How to Second Line at your Elopement like a New Orleans Local!
At ElopeToNOLA, we are New Orleans natives and take pride in our special city. We love it all, the beautiful Spanish moss covered trees of City Park, the serene lakes and bayous of our natural canvas, the inns and hotels lining the world famous St. Charles Avenue, and last but not least, the sights and sounds of the historic French Quarter.
We get super excited when people want to get married in our amazing city, and even more excited when folks want to add traditional New Orleans flair to their perfect day! Throughout the years we’ve seen accessories of Mardi Gras masks and beads, grooms cakes made to look like pots of gumbo, and of course, the famous second line parades.
Second Lines can be really fun, but like any good parade, there is a lot of organization that must happen to make sure your parade doesn’t get rained on. (Figuratively, not literally, as there’s always a possibility it may rain! Read below for more info on that).
Nevertheless, here are our top tips and tricks on how to have a wonderful traditional Second Line at your elopement:
1. Make sure you understand the tradition
Second Lines are a type of walking street parade, made up of a variety of people. The “first line” generally includes the band, any kind of Grand Marshall or leader, and VIP guests, such as the recently deceased, in the case of a jazz funeral, or the bride and groom in the case of a wedding. All other people who follow to dance, pay respects, and enjoy the music are referred to as the “second line.” The tradition was brought to New Orleans from Africa by slaves who were not allowed to have funerals. They established the jazz funeral, and the second line became a huge part of that event. As it is meant to be a “celebration of life”, the second line has grown in popularity with brides, grooms, and even for folks coming of age or celebrating birthdays. Because many “social aid and pleasure clubs” were established back in the day in New Orleans, sometimes second lines can even be a part of weekly or monthly get togethers in certain neighborhoods or communities. It is always important to be respectful of the second line traditions and heritage.
2. Get your route, your permits, and make sure you follow the laws
It is illegal in New Orleans to have a second line without following the proper procedure. First, you should secure your permit from the City of New Orleans. You can download the C-Parade forms from the One Stop City Website, and then visit the One Stop Shop at City Hall, 7th Floor, 1300 Perdido, New Orleans, LA. If you would like someone to assist with all the planning, booking and applying for permits, reach out to us and we will connect you with 2nd line wedding booking specialist!
Second, you need to make sure that you book the proper police escorts. You’ll have to pay $25 for clerical and administrative fees to the Police and Justice Foundation, as well as $100 for each officer present (please confirm all fees as these may change after this article is written). Generally you’ll need 2-4 officers for a small to medium second line. Without the proper law enforcement present, not only do you open yourself up to liability if something happens, but you also run the risk of not being able to get the route you want, or running into some of the other routes of other second lines that are happening on the same evening! Hurry and book quickly so that you can make sure you get the date and time that you’d like as well as the streets that you’d like to include.
3. Make sure you have all of the key players
It’s not a second line without a brass band, and there are a lot of brass bands in the city but there are also a lot of second lines at any given moment (especially on popular weekend nights), so make sure you book quickly. I can give you a list of the best brass bands if you’d like to message me.
4. Any good bride knows that you need to accessorize
You’ll need a second line umbrella for you and your groom (or your bride), as well as umbrellas for your wedding party. Ideally you’ll also bring handkerchiefs for everyone else to shake and swing to the music, as that is a huge part of the tradition. You can also add boas and masks for your guests, so that they really get into the fun, and of course you need the right footwear!
5. Don’t forget comfortable shoes…
Not only do you probably not want to wear heels for what could be up to a mile long route, but you also shouldn’t on the French Quarter streets, which are made of cobblestone. I can’t tell you how many heels I’ve broken on that cobblestone! On the other hand, everyone’s go-to comfort shoe, flip-flops can also be dangerous because there can often be glass or debris on the street (not to mention the occasional water from street cleaning or rain). Your best bet is a comfortable wedge or adorable and fashionable sneaker. You can always put your dress shoes back on when you arrive at your destination.
6. … and that you only have two hands
This is something we see all the time. A bride is trying to drink, bustle her dress, and wave her umbrella at the same time, only the problem is that she only has two hands. Try to shorten or bustle your dress in advance so that you have a hand free for your umbrella, and another one free for your “geaux cup” which is what we call plastic containers that allow you to bring your cocktail out into the streets.
7. And that second lines are rain or shine
Your second line will happen regardless of the weather, so don’t expect everyone (band, police, guests) to cancel on you at the first few drops of drizzle. To make the most of it, hike up your dress even higher (to make sure you don’t get the bottom of your dress extra wet and dirty), and perhaps get rid of the boas (as they can shed, molt, and even dye whatever they’re touching at the time). You may also lose a few of the brass instruments, but there should still be enough music to where you can keep dancing in the rain with your loved ones!
8. And finally, to have fun!
Don’t lose sight that this is about your special day and having a once-in-a-lifetime moment with your new spouse and friends and family! Enjoy it! There are no hard rules about second lining, so feel free to mingle throughout the crowd, stop in front of historic sites for a photo, dance with strangers, you get it… The tradition of a second line is the couple are up front and center, the brass band behind them and the guests are the “Second Line” after the band. Umbrellas that show off your personality are best, but ultimately this is about you and how you want to celebrate your special day!
We hope you found the information here helpful to plan your New Orleans second line wedding parade. If you contact me, I have all-inclusive packages available that include everything you could need for your New Orleans Elopement so that you don’t have to think about anything except having fun!