Parents of boy meet parents of girl. An arranged marriage is fixed and a date set. Cut to the day of wedding. The couple ties the knot. In the bedroom, as the man and woman move closer to each other, the light dims and the audience in India takes the director’s cue – the newlyweds have sex.
This is how scores of films and TV serials in India have portrayed the “first night”.
But real life happens to be quite different and couples may not have sex on the night of their wedding. The common reasons being that the couple may be exhausted by the end of the wedding festivities, and in the case of a conservative arranged marriage, the bride and groom may not even be very comfortable with each other in the first place.
The question “How long do couples wait to get intimate in an arranged marriage?” on Quora has received several responses from social media users – some interesting, and a few even quite disturbing.
By Gaurav Vaz/ Pickle Jar
An anonymous user, sharing her experience, wrote that she and her husband had sex only when they grew comfortable with each other.
“We got off the plane & went straight to our hotel. To be honest, that’s when I finally realized I was on a HONEYMOON! PEOPLE GO ON HONEYMOON TO HAVE SEX! All the first-night jokes my friends cracked were coming back to me. My husband had paid for a 2-week UK tour for us himself. He didn’t take money from his dad, my dad, or even from my savings despite my repeated insistence. And I have a lot of male friends, so I know how guys think. He was spending a lot of money, & guys usually expect action when they splurge on a girl they aren’t in love with. So yes, I was shitting my pants,” she writes.
What her husband told her that night, she said, laid the foundation of their relationship. He told her, “We will someday make love, but you don’t owe it to me. Let it come naturally, & we’ll enjoy every step of falling in love as it comes.”
Describing his experience, another anonymous user narrated how his was an arranged marriage, but “we did not wait till our wedding to do what couples do on their special night”.
The user and his fiancé used to meet before their marriage, something which was prohibited according to their customs.
He recalled a day when both of them were alone in her flat: “Both of us had been on a couple of dates before but we were never in such a situation before. To break the ice, she started talking about something. After a few minutes, there was again complete silence. She came close to me and kissed me on the cheek. I was awestruck. I was unable to fathom what just happened. She then told me to kiss her back. I was reluctant at first, but then I thought that she can consider breaking off the marriage because of this incident. I kissed her back on the cheek. They were simply small pecks as in what you give to a child.”
A user who got married around eight years ago describes how he and his fiancé got intimate on their first date and yet did not “go all the way” till the day of their wedding, mostly due to space and privacy constraints. “We finally got married and went all the way in a 5 * Star Hotel on the very night of the marriage.”
Anup J Kat/ Pickle Jar
Not everyone, though, had a memorable tale to tell.
One user described the trauma a friend went through after her wedding.
The user wrote, “Her husband forced her sex on the third day of her marriage. They even didn’t meet before marriage nor had any good conversation. She said she felt like a slave in those days.”
A vast majority of Indians still prefer arranged marriages, with a 2013 survey suggesting that around 75% prefer their family picking their future life partner.
Not having sex on the night of marriage is, however, not exclusive to arranged marriages and can also hold true for love marriages.
A survey of newlyweds, conducted by a UK company, found that 52% don’t have sex on their wedding night.
Some of the most common reasons stated were that the groom was too drunk, the bride was exhausted and fell asleep, arguments during the wedding reception and staying up all night partying.
Speaking about the change in attitudes towards the honeymoon, W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, had told The New York Times in 2012, “Today, when about 65 percent of couples cohabitate prior to marriage, the honeymoon is less likely to be a major turning point in their relationship.”
Another survey by lingerie brand Bluebella also had similar findings with more than half of newlyweds saying that they did not have sex on the night of their wedding.
“Couples are under so much pressure these days to have a ‘perfect day’ that it is refreshing that so many are defying expected norms and doing exactly what they want. If that means saving the ‘wedding night’ until they can really enjoy it, then why not?” Emily Bendell, chief executive, Bluebella, told Bustle.
According to the survey’s finding, 16 per cent of the respondents said they were disappointed by wedding night sex and nine percent waited for two days before getting intimate.