What It’s Like To Wait Until Marriage To Share a First Kiss
Top image: Abdul Hafiz

“And now, would you like to kiss your bride?” 

Excited gasps erupt from the guests packed into the pews of Moulmein Church of Christ. The beaming groom and bashful bride dissolve into giggles as they grasp hands before leaning in to touch their lips together. 

It’s quick; it’s chaste; it’s pure. It’s the couple’s first kiss together.  

Joye and Natthan Lee, both 23, have elected to save themselves—and their first kiss—for marriage. 

In an era of embracing sex positivity and pre-marital sex is no longer taboo, it’s perhaps an odd choice to many. At least, it was one that quite a few internet commenters couldn’t wrap their heads around. 

A snippet of the moment, posted onto Joye’s TikTok, racked up over 103,000 views as of writing. And more than a few nasty comments.

Video: Thereeljoye / TikTok

Admittedly, when the clip first showed up on my feed, I thought I’d misread Joye’s caption. Yes, they had indeed chosen to lock lips for the first time (!) with their friends and family bearing witness. 

All things considered, it was a tender, lighthearted moment: Two newlyweds giddy with joy with their loved ones egging the pair on, even cheekily requesting a second kiss. 

The online reaction, however, was a different story. While some fawned over the two, others—complete strangers to Joye, mind you—saw fit to leave comments criticising the newlyweds’ choice. They ranged from regular old internet hate (“What in the 1800s”) to straight-up invasive (“End up no experience sex no good”). 

Generally speaking, Singapore’s still conservative. But for the younger, more sexually-liberal crowd living on TikTok, a romantic relationship without make-out sessions seems unfathomable. 

At its core, sex positivity is supposed to be about openness and not about judgement. In our quest to normalise sex and purge it of negative stigma, have we swung too far the other way? It’s now not okay to shame someone for having sex… but why do we still shame virgins? 

First kiss wedding
Image: Abdul Hafiz

Married at 23

When most strangers hear the couple’s story, the same few assumptions come up: That Joye and Natthan are repressed or that they rushed into marriage in order to get physically intimate.

They’d be wrong on both counts. 

Joye tells me they got to know one another in New Creation Church. Their first meeting was virtual, an online church camp held at the height of the pandemic. They’d started out as friends but hit it off and officially got together in April 2022. Just over a year later, in April 2023, they were officially husband and wife.

Marriage was a commitment that they both wanted to make, and that felt natural for them, Joye tells me. Unlike the traditional BTO route the typical Singaporean couple takes, they are currently still living with their parents. They take turns sleeping over at each other’s places. 

Cliched as it sounds, when you know, you know. 

“The love and commitment we have to one another overpower all daily life things.”

first kiss relationship
Image: Courtesy of Joye Lee

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t working towards having their own home eventually—it’s just going to take some time. 

Joye graduated in baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America under the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) last September. Natthan, on the other hand, is still studying. He’s a third-year computer science student at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). 

Both of them hadn’t always wanted to get married young, but as the relationship progressed, they naturally wanted to take their commitment to the next level. The pair started talking about marriage even before deciding to save their first kiss for the ceremony, Joye clarifies. 

She smiles sheepishly as she tells me that it all started when Natthan tried to kiss her about one month into dating. It was her first relationship, and she’d dodged the kiss because she didn’t feel ready. 

“Not because I didn’t want to or anything. Like, I really love him. But I think I was shy.” 

Not wanting Natthan to feel bad, she suggested saving their first kiss for “a better time”. Those words stuck with him. 

They’d contemplated saving it for a special occasion like Christmas—until Natthan suggested waiting till the wedding for the kiss. 

“My heart melted. I didn’t expect him to suggest something like that at all. Not especially when he was eager to kiss me in the first month of our relationship,” says Joye. 

The suggestion was a “precious, precious” one that showed her his patience and commitment, she gushes.

First kiss wedding
Image: Isabelle Monteiro

She rubbishes any notion of the pair being repressed or touch-averse. Both of them enjoy long hugs, cheek and forehead kisses, and warm cuddles. They’ve just decided that kissing on the lips (and sex) can wait till marriage. 

Joye explains: “We don’t see this as a restriction at all. To us, it’s like saving the best for last. Kind of like saving dessert for after the main course. Like choosing not to open up presents before Christmas.”

Instead of sex, intimacy comes in the form of words. Their conversations can turn into “words of affirmation marathons” where they wrestle over who’s “more perfect” in the other’s eyes. 

“It may sound cheesy, but trust me when I tell you that intentionally appreciating every little thing of one another does great wonders for the relationship.”

Image: Courtesy of Joye Lee

No Shame in Being a Virgin

It does seem that saving physical milestones after marriage has worked for the pair. They’re still as loved up as ever.

They’re so inseparable that Natthan hovers in the background during my video call with Joye. (Not in a creepy way, though—they just enjoy each other’s company.) 

They’re clearly happy. So why the presumptuous online comments assuming they aren’t? 

It’s almost as if the growing openness about sex has led to more judgement against those who choose not to have it. 

Sex is portrayed as a key relationship milestone in popular culture, whether it’s the fade-to-black innuendo you see in most Korean dramas or the gratuitous sex scenes in shows like Euphoria (set in high school, no less).

And here in Singapore, attitudes to pre-marital sex are opening up. According to the World Population Review, Singaporeans have 7.2 sexual partners on average. 

There is, however, an age divide. In a 2019 IPS study, about 47 percent of those aged 18 to 25 said they weren’t opposed to pre-marital sex. But only 16 percent of those older than 65 agreed.

When Joye shared her life’s journey with Natthan on her TikTok and Instagram, all she wanted was to share their joy. She jokes that a majority of the views on her early videos are all from her—because she loves rewatching their clips together. 

Image: Courtesy of Joye Lee

While she appreciates the positive comments, Joye admits she was caught off guard by commenters who assumed she was somehow depriving Natthan of physical affection.

Other unexpected comments include crude analogies about test driving before buying a car.

It was especially jarring for her as their friends and family had been incredibly supportive and excited for them, says Joye. 

“Because of mainstream media today, I don’t blame them at all. But all I wanted to do is to share a different perspective.”

“I think I felt that, hey, you know, it’s not a bad idea to showcase our unique journey together and joy in waiting for marriage. To show that there is no shame in being a virgin.”

Now, over a month after the wedding, Joye shares that the pair have no regrets about saving themselves for marriage: “It feels very special keeping something so precious and sacred. Having the privilege of looking forward to it and enjoying it together—it’s a special kind of joy that cannot be replicated.”

“Definitely in a relationship, obviously kissing and making out is fun, but I think for us, just personally, waiting and looking forward to it together was especially fun.”

Image: Courtesy of Joye Lee

A Wholesome Love

In the era of online dating, short-term relationships are easier since dating prospects are often from outside your social circle, and things often turn sexual more quickly, experts tell The Guardian.

Dating apps allow people to declare on their profiles that they’re looking for “short-term fun”. 

Dating culture these days emphasises sexual compatibility. But is carnal knowledge of one another a prerequisite for a happy marriage or a commitment? 

For Joye and Natthan, their chemistry was obvious even before they got physical, Joye affirms. I ask how she knew he was The One.

“I think the one word I can use to describe our relationship is compatible.”

“We were very intentional about talking about everything under the sun, like really getting to know one another. Not just, you know, making small talk on Telegram.”

Their shared faith also shaped the way they love each other, she says, describing it as “more truly, strongly and unconditionally”.

Even without sexual intimacy, they’d connected so deeply that saying goodbye to each other was always the hardest part of their dating period, says Joye. She admits to tearing up sometimes when they had to part. 

Fortunately, that isn’t an issue anymore.

“Marriage has given us the privilege to sleep and wake up together. And I think waking up to a wholesome love like this is a privilege.” 

That’s not to say that physical attraction doesn’t play a role in their relationship. The pair make it a point to affirm their attraction for each other constantly. For example, Joye gushes that Natthan looks more and more handsome to her each day, and “even Kim Soo Hyun can’t compare”. 

That’s how you know she’s really into her man. 

Can Sex Positivity Include Abstinence? 

Of course, what little I know about Joye and Natthan’s relationship is limited to what she’s told me and the little snippets she shares online (mainly saccharine sweet couples content). 

Things could be far less rosy for all we know. But the same can be said of other sexually-active couples. 

After picking Joye’s brain, it’s obvious that she and Natthan are just like other loved-up Gen Z couples.

They simply want to share the highlights of their lives. Their love story just happens to look a little different from their peers.

Instead of being like everyone else by delaying marriage and engaging in pre-marital sex, they’ve done the opposite. And it was their choice to do so.

Honestly, more power to them. In a time where dating is fraught with arbitrary rules and finding true love is harder than striking a lottery, any healthy relationship is worth celebrating. Much less for a couple ignoring the noise and doing what feels right to them. 

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