Just like with every other aspect of weddings, the rules are changing when it comes to wedding parties. It’s out with the old—the bride and groom’s sides should be symmetrical, everyone should be dressed alike, and so on—and in with the new: Couples can do whatever they want, and include whomever they want.
“Anyone who does a wedding party knows how political it gets,” says Annie Lee, principal planner of Miami-, Los Angeles-, and New York-based firm Daughter of Design. As the author of Learn to Speak Wedding—a flashcard primer for those planning weddings—she’s well-versed in the traditional way of doing things, but she encourages couples to be a bit more flexible. If there’s a young teen important in your life, include him (whether it throws off the symmetry or not)! We’ve heard of junior bridesmaids—so why not junior groomsmen?
There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines to any role, but especially this one; it should be molded to the individual, depending on age and maturity level. Here, we’ll provide a framework of what the junior groomsman should wear, when he should walk, and what he should do—but take it with a grain of ceremonial rice.
Meet the Expert
What is a Junior Groomsman?
So when does a junior groomsmen join a wedding party? “I’m thinking of a dad’s second marriage, or an older brother’s wedding,” Lee says. “That is often why there is a junior groomsman, when it’s a second marriage where the parent is involved.” It’s important to include existing family members to show how the two families are coming together. If children of the couple aren’t involved, the junior groomsman might also be a nephew, cousin, or close family friend.
How Does He Differ From the Rest of the Groomsmen?
A junior groomsman differs from a full groomsman in a few important ways. First and foremost, in age: Junior groomsmen are not technically adults. 18 and up is safe to be a groomsman while 21 and older should definitely be a groomsman. But, they’re not little boys. In that case, they might be a ring bearer instead. “Age is hard [to peg], because children develop at different levels,” Lee explains. "But, I would say ages 10-18 [could be junior groomsmen].” Emily Post errs even younger: The etiquette go-to pegs ring bearers as ages three to seven, so junior groomsmen could start at eight.
A junior groomsman’s commitment level is also different, in at least one large way: financially. “They’re not expected to chip in any of the costs,” Lee says. So, if you’re going in on a fancy gift for the groom, leave the junior groomsman out. He also likely won’t pay for his suit or tuxedo rental (and you should be cognizant of loading this financial burden onto his parents). There are certain ancillary wedding events the junior groomsman isn’t required to be at—or shouldn't be invited to at all. Namely, the bachelor party, Lee says, for obvious reasons.
What Does He Do?
“The role is kind of in-between,” Lee says. “He doesn’t have the duties of carrying the ring pillow—which is a step below—and he doesn’t have the financial or social duties of the groomsmen. He’s kind of just an honorary guest that participates in the wedding party, but doesn’t really have any specific roles or duties.” That said, take a gauge of his interest and comfortability levels and delegate small duties accordingly to make him feel involved and included. “It’s good to give him some kind of responsibility or purpose,” Lee says. Here are some ideas:
- Leading up to the wedding, you can get the junior grooman involved in some of the easier, kid-friendly decisions, especially if he’s your own child and would have fun with it. Cake tasting? Yes, please!
- Bring him along to shop with the groom and groomsmen for suits or tuxedos.
- The day of the wedding, depending on his age, the junior groomsman can help with some of the usher’s duties: laying the aisle runner, passing out programs, or corralling guests from cocktail hour into the reception.
- He could do a reading at the ceremony, or “if there are any production [needs]—hands required—the junior groomsman could take that role,” Lee says. Need props brought in for a special rite or tradition being incorporated, such as a sand ritual, glass breaking, or jumping the broom? Leave it to the junior groomsman.
- At the reception, a junior groomsman isn’t likely to give a speech, but he can perform other duties, such as overseeing the guest book or helping guests find their seats.
What Should He Wear?
“Since the junior groomsman is standing up with everybody, I would want there to be some uniformity—if there is uniformity at all,” Lee says. “A lot of grooms these days just say, ‘black suit, white shirt, black tie,' but let each groomsman pick the lapel they want. The junior groomsman should follow the same schematic as everyone else.” If groomsmen aren’t matching, likewise it’s fine for a junior groomsman to vary his look slightly, based on age and available sizing. As for personal flowers such as boutonnieres, “treat him with the same rules you would the groomsmen,” Lee says.
If you do want the junior to look the same as the others but his size isn’t available, you can always go the custom route. This would be a nice gesture for mature older teens, who may be able to get a lot of use out of the tux for a long time, whereas someone young will grow out of it quickly. Again, be aware of the financial constraint if you’re expecting mom and dad to pick up the tab. For younger junior groomsmen, plenty of tux and suit labels and rental companies offer kid’s sizing. Check out Appaman, J.Crew, or H&M.
When Does He Walk, and Where Should He Stand?
For the processional, Lee’s inclination is that the junior groomsman should go right before the ring bearer. “It’s kind of based on seniority,” Lee says. “The ring bearer and flower girl tend to go right before the bride, so I would put the junior groomsman toward the end. However, if he is the brother of someone [in the party], or something where it makes sense to put him earlier, that’s totally fine too.” If there is a junior bridesmaid in the party, he can walk alongside her.
Once at the altar, typically he will stand among the groomsmen, regardless of whose side of the family he is on—“in the same way that you see a brother of the bride be a groomsman,” Lee says. But she adds that nowadays, things are much more flexible. “I just had two men in the bridal party on the bride’s side, and I’ve seen a sister of the groom be the ‘best woman’ and stand next to him.”
Your Wedding is Adults-Only. Can You Still Have a Junior Groomsman?
“Even for adults-only weddings, the caveat is always ‘except your immediate family,’” Lee says. “Or, whoever you choose to be in your wedding party.” So you can definitely still include junior members—just use your discretion on whether or not they stay for the reception and afterparty. “Depending on age and attention span, they can be whisked away at some point,” Lee says. “It’s kind of a drag for parents to watch them or for them to just be the only kids there.”
Ultimately what it comes down to is this: Each couple can make their own decision for the wedding party, and include who they want in whatever role they want, regardless of age or gender. Having a junior groomsman is a fun way to get younger family members involved and excited about the nuptials—and he’s guaranteed to be showing everyone the latest TikTok trend on the dance floor.