. Some people consider it spiritual," says Susanne M. Alexander, a relationship and marriage coach in Cleveland. "That doesn't happen in an instant."
Realistic expectations are key.
Janita was a 30-year-old virgin when she got married and had heard that losing her virginity could be traumatic. Because of her Baptist upbringing and desire to have one sexual partner for life, she and her husband weren't even naked together before marriage. But she trusted him and knew he would be patient with her (he was divorced, so he wasn't a virgin).
On their wedding night they took it slow, allowed plenty of time for foreplay and made use of the hot tub in their hotel room.
"I knew it would be gentle and sweet and precious," remembers Janita, now 46. "It was fantastic. It was a long, nice encounter."
What's an abstinent bride to do?
Visit your gynecologist
Alman says a doctor's visit is in order no matter when you lose your virginity. A gynecologist can prescribe birth control, if you want it. You might also consider having your hymen broken surgically.
Read all about it
Janita advises reading a book about what sex is like and how men and women are different in bed. Alexander agrees, since having a good sex life means understanding what arouses you and how your body responds – some of which you only learn with practice.
"We need to talk"
You and your fiancé probably have different expectations for what your wedding night will be like, Alexander says. So plan it out with him beforehand. Will you wear sexy lingerie? Pop a bottle of champagne before taking your clothes off?
Emphasize that he needs to take it slow and make sure you're warmed up before penetration. And during the encounter, don't be afraid to instruct him on where and when to touch you.
Stop by the drugstore
Experts agree that a good lubricant makes for a much easier first time.
Wait just a little longer
You'll probably be exhausted after the wedding – not the best condition in which to have sex for the first time.
"I can't think of anything worse than losing your virginity on the same day you've been dancing, drinking, greeting relatives," Alman says. You and your fiancé might agree to spend your first night touching and cuddling and have intercourse the next morning when you're more relaxed.
Or if you want to have sex that night, Alexander says it may be smart to have the wedding in the morning or early afternoon.
And if your first time is a dud? Don't worry. You have the rest of your marriage to perfect it.
"Sometimes the best, most mind-blowing sex happens three days later, or a month later, or five years later," Alexander says.
Was your wedding and wedding night what you expected it to be? We want to hear from you!