Deeply rooted in the history of New Orleans, Second Lines have been a part of celebrating life’s most precious moments since the 1800s.
Second Lines stem from the African American tradition of parades for funerals, which feature brass bands leading a procession honoring the departed. They first play hymns and then change to upbeat music to celebrate the departed’s life.
Eventually the tradition crossed over to other events, including weddings, and today, a New Orleans wedding can’t be a New Orleans wedding without a Second Line. Oftentimes, brides can be seen with their intricately designed parasols and grooms with black umbrellas strutting down the city streets with a brass band playing and wedding guests following behind with their handkerchiefs waving in the air.
Whether you are having your Second Line inside of your venue or parading down the crowded streets of the French Quarter, it’s nearly impossible to not have a good time as you share your love with a jazzy beat.
While a Second Line can be a joy to be a part of, planning one involves a lot more than many imagine. To make sure you have a perfect Second Line for your wedding, here’s a quick guide to make sure you parade in style.
Go online to download the Supplement C-Parade permit application at
Submit forms and fees at least 15 days in advance to One Stop Shop,
City Hall, Seventh floor, 1300 Perdido St., New Orleans, LA 70112.
Legalize Your Second Line
While Second Lines often look like impromptu celebrations, a lot of planning and paper work goes into making sure that a Second Line can legally and logistically happen. Permits are required if you will be parading in the streets or in public areas. The amount of the permit fee will depend on what route you take and how many people will be participating. The fee also includes a police escort, a one-time fee to the Police and Justice Foundation, and if your party throws anything during the Second Line (like beads!), then there will also be an additional fee to City Sanitation for clean up.
Map Out Your Route
There is a lot to keep in mind as you plan your route. Traditionally, Second Lines occur right after the ceremony, so you can use the Second Line as fun way to get your guests to the reception. If your ceremony and reception are in the same place, the Second Line is the perfect opportunity to allow the venue staff to “flip” the space from ceremony setup to reception style. However, you can also plan the Second Line for after the rehearsal dinner or at the end of your reception. Make sure to walk your route with a few people before settling on an “official” route to gauge if the distance is too far or uncomfortable. This will also help you avoid construction and other potential problems. You’ll also want to keep timing in mind – communicate with your wedding professionals to determine how much time you can or need to devote to this parade to make your wedding day run smoothly. Planning your route to travel by sentimental spots that are special to the couple is great idea as well. Be sure to tell your photographer and videographer about these in advance so you can get some great photos and videos in these spots!
Be sure to take your guests’ comfort into consideration when planning your Second Line. Be aware
of extreme weather conditions (like summer heat!) and plan accordingly to provide fans or bottled
water to guests before you head out. Providing flip flops for guests who are wearing heels is also a
thoughtful gesture. Also consider guests who might have mobility issues and plan a carriage or
pedi-cab to provide accommodations while allowing these guests to still participate in the parade!
Select the Band
Specifically a brass band. The brass band is the heart and soul of the Second Line. A combination of trumpet, trombone, saxophone, tuba, bass drum and snare drum players, the brass band and Grand Marshal keep the crowd enthused and entertained. Typically, brass bands can be found online or through word of mouth. New Orleans has many brass
bands to choose from but make sure to do your research to find the best fit for you. It’s a good idea to ask how the band will be dressed while performing. Some bands dress up in formal uniforms and others are very casual, so it’s important to find the band that works best for the level of formality for your event.
Personalize Your Second Line
Whether you keep inside your wedding theme or go all out, accessorizing a Second Line is one the best parts of planning one. The newlyweds usually lead the parade with decorated umbrellas or parasols while the rest of the wedding party waves hankies in the air. These can be simple or can be personalized just for the wedding! You can’t really go wrong when it comes to these “extras”. Parasols, handkerchiefs, fans, beads, cups, etc.; choosing something that represents who you are and your love for each other make great additions. There are many companies that create custom designed accessories, so don’t be afraid to design outside the box to get exactly what you want. No matter how or where you plan your Second Line, being surrounded by friends and family with good music and cultural vibes will be the perfect addition to your wedding day.
Consider adding some extra New Orleans flair to your parade by hiring performers to participate in
your parade. Stilt walkers, costumed revelers and Mardi Gras Indians are just a few possibilities you
might consider. An addition of a Grand Marshall is a sure way to demands attention from onlookers,
as he will often blow a whistle to the rhythm of the songs and waves his feathers, dancing through the street.
Featured Image: Brian Jarreau Photography