As a Registrar I saw every type of emotion on a wedding day including joy, sadness, anxiety, wonder, envy, boredom and even anger. I also saw so many tears that I had to carry tissues with me during every ceremony. You might imagine that I would hand them out to overwhelmed brides, but more often than not it was the groom who broke down in tears.
I think in part this is because men are conditioned to not show their emotions, so on their wedding day, when their defences are down but they are trying to 'man up', the dam breaks and they cry uncontrollably. I also think that it is a release of nerves. Some grooms giggle, some stay robotically stony-faced and others cry. Or perhaps it's just my perception. Men aren't supposed to cry so when they do it sticks in my mind.
I personally don't subscribe to the theory that men crying is a sign of weakness. I see the confidence in being able to show emotions as a sign of strength.
There is one particular wedding ceremony that I remember in relation to crying grooms.
It took place in the Register Office and the couple were very young, for a modern wedding ceremony anyway, both under 20. He was in the army and he was due to go on a tour of duty so the wedding had been arranged just before he was due to fly out to Afghanistan.
The groom was dressed in full military dress, as were all the men on the front row on his side of the room. He was very nervous before the ceremony and could barely answer any of our questions. He frequently blushed bright red and seemed very shy. I wondered how he would manage to repeat his vows in front of all of his guests.
In the event I had to call the ceremony to a halt before we even got to that stage.
The music went on, the doors opened and the bride entered. The groom started crying. The bride joined him at the front. The music stopped. The groom was sobbing. I paused before I began the ceremony to give him a chance to compose himself. He was weeping uncontrollably now. The squaddies in the front row began to twitch.
I started the ceremony, having to raise my voice over his blubbing. I hoped that by diverting attention onto me, he would be able to pull himself together.
The groom continued to sob as if the world was coming to an end. He could barely stand. The bride took his hands in hers but it just made him worse. Every time he made eye contact with her his knees buckled.
I handed him a tissue but it disappeared almost instantly amidst the torrent emerging from his tear ducts. His tears were splashing the table in front of him and rolling off like a waterfall.
The groom's soldier mates were dreadfully uncomfortable now, and shifted in their seats as they looked on with stony faces.
'Dave. Dave. Sort yourself out,' one of them hissed.
But it was too late for that. 'Are you okay to carry on?' I asked. 'Sniff...I...blub, blub...I...sob, sob...I...'
He was ugly crying now. His cheeks were sodden with salty rivers, his face was red raw with exertion, and he was blowing snot bubbles from his nose. It was clear that he couldn't continue.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' I said. 'I am going to pause the ceremony for a few moments.'
I took the bride and groom into the now empty waiting area where it took Dave a good five minutes to stop crying.
I'll never forget the looks on the faces of those front-row squaddies as we returned to the room. They were ashen faced and ashamed, as if they'd lost a vital battle.
I wonder how Dave fared in his tour of Afghanistan, just after the wedding?
Photograph kindly shared through Creative Commons by Axel Naud via Flickr