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French Quarter wedding second line
French Quarter wedding second line
Wedding Second Line

Plan Your Second Line

What is a Second Line?

One of the most popular traditions during New Orleans weddings is the famous second line parade.  At a wedding if signifies the start of a new beginning of life for the bride and groom.  A Brass band leads the bridal party and the guests from the ceremony to the reception venue or it may take place at the reception itself.  A second line parade has two parts.  The first line is usually a brass band and the ones being honored, the newlyweds.  The newly married couple leads the second line holding uniquely decorated umbrellas or parasols. Many couples opt to add a grand marshal, an energetic local who heads the parade. All of the guests who want to join in the celebration make up the second line.  The guests form a line behind the band and the newly married couple dance to lively music with handkerchiefs or cocktail napkins in hand!

There are a number of options to help you plan your second-line parade. For those couples who don’t want to worry with the details, here are recommended companies that can help alleviate the stress of planning your second-line parade and specialize in second-line parade coordination on a daily basis.

For adventurous couples, the step-by-step second-line detailed process is below.
Wedding Second Line

How to Plan a Second Line

Step 1: Plan your Route

Once you have your ceremony and reception locations set, start planning out your second line route. If your venues are close together, consider using the secondline to move your guests from your ceremony to your reception. Second lines can be as long or short as you'd like but be aware that many guests may not be comfortable walking for too long in wedding attire. Many second line routes are about six to eight blocks long. Also be sure to parade in the same direction of traffic. The parade escorts will close the streets for your festivities, however you may end up having to hire more escorts if you parade "against" traffic on a one-way street.

Step 2: Get your Permit

After choosing your Second Line parade route, you will need to file a permit with the City of New Orleans. The ‘Master Event Application’ and ‘Supplement C-Parade Form’ are available online under www.Nola.gov/OneStop and must be submitted to One Stop Shop no later than 1 ½ to 2 months prior to the parade date. Permit cost is $200.25. (Prices are subject to change.)

Have an idea of your route, start and end location and how many people you expect to have parade with you. When completing the ‘Master Event Application’, all sections will be ‘No’ (including additional questions) until you get to the ‘Parades’ section, where you will check the ‘Yes’ box. Link to more information and application with the City of New Orleans One Stop: Click here

Step 3: Hire a City Mandated Parade Escort

After One Stop receives Parade Permit a notification of the event will be sent to the New Orleans Police Department, Special Events Division and they will contact the couple to finalize all details. Escorts are required to close streets to vehicular traffic and include two officers at the front of the parade and one officer as a tail car (minimum of 3 officers). Cost of the escort starts at $384.98 for up to 300 people. Additional officers are $116 each and may be needed for groups larger than 300 people or for large intersection closures. (Prices are subject to change.)

Step 4: Hire a brass band

Once you start your paperwork, begin researching brass bands. Many second lines are lead by a 3-6 piece walking brass band. Prices vary based on how many musicians you have but range between $500 - $1,500 on average. Also be sure to communicate if you prefer the band dress in a coordinating uniform or suit. (Prices are subject to change.)

Here is a list of local bands & DJs.

Step 5: Hire Mardi Gras Indians (Optional)

Want to add a little Mardi Gras to your wedding?  One of New Orleans favorite traditions comes from the African-American culture, Mardi Gras Indians.

Even though the origin of the tradition is unknown, the century old tradition of certain New Orleans’ African-American males dressing on Mardi Gras Day in elaborate Indian costumes has become a staple of our community.

Many brides pay homage to the Mardi Gras Indian tradition by including it into part of their wedding celebration.  Whether, leading the second line parade or announcing the Bride and Groom at the reception – the Mardi Gras Indians are a show stopper.

Step 6: Purchase parasols and handkerchiefs

No second line is complete without parasols for the couple and handkerchiefs for the guests. Choose to personalize your handkerchiefs with your names and wedding date for a special favor. Many local screen printing shops can work with you to come up with the perfect design. Additionally the happy couple is set apart from the rest of their guests by waving and dancing with custom decorated parasols. Common designs include wedding dates, feathers and other embellishments on either white or black parasols. Traditionally, a local family member will decorate the umbrellas and present them as a gift to the couple. Many local Mardi Gras stores and print shops sell these umbrellas decorated or couples can find them on craft websites for purchase. 

Here is a list of local print shops & favor stores.