Ask pretty much any married couple and we’re willing to bet they’ll tell you their wedding night wasn’t all candles and rose petals and white lacy lingerie you see in rom-coms. You planned a wedding, you got married, you celebrated with all of your closest family and friends—by the time you make it back to the bridal suite at the end of the night, washing your face may feel like the world’s most daunting task, forget actually doing the deed. And it turns out that skipping out on wedding night sex isn’t as uncommon as you might think; one survey out of Ireland found that 52 percent of married couples surveyed didn’t have sex on their wedding night.

Sure, things such as a roller coaster of emotions, several of your signature cocktails, and sheer exhaustion can all contribute to the desire to prioritize sleep over sex on the wedding night, but there’s also a very good biological reason why you may not be in the mood. “There are essentially two modes of the nervous system, parasympathetic and sympathetic. Parasympathetic is what we call the ‘rest, digest, and sex’ mode, and you need to be in this state in order to become aroused,” explains. Dr. Katherine Zagone, the Medical Director and Sexual Wellness Expert for the Gentera Center for Regenerative Medicine in Beverly Hills.

On the flip side, the sympathetic mode is what’s commonly referred to as ‘fight or flight,’ our stress response mode, Dr. Zagone says. Your wedding night is filled with all kinds of stressors (though not necessarily bad ones), that can trigger this sympathetic mode. And once you’re in it, it’s pretty much impossible to get in the mood: “Biologically, the body will shut down the mechanisms and ability for arousal when the sympathetic nervous system kicks in,” she explains. Long story short, after all of the stress and hype and excitement and sheer energy of the special day, it can be very challenging—from a physiological perspective—to be excited about or want to have wedding night sex.

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Pro Tips for Wedding Night Sex

So, what can you do about that? If you do feel like you want to have sex for the first time as a married couple on the night of your wedding, it’s important to take a few moments and slow down, helping to calm your mind and body. It may sound slightly (okay, very) cheesy, but Dr. Zagone says something as simple as holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, and deep breathing together can help you start to switch from those aforementioned ‘modes.’ Setting the mood can also help in building anticipation; create a sexy playlist and dim the lights if you can.

But perhaps even more important? Take the pressure off yourselves. No one says you have to have sex on your wedding night, so expectations be damned. Instead, Sexual Essentials’ sex pro Samia Burton says to think ahead to the morning after the wedding as prime sexy time. “Morning sex can be your best friend the day after your big day. Waking up to your partner refreshed and settled in can inspire a renewed sense of intimacy,” she says. Before you head to the wedding brunch, try to plan some time for relaxation, if nothing else, she says, citing things like taking a bubble bath together as a good way to help continue the come down from the night before and help get you in the mood.

She adds that incorporating a sex toy can also be helpful, particularly if you both are still tired: “Bring in reinforcements to make sure everyone is satisfied,” she says. (FYI, that’s also one of her top tips for honeymoon sex.) And to the point of the honeymoon, if you don’t end up having wedding night sex or doing it the morning after, don’t stress about it. You have an entire honeymoon—not to mention your entire lives together—to have plenty of great sex.

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