If you’ve been in New Orleans for any length of time, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen a second line parade. This is New Orleans after all, and we love a celebration! This tradition originated from the African-American custom of second-lining at private funerals, where brass bands play dirges to accompany the hearse and mourners to the cemetery. After the body's interment, the band plays celebratory songs in honor of the life of the deceased. A second line parade at a wedding signifies the start of a new life for the newly married couple. Traditionally, a jazz band followed by the newlyweds leads the bridal party and the guests from the church to the reception venue, but second lines can also be incorporated during or at the end of the reception. The couple will usually carry uniquely decorated umbrellas while the guests wave custom handkerchiefs (or even cocktail napkins!) and dance along the parade route. Your second line parade will likely draw a crowd of spectators snapping photos and shouting their congratulations as you pass or even joining the fun!
There are several factors to consider when planning your second line parade. One of the most comprehensive guides to planning a second line we’ve ever found was written by Katie Walenter and published earlier this year in The Gambit. Below is a summary of her suggestions, but we encourage you to read the entire article HERE.
Step 1: Decide the date and parade route. Usually the location of the ceremony and reception will dictate the route. If the locations are close to one another, most couples will second line from wedding venue to the reception venue. If the wedding and reception will be held at the same location, a second line provides time for the space to be transformed for the reception. If the ceremony and reception locations make second lining from one to the other impossible, some couples will use a second line at the end of their reception for their formal exit. Along St. Charles Avenue, you can charter decorated streetcars complete with brass band accompaniment for the transfer of wedding parties to and from event spaces.
Step 2: Obtain a parade permit and hire police escorts. If your second line will involve public streets/areas, you will need to obtain a permit from the City of New Orleans. You are also required to have police escorts to accompany your parade. You can download the permit HERE. The City charges $50.25 for a parade permit. The fee for police escorts is $100/officer needed (determined by the size of your group) plus a one-time fee of $25 paid to the Police and Justice Foundation. You must submit all forms no later than 15 days prior to your event. If you are planning to have throws (beads, cups, confetti, etc.) the City requires an additional fee for cleanup. For more information visit the City’s website.
STEP 4: Acquire umbrellas, handkerchiefs & other favors to personalize your second line. Many local vendors sell customized wedding favors for second lines including handkerchiefs, umbrellas, koozies, beads, plastic cups, etc. Prices vary for accessories vary greatly depending on the design and materials used. To get price quotes and see items available, check out “Resources” section below.
Other Tips: You could add a Grand Marshal to lead the parade or incorporate the famous Mardi Gras Indians to add even more New Orleans culture to your second line. Consider hiring a pedicab driver for elderly or disabled guests so that they can enjoy the festivities in style without having to walk the route. Also consider hiring a professional planner to coordinate the details and direction to guarantee your parade goes off without a hitch.
Second Line Accessories