The tradition for the second line handkerchief originated from the famous New Orleans jazz funerals. Many involved in the second line would either have an umbrella or parasol to add to the spirit of the precession. Those who did not have the umbrellas and wanted to join in the festivities would grab the nearest white handkerchief to wave in the air. The white handkerchiefs were often in the pockets of the gentleman in the old days, or the ladies personal handkerchief. Today any paper or cloth napkin has been used to wave in the air to allow you to join in and be part of the fun.
The true origin of the second line umbrella was never really documented, but the common sense of necessity combined with the rigors of a second line stroll through the French Quarter or older neighborhoods of New Orleans before air conditioning hit the city makes it easy to figure out. The idea of carrying an umbrella for shade was very common and it was also a symbol of southern style, femininity and grace. This umbrella became an accessory of choice for many southern weddings and was often an indicator of societal statue. Second Line Umbrellas now reflect attitude and personal style as they twirl and spin as if to say “laissez les bons temps rouler”!
One of the most popular traditions during New Orleans weddings is the famous Second Line. At a wedding if signifies the start of a new beginning of life for the bride and groom. The Second Line Band leads the bridal party and the guests from the church to the reception venue or it may take place at the reception itself. A Second Line has two parts. The first line is usually a brass band and the ones being honored, the bride and groom. The newly married couple leads the Second Line holding uniquely decorated umbrellas or parasols. All of there guest who want to join in the celebration make up the Second Line. They form a line behind the band and the newly married couple, dancing and strutting to the lively music with handkerchiefs or cocktail napkins!