In a recent blog, we highlighted the Lebanese tradition of a zaffe – a jovial celebration that includes music, dancing in the street and the couple’s family and friends. Though it takes place at a different time during the wedding day merriment, the zaffe reminded us of our own New Orleans second line.
For many years, the second line has been a staple in a New Orleans wedding, with brides and grooms using the practice to walk from the ceremony to the reception location or to close out a reception celebration. But, second lines didn’t start as a wedding tradition.
Most familiar with New Orleans and its culture will know that the second lines are a funeral tradition rooted in the black community. Jazz funerals are a truly New Orleans custom and with a jazz funeral always comes a second line. The procession with its music and dancing serves to celebrate the life of the deceased. Its origins, according to neworleans.com were as part of general community celebrations, and served as a form of advertising for local neighborhood organizations offering social and financial aid to freed slaves.
In all of its incarnations, the second line symbolizes new life and a new journey, which is why so many couples choose to include the tradition in their wedding celebrations.
Though anyone can throw a second line when they feel moved, there are specific steps to go through in order to pull off the second line of your wedding dreams.
Below is a summary of the six steps outlined by New Orleans & Company for planning your wedding day second line:
STEP 1: PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Is your reception venue a few blocks from your church or ceremony location? That’s the perfect opportunity to implement a second line. You don’t want your guests walking a mile – especially the ones wearing heels – but you also need enough space for the full effect. NewOrleans.com says that many second line routes are about six to eight blocks. They also point out to be sure, when planning your route, that you are walking in the same direction as the traffic, not against it.
STEP 2: GET YOUR PERMIT
Though many people just start dancing on the streets of New Orleans, if you want an organized second line with the band and taking up the entire street, you must get a permit with the City of New Orleans. Those wanting to hold a second line must submit the “Master Event Application” and the “Supplement C-Parade Form” (both available at www.nola.gov/onestop) no later than two months prior to the parade date. Additionally, the permit costs $200.25.
NewOrleans.com says to have an idea of your route, start and end location and how many people you expect to have parade with you. When completing the “Master Event Application,” all sections will be “No” (including additional questions) until you get to the “Parades” section, where you will check the “Yes” box. Link to more information and application with the City of New Orleans One Stop: Click here
STEP 3: HIRE A CITY MANDATED PARADE ESCORT
In order to close off the street to traffic during your second line parade, escorts are required. Once your permit is received, the New Orleans Police Department’s Special Events Division will be notified and contact the couple. The escort includes a minimum of here officers with cost starting at $384.98 for up to 300 people. Each additional officer is $116 and would be required for groups larger than 300 people.
STEP 4: HIRE A BRASS BAND
Arguably the most exciting part of the second line process is hiring the brass band. Luckily, New Orleans has no shortage, so finding the perfect fit for your wedding should be fun and easy. It’s suggested to start the research process when you start your permit paperwork. Bands, lead by three to six band members, are priced based on how many musicians are present, but NewOrleans.com says can range between $500 and $1500.
Here is a NewOrleans.com list of local bands & DJs.
STEP 5 And 6 (OPTIONAL)
Steps 5 and 6 include fun extras to your wedding second line. Mardi Gras Indian groups can also be hired to walk in your second line and add a special flair to the walking group. Additionally, it is said that no second line is complete without umbrellas and handkerchiefs. The couple is set apart by holding custom umbrellas as they walk at the head of the second line, but your guests can join in with monogrammed or screen-printed handkerchiefs design specially for your Big Day. There are many local print shops around the city that are more than capable of adding that special touch.
Here is a list of NewOrleans.com local print shops & favor stores.