Before we get into “how to” make your New Orleans Wedding Second Line happen, let’s jump back in time a bit……
Understand the significance of the second line:
Simply put, in a New Orleans street parade, whether it be for the occasion of a funeral or a celebration, the group leading the parade and the brass band that accompanies them are considered the parade’s “Main Line.” The large group of revelers and onlookers who invariably follow along behind, enjoying the music and the social scene, are the “Second Line.” Traditionally, Second Lines would form organically and without planning whenever a procession would take place.
In New Orleans African-American Creole culture, Second Lines are the community event of the week. They take place on most Sunday afternoons throughout the year (minus major holidays and the hottest part of summer) and they allow the community to congregate and celebrate.
Know your history:
The earliest Second Lines seem to have taken place after funerals. The merging of European and African customs led to early forms of what are commonly known as “jazz funerals.” A band would accompany a hearse and mourners to the cemetery, playing dirges along the way. After the body was interred, the procession would leave the cemetery with the band playing happy tunes, looking back with joy at the life of the deceased and celebrating the fact that the revelers are still alive.
Through the years second lines became very popular for wedding celebrations, and any celebration around here for that matter. Now you’ll come across second lines for weddings, conferences, Mardi Gras, and funerals, or even just because! There aren’t many traditions that are more exciting than having your own personal parade!
Planning Your New Orleans Wedding Second Line!
- Secure your parade permit: You need to visit the City of New Orleans One Stop website to download the Supplement C-Parade form and submit forms and fees as early as possible, but no later than 15 days prior to the event, to One Stop Shop, City Hall, Seventh floor, 1300 Perdido St., New Orleans, LA 70112. The permit is $50.25.
- Book your police escort: Police escort is $100 per officer, plus a one-time $25 fee paid to the Police and Justice Foundation. The size of the group determines the number of officers, but typically two motorcycle police officers and one car can cover a wedding second line. The police escort and pre-planned route are necessary as there could easily be up to ten 2nd-lines going through the Quarter on a Friday or Saturday night. The police can plan the route accordingly so your parade doesn’t intersect with others. The sooner you get your route submitted the better chance you have of getting your preferred route!
- Time to hire your brass band: The band can truly make or break your 2nd Line so don’t just hire the first band you come across! White Oak Productions is a very helpful site with several popular bands listed for you to choose from. We suggest also checking local wedding forums like The Knot.com and WeddingWire.com for personal reviews. Some of the bands we’ve personally worked with and have had great experiences are Kinfolk Brass Band, Pinstripe Brass Brand, Storyville Stompers, Treme Brass Band and the Soul Rebels Brass Band. Most brass bands will be able to line up a Grand Marshall for you as well!
- Time to accessorize and make your parade personal: The custom-designed umbrellas are the most important items for you and your groom. They can be classic black and white with embellishments or vintage lace, or you can decorate them to feature your favorite sports team or to feature the colors of your wedding. For other accessories there are other options such as customized koozies, Mardi Gras style go-cups so guests can take a drink along with them, and of course the traditional 2nd Line handkerchief. Here are some umbrella resources….. 2nd Line Umbrellas Etsy Umbrellas
- How to fully enjoy your 2nd Line and get great photos: Kinda sounds like a no-brainer right? Well, after photographing tons of 2nd Lines and participating in quite a few of our own, we’ve learned a few things that can really enhance the experience.
- For the best pictures, other than absolutely throwing caution to the wind and completely enjoying the moment, when dancing down the street next to your spouse, carry your umbrella in your outside hands. This allows y’all to get really close, shoulder to shoulder, and the umbrellas in the air on each side of you helps frame you up perfectly and give you a wall-worthy photo!
- Some people will have you march in front of the band, some directly behind the band but in front of your guests……we say life, and 2nd Lines, are too short to stay in one place. Move those feet and dance from the front of the line to the very back! The guests pulling up the rear will love getting the chance to dance with y’all and as you make your way through the crowd it always gets everyone excited and cheering for y’all!
- Bride, make sure your dress is bustled really well or full of safety pins. You don’t want to have an umbrella in one hand and a dress train in the other. A to-go cocktail is really preferable over the dress train! Don’t worry about the dirt on the ground. CheyAnne’s dress bottom was totally black by the end of ours and it all came clean.
- Bride, have a comfortable pair of shoes you can change into with an appropriate sized heel so the dress doesn’t drag excessively. The bridal wedge flip-flop is pretty popular.
Second Lines provide such amazing memories! For us it was the second best part of the day after our own First Look. And our out of town guests still talk about the second line! We hope this helps you plan your first parade as a married couple, and we look forward to documenting it all for you! Happy Planning!