Second lines are street parades that are thrown throughout New Orleans. They revolve around a brass band–a smaller, much more casual version of a marching band–playing music while walking down the neighborhood streets. Anyone accompanying the band is considered the “main line” while anyone behind the band–in our case, wedding attendees–make up the “second line.”
Second lines have been a staple of New Orleans for hundreds of years. Communities began holding second lines as a way to help raise money for neighborhood organizations that would supply aide to those in need. They were also used to honor community members who died, which is why you see second lines at funerals to this day.
At their root, second lines are a celebration. At a wedding, they signify the beginning of a new life together. New Orleans has become somewhat of a destination wedding location with a growing number of inquiries that I receive coming from out of state couples looking to capture a little bit of the Nola magic they’ve heard so much about. There’s no better way to do that than to incorporate a second line into your festivities.
This is an almost daily occurrence in New Orleans but that doesn’t stop the locals from joining in on the fun. Don’t be surprised if your wedding second line picks up more than a few random passersby who can’t help but join in on the fun! For the duration of the parade, your guests will be treated like celebrities as traffic is stopped and onlookers cheer! How often do you get to parade through the streets with your own personal band? I can pretty much guarantee that you will hear about how exhilarating and fun the second line was for years to come.
This tip comes from a logistical standpoint. A lot of times second lines are used as a way to get guests out of the venue so that the staff can flip the space to get ready for cocktail hour. This assumes that you’re having the reception at the same venue as the ceremony. If you’re using two different venues that are close in proximity, a good idea would be to have the guests second line from the ceremony venue to the reception venue. If this is out of the question because your venues are too far from one another, the option would be to have the second line at the end of the reception as a way to cap off the night.
Pro-Tip: If you have elderly guests that would like to participate but are worried about being able to keep up, I would suggest hiring a pedicab to ride them along with the parade. This is super common and most pedicab companies would be happy to set this up!
Now for the most important reason (maybe I’m biased…) to have a second line: the bad ass photos! This is a tradition that is unique to Louisiana–New Orleans specifically. I wouldn’t say that it’s required, but in my opinion if you have a New Orleans wedding without a second line, did you really have a New Orleans wedding? Something to think about.