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How to Plan a Perfect Second Line Parade for Your New Orleans Wedding

Bride and groom leading a vibrant Second Line Parade with umbrellas and brass band on a New Orleans street.

A New Orleans wedding is a spectacular celebration that combines heartfelt festivities with deep-rooted traditions. Among these, the Second Line parade stands out as a quintessential expression of local culture. This lively procession, complete with brass bands and dancing, is not just a means of moving from ceremony to reception but a unique and memorable way to celebrate your union.

What is the History of the Second Line in New Orleans Weddings?

The Second Line has its roots in the African American jazz funerals of New Orleans. Traditionally, the “main line” or “first line” includes the family, the brass band, and the hearse carrying the deceased, while the “second line” refers to the friends and onlookers who follow the band to enjoy the music, dance, and celebrate life. Today, this tradition is a staple in New Orleans weddings, symbolizing the start of a new beginning for the bride and groom with the same vibrancy and communal spirit.


Checklist for a New Orleans Wedding Parade

Plan Your Route: Once the ceremony and reception venues are booked, map out your parade route. A popular choice is using the Second Line to lead guests from the ceremony to the reception, making the journey part of the celebration. If they’re in the same place, a second line allows time and space for vendors to transform the space.

Get Your Permit: Once you have mapped out your route, you’ll need to file for a permit with the City of New Orleans. The necessary forms, including the ‘Master Event Application’ and ‘Supplement C-Parade Form’, are available at These should be submitted to the One Stop Shop at least 1 ½ to 2 months prior to your parade date.

Hire a City Mandated Parade Escort: New Orleans requires a minimum of three police officers to escort your parade—two at the front and one as a tail car. This is necessary to close streets to vehicular traffic. The cost starts at $384.98 for up to 300 people, with additional officers needed for larger groups or complex routes at $116 each.

Hire a Brass Band: A five-piece brass band is ideal for leading the parade, providing the soulful, upbeat ensemble that defines a Second Line. While five musicians can deliver an energetic performance, consider that the more pieces you add, the richer and more vibrant the sound becomes—enhancing the celebration. You can hire a company to handle all logistics for you: either a wedding planner or second line specific.

Purchase Parasols and Handkerchiefs: No Second Line parade would be complete without custom parasols for the couple and handkerchiefs for the guests. Traditionally, the couple of honor distinguish themselves by twirling specially decorated parasols. These parasols can either be black or white and are available for purchase from local stores, craft websites, or customized by local artisans.

Tips for Hosting a Successful Second Line Wedding Parade

Keep it Short: A 10-15 minute walk is best. It keeps the energy high and ensures all guests can enjoy the parade without getting too tired.

Refreshments On Hand: Take advantage of New Orleans‘ liberal open container laws by offering refreshments in aluminum or plastic containers for the Second Line parade—glass is not allowed.

Customize Your Handkerchiefs: Personalize the Second Line  handkerchiefs with your initials, wedding date, or a custom design. Consider attaching a small tag that explains the history and significance of the Second Line. This educates guests about the tradition and adds a personal touch to your wedding keepsakes.

Inform Guests About What to Expect: Make sure your guests know they will be part of a Second Line. Explain the tradition, the route, and how they can participate to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Explore the option of providing pedicabs for guests who cannot walk the route. 

Comfortable Footwear: Encourage guests to wear comfortable shoes. Dancing down the streets can be demanding (especially in New Orleans), and comfortable footwear will help everyone enjoy the parade to the fullest. Brides, this goes for you too! Bring a pair of shoes to change into before the Second Line

By following this guide, your New Orleans wedding parade will not only honor a beloved local tradition but also create a memorable experience that you and your guests will cherish forever. Let the good times roll, and let your love shine as bright as the brass during your Second Line