A Nola second line dancing through the French quarter late in the day on Royal street.

Everything You Need to Know About New Orleans Second Line Planning

New Orleans, Weddings

If you have ever been to a wedding in or around New Orleans or even mentioned the word wedding, you have likely heard about, seen, or even attended second lines. There is a long tradition of second line planning and execution around New Orleans, and you are joining a rich history by having your own event.

Everything You Need to Know About New Orleans Second Line Planning

When starting the process of second line planning, there are three major components you need to consider: the history of the event itself, the logistical elements, and the details that pull a second line together.

Understanding the History

To understand why individuals use a second line to celebrate weddings, you have to go back to the 19th century. As we have discussed before, the term second line refers to the main line (the couple being celebrated and the band) and the second line, which consists of members of the more general public who have joined in the celebration.

Getting the Logistics Together

Before you get too deep into planning, make sure to talk to your venue. Some places will already have predetermined routes and will take care of the logistical parts of the second line for you. You can also outsource this part of the work to a full-service company.  However, if you are okay with doing some paperwork and planning, you can easily go into second line planning on your own.

Plan Your Route

Once you know where your ceremony and reception space will be, you can begin the first part of second line planning: getting your route down. Second lines can be as long as you want them to be, but the average is between six and eight blocks. One important thing to consider when planning your route is the one-way streets, as you should try to avoid walking against traffic.


When the ceremony and reception share a location, planning a route is straightforward: if you are having both events in the same space, you may choose to make the block (or two blocks) there and back to your venue.

Similarly, if the two locations are nearby, you should be able to walk the route yourself to check for any major road issues.


If you are planning a ceremony and reception across town – or outside of the comfortable walking range – consider offering transportation for those who can not make the full distance and having a meet-up point. You could also provide transportation to a different starting location for your guests.

Handling the Permits

Once you have your route together, you will have to get your permits in order so you can have your second line legally. The forms you need – the main event application and the supplement c-parade form – must be submitted to One Stop Shop at least a month and a half before the day of your second line. To correctly fill out the master event application, you should know your route, start and end location, and the number of people you expect to start the celebrations.

Getting Your Escorts

After you submit your permit, you will hear from the New Orleans Police Department, Special Events Division, to get your parade escorts handled. All second lines must have a city-mandated parade escort, as they handle closing streets to traffic and making sure the second line stays on the route.

While you are able to save some by doing your own second line planning, the cost of a permit runs around $200 and the cost of mandated parade escorts begins at just under $400, though prices may change depending on the number of people.

Pulling it Together with Details

You have your route and have figured out all the paperwork. So what comes next? Naturally, you need the core elements of a second line: the band and the looks!

Finding a Band (and Other Entertainers)

Nearly all second lines are led by a walking brass band. Prices can vary depending on the number of band members, but usually, they start around $1,500. Typically there are between three and six members, depending on the size of the walking group, and may include trumpets, trombones, drummers, and tubas. 

Because it is only brass instruments and a drummer, some older venues cannot have the band enter due to the noise levels that could harm older glass. If you are having your reception in a historical venue, this is something to check with the coordinator about.

Brass bands may wear their uniforms or suits, so if you have a strong preference for what band members wear, be sure to discuss it with them directly. Additionally, some second lines may hire other entertainers, such as stilt walkers, to join their parade. 

What to Bring Along

If you are going to walk the walk, you have to know what to carry. In a typical second line, the two individuals getting married carry a parasol of some sort. The parasols are usually white for women and black for men, though many personalize their parasols to include colors, fringe, their new last name, and more. 

Additionally, the guests will have white handkerchiefs to wave. You may choose to have these handkerchiefs as your wedding favors, which will alleviate the stress of ensuring everyone brings their own.

Everything You Need to Know About Second Line Planning with Elysian Events Catering

When you’re having a New Orleans wedding, second line planning may be an obvious choice to celebrate. However, finding the right catering company and wedding packages may feel more stressful. 

Elysian Events Catering can help make your wedding stand out with traditional yet inventive New Orleans flair. Various food and beverage packages are available, and we are happy to work with couples on a custom menu to make their New Orleans wedding dreams come true and as unique as their love. 

To learn more about Elysian Event Catering or to get started on planning your perfect New Orleans wedding, contact us today!

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