Bride and groom walk in a New Orleans second line

The New Orleans Wedding Parade: All About Second Lines

New Orleans, Weddings

Photo Credit: Coral Dove Studio

The New Orleans wedding parade called a second line is a testament to the enduring appeal of the city’s rich cultural heritage. While second lines are not unique to weddings, incorporating second-line traditions into weddings creates a unique and memorable celebration of love, surrounded by the infectious energy and spirit of New Orleans. This tradition embodies the spirit of community and resilience, showcasing the blend of cultural influences that define the city. When you want to incorporate lots of New Orleans flavor into your wedding, a second line is one of many great options.

What is a Second Line?

The second line refers to community members, dancers, and onlookers, who follow behind a procession of musicians for occasions such as weddings and funerals. Following a brass or jazz band, the second-line participants wave handkerchiefs or umbrellas as they parade through the streets.

History of the Second Line

Second lines in New Orleans are an integral part of the city’s culture, steeped in history and tradition. These parades are a celebration of music, community, and the spirit of New Orleans, tracing their roots back to the city’s rich African American heritage. The earliest documented second-line parades date back to approximately the late 19th century when African-American Social Aid and Pleasure clubs began organizing processions to honor the departed. These clubs, formed to provide financial and social services to their members, eventually blended this tradition with New Orleans’ “jazz funerals” featuring brass bands and mourners who would celebrate the deceased’s life. Over time, second-line parades evolved beyond funeral processions to become celebratory events held throughout the year, particularly during holidays and festivals. They showcase the diverse cultural influences that have shaped New Orleans, blending African, European, and Caribbean traditions into a unique tradition.

The term “second line” describes both the entire parade and the portion of it made up by people who follow behind the band. Second lines consist of a “main line” made up of the brass band, the club or krewe organizing the second line, and the wedding or funeral party. The “second line” refers to members of the public who join the parade along the way. Participants wave parasols or umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun while parading, or handkerchiefs, napkins, or similar cloths.

In New Orleans, you will also tend to find second lines at:

The New Orleans Wedding Parade Today

The incorporation of a New Orleans wedding parade, inspired by the city’s vibrant second-line traditions, has become a cherished addition to modern wedding celebrations. Rooted in the culture of New Orleans, the concept of a wedding parade draws upon the city’s rich history of jazz, brass bands, and community festivities, offering couples a unique and memorable way to celebrate their union. The emergence of the second lines as a wedding tradition can be traced back to when couples sought to infuse their ceremonies with the spirited energy of the city’s iconic second-line parades. Inspired by the traditions of social aid and pleasure clubs, which often organize elaborate processions for funerals, couples began to incorporate second-line parades as a joyful expression of their love and commitment.

A modern New Orleans wedding parade follows the familiar format of a traditional second-line procession, with a lively brass band leading the way and the newlyweds and their wedding party following as the main line. Guests and onlookers join in the festivities as the second line dances and waves handkerchiefs, napkins, or umbrellas as they parade through the streets.

Today, having a second line has become a popular and iconic element of wedding celebrations in the city. Couples of all backgrounds embrace the tradition to infuse their special day with the history and spirit of New Orleans. Beyond its entertainment value, a wedding second-line parade holds symbolic significance as a public declaration of love and commitment. It serves as a joyous expression of the couple’s unity and shared journey, inviting friends, family, and even strangers to join in the celebration and create unforgettable memories.

The Ultimate New Orleans Wedding Parade and Celebration

Second lines epitomize the timeless allure of the city’s cultural legacy, adding depth and meaning to a New Orleans wedding celebration. By integrating second-line traditions into weddings, couples create an unparalleled celebration, enveloped in the infectious essence of New Orleans. From the rhythmic beats of the brass band to the movements of the dancers, a second line creates an unmatched atmosphere for both couples and guests. As the newlyweds lead their guests through the streets, surrounded by friends and family, the second line becomes a unifying force that connects the present to the rich history of New Orleans. Through music, dance, and ritual, the second line becomes a manifestation of love, community, and resilience, creating cherished memories that last a lifetime.

How To Bring Even More New Orleans Style To Your Wedding

Beyond second lines, New Orleans is home to countless unique wedding rituals. If you’re planning a New Orleans wedding, consider incorporating more timeless traditions:

Carriage Rides: Give your wedding a royal flair by leaving the wedding party in a mule or horse-drawn carriage. Married couples can take in the sights and sounds of New Orleans together while riding in a romantic carriage.

Cake Pulls: New Orleans bakeries hide good luck charms attached to ribbons inside wedding cakes. Before cutting the cake, friends of the bride pull the ribbons to find their good luck charm.

Local Cuisine: New Orleans is well known for its food, which blends influences from many different cultures to create something truly unique.

New Orleans-Style Catering

The authenticity of a New Orleans wedding extends to the culinary experience. Elysian Events Catering infuses every menu with the rich flavors and cultural influences that define the city’s culinary landscape. With meticulous attention to detail and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Elysian Events Catering ensures that each bite captures the essence of New Orleans cuisine. From classic Creole dishes to innovative interpretations of local favorites, our dishes reflect the diverse and dynamic flavors that make New Orleans cuisine a culinary treasure. Whether savoring our fresh Louisiana strawberry salad or warming up with our gumbo, you know each dish is crafted with passion and care.

Our extensive and customizable wedding catering menu offers many traditional New Orleans dishes so there is something for everyone! We also have vegan and specialty items to fit your guests’ dietary needs. Choose from a wide variety of categories including:

  • Oyster Bars: Raw or chargrilled, our oyster bars feature the freshest seafood from the Gulf.
  • Hors D’oeuvres: From vegan watermelon tartar to alligator sausage, we offer choices for every palate.
  • Salads: We use local, seasonal vegetables to create mouthwatering salad options.
  • Entrees: From jambalaya to etouffee, our entrees bring you the taste of New Orleans. We also offer a Carving Station, Creole Rice Bar, and Stone Ground Grits Bar for a true Southern experience.
  • Dessert: if you’ve got a sweet tooth, we have the best beignets and bread pudding in town!
  • NOLA Classic Cocktails: We recommend trying a Sazerac or a mint julep, local favorites that bring even more New Orleans charm to your celebration.

Reach Out to Us!

If you’re looking to create a wedding that embodies the spirit of New Orleans, look no further than Elysian Events Catering to bring your vision to life! We are experts in crafting a quintessential New Orleans experience. Contact us today to start planning your unforgettable celebration by filling out our contact form, emailing, or calling (504)-541-0091.

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