Trumpet player at a Mardi Gras celebration facing the camera

All About New Orleans Wedding Traditions

New Orleans, Weddings

Few places in the world are as steeped in unique traditions as New Orleans, and when it comes to New Orleans wedding traditions, there are so many to enjoy and appreciate. This unique city offers unforgettable sights, sounds, and fantastic cuisine, and the people here know how to throw a celebration like no other..

A wedding in NOLA is unlike any you’ve attended before. The Mardi Gras City delivers unforgettable events from local customs and traditional wedding food to one-of-a-kind ceremony and reception traditions.

Second-Line Parade

If you’ve ever been to a wedding and wondered what could spice up the proceedings, New Orleans has the answer: a wedding parade. Although this idea has spread nationwide, it all began in the Big Easy in the 1800s. It’s called a second line, with the happy couple and brass musicians in one line and the guests in the other.

Imagine dancing down a tree-lined street with colorful buildings featuring Spanish, French, and Haitian architecture. A second-line march brings everyone alive with laughter and revelry. It’s meant to celebrate the new marriage and become an enduring memory for all to cherish, making it one of the most exciting New Orleans wedding traditions.

There are a few key things to remember about a proper New Orleans wedding parade. First, guests should carry along certain items like handkerchiefs and umbrellas. These items are then waved around grandly as the group makes their way down the street. You might ask, “But how does everyone march down the street in their formal shoes?” Fortunately, it’s common for marchers to wear comfortable shoes for the parade, an excellent second-line tradition that means that high heels or uncomfortable dress shoes don’t ruin the fun.

Adding Notes of the French Quarter

Step into one of the most recognized and historic areas of New Orleans, the French Quarter. It’s not just the ornate architecture or the bright hues that bring this place to life; it has a mood all its own. This unique place with a wonderfully romantic atmosphere makes an excellent backdrop for wedding photos.

The pastel colors of the French Quarter stand in sharp contrast to the brilliant white of traditional wedding dresses. One idea that couples enjoy is taking a stroll through the old neighborhoods with a photographer following along. Beyond just a great picture, this tradition symbolizes a new beginning with the support of long-established history as a foundation.

Food-Related New Orleans Wedding Traditions

When it comes to mouth-watering dishes, New Orleans has many fantastic choices that will leave your guests wanting more. You have options such as seafood fresh from the gulf and local favorites that are rarely found outside the state. These southern-inspired foods are iconic and add charm to any reception.

Popular choices include oysters with creole seasonings for an explosion of flavor. Shrimp and grits is another local favorite and a Southern tradition. Gumbo is a New Orleans classic that will let your guests taste something truly authentic and delicious. A skillful caterer can present these foods in a variety of ways, honoring tradition while adding in some delightful surprises.

Bringing in NOLA Street Food Favorites

One of the most exciting New Orleans wedding traditions involves the food! When you get married in New Orleans, local cuisine is a must and includes one-of-a-kind foods like beignets, pralines, muffulettas, and more! One fun addition to a wedding reception is to feature the dishes commonly served by street vendors, and if the style of your reception is more formal than food carts, you can still choose a catering package that incorporates elements of these foods in an elevated form. This will bring the street food tradition into your event in a meaningful way and ensure that your guests get to try all the exclusive flavors of The Crescent City.

Dance Troupes

A wedding in New Orleans is anything but ordinary, so dance troupes are known to make an appearance. If you’re not from New Orleans, you may be surprised at this tradition that stems from Mardi Gras. If you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the holiday in person, you’ll be familiar with the parade and groups of dancers between large floats. If you recall, these groups can really fire up a crowd and get people in the spirit of things.

One way to put some excitement into your wedding reception is to hire a team of professional dancers to show up and get the party started. These are not overly formal troupes, but more like flash mobs that appear in matching outfits and display crazy moves just for fun. There’s no reason to be shy during a celebration, and this town will bring out the joy in anyone. The last thing you want is for your guests all to remain seated, too nervous to be the first out on the dance floor, so a dance krewe can be an irresistible invitation to let loose.

To-Go Cups

One of the advantages of a celebration in The Big Easy is that you can carry open alcoholic beverages in many public places with a go-cup. These cups are typically Mardi Gras-themed, but you can customize them for your wedding. When the reception starts to wrap up, guests can take their drinks with them.

These cups also make great mementos or a good choice for daily use. One of the worries when planning a wedding is ordering too many items, and the leftovers going to waste. Fortunately, if there are some unused go cups, you and your guests can always take them home.

Carriage Rides

Another unique tradition in New Orleans is for the bride and groom to leave the wedding party in a mule-drawn carriage. A fancy carriage designed specifically for weddings picks up the couple and whisks them away on a short city tour. These carriage rides are an excellent opportunity for the newly married couple to spend time together and enjoy the local sights. Mule-drawn carriages have been operating in the city for almost a century and are practically a requirement for a proper New Orleans wedding.

You might be wondering, “Why mules?” Interestingly, these animals offer several advantages over a horse. Their confidence and strength make them a fine choice for a romantic carriage ride through the French Quarter. Carriage houses advocated strongly to continue to use mules when some city officials wanted to swap them for horses several decades ago.

Cake Pulls

Wedding cakes are typically multilayered, tiered, and meticulously decorated to commemorate the joyous occasion. In addition to these elements, The Big Easy adds another tradition that involves good luck charms placed inside the cake.

The bride first chooses several meaningful charms that speak to her close relationship with her friends. These are usually personal and may only have meaning between the bride and her bridesmaids. These charms have ribbons attached to them and then are pressed into the cake. Each lady then pulls on a ribbon simultaneously at the count of three revealing the charm.

These charms signify something such as a four-leaf clover for luck, an anchor representing adventure, or a ring suggesting a coming marriage. A wedding cake pull is a great opportunity for the bride and her friends to have a special moment together and express goodwill to each other on an otherwise very busy day.

Incorporate New Orleans Wedding Traditions into Your Wedding Menu with Elysian Events Catering!

Elysian Events Catering proudly serves traditional New Orleans culinary staples, while adding our own unique flair. With a deep understanding of classic New Orleans flavors and years of events experience, we know how to bring that “je ne sais quoi” to your event. Reach out to us today to start planning your wedding catering.

More Insights & Updates from Elysian