I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Having a wedding parade on your big day will definitely be one of those memorable moments that you and your wedding guests will never forget.
Well, it turns out, that putting together a wedding parade is easier to pull off than you might think.
To help you have an awesome experience, I’ve put together this handy guide of 11 insanely actionable tips to assist you through every step of the process.
The History of The Second Line March
Wedding parades, which are more commonly called second line marches, have been an important tradition in the United States since before the Civil War.
Can you believe that?
A second line march consists of two lines:
The first line is made up of the bride, groom, and a brass band or grand marshall.
The second line is made up of the rest of the revellers (the wedding party and your guests).
Because of the excitement that married couples get when their dancing through their city with their loved ones, it’s easy to see why this tradition is as popular as it’s ever been.
These marches are thrilling, spontaneous-feeling celebrations.
But, to make sure everything goes smoothly, you’ll need to do a bit of advance planning.
You’ll want to get your route in order, get your guests well-prepared, and make sure everything, and everyone, is photo-ready.
1. Consider Your Parade Route Options and Permit Requirements
The first step in planning your wedding parade is figuring out your parade location.
There are two options for your procession:
Option 1 – You can get a permit and parade through the streets.
Option 2 – Have have your parade on a sidewalk, in a park, on the beach, or in a more unique setting.
Parading in the street is the more traditional of the two options.
But that’s not always possible in every city or for every route, so using the sidewalk or one of the other recommended parade location ideas can be a great alternative.
If you do have your heart set on being in the middle of the street, then check with your city and make sure that permits are available for your planned route so you can get that party-in-the-street moment you’re dreaming of.
If you do need to get a permit, make sure you do so early.
The moment you’ve got your wedding and reception spots booked, decide on a parade route and get your permit.
Not only are there time requirements for getting permits, like 30-90 days for approvals, you may also need to comply with other laws specific to your city.
For example, wedding parades in New Orleans not only have be permitted, they also have to hire police escorts and pay a small city tax.
And in San Francisco, you’ll need to get your parade permit well in advance, pay for insurance, and pay an application fee that varies depending on how early to you requested your permit.
Planning ahead and getting your permit early allows you to comply with all your city’s requirements in plenty of time for your parade.
2. Avoid Route Roadblocks
After you have picked the type of parade you want to have, make sure you’re extremely familiar with the route you’ve decided on ahead of time.
You don’t want to take a wrong turn or get lost during the parade.
A day or two before your big day, make sure to check for any literal roadblocks like construction, or blocked streets, and identify if traffic, police, or other crowds of people will deter you from having your parade.
For this same reason, you should make sure your band also knows your route as well.
If you want to be even more confident that your parade route will stay on track, you could also consider hiring a grand marshall, which is a common choice in cities like New Orleans.
A grand marshall is an energetic parade leader, usually a relative or if you can swing it, a city local, who can help to both keep your parade en route and hype up your crowd.
3. Be Mindful of Distance
There’s one more thing you need to consider when planning your route:
Choosing the right distance for your wedding parade is essential.
On average, a wedding parade takes place over 4-6 blocks, with longer parades taking place over 7-10 blocks.
Depending on pace and stops, this tends to translate to 15-30 minutes.
Here’s the deal:
Some people may not be able to walk quickly or over long distances.
Your grandparents or other elderly or disabled guests might not be able to march in your parade.
A great option for including anyone who can’t cover the parade distance is to hire a few pedicabs for these guests.
That way, they can still participate in the parade by holding down the back of the line, or joining you up in the front, and celebrating in a way that’s comfortable for them.
Pedicabs are extremely mobile, are good for off-roading (if you’re doing your parade somewhere other than a street) and typically cost $8-20.
4. Have Help For Any Crossings / Bring up the Rear
Make sure that you have some help on hand if your route includes any road crossings.
Guests will be giddy and excited during the parade— and some may have already started celebrating with a few drinks.
Enlisting some of your groomsmen or bridesmaids (or one of your cousins that always wants to lend a hand) to help your excited guests cross the street will keep things organized and safe.
Ask your helpers to wear easy-to-spot, bright crosswalk shirts so everyone knows that they’re there to direct traffic.
Additionally, your guides can help stop any back-of-the-line lagging.
As you know, everyone moves at a different pace.
Some of your guests, who will be more focused on talking to friends and family that they haven’t seen in a while, will probably linger back a bit too long.
Solve for this by letting your helpers know that you want to keep things moving and they can ensure you won’t end up waiting for ages for these slow pokes to bring up the rear.
5. Get A Great Band
Traditionally, a brass band leads a wedding parade.
And it’s important to remember that, just like when you book live music for your wedding reception, you should book your band for your second line march well in advance.
If the wedding reception band that you’re hiring can perform while walking, then this can be the same group.
Otherwise, you’ll need to find a brass band or marching band.
If you want to make sure that the brass band you’re about to hire is legit, you’ll want to first ask the band about their experience leading parades.
If leading a parade is something that they’ve never done before, then consider hiring someone that used to performing in parades.
You should also make sure that they know plenty of wedding parade songs.
When The Saints Go Marching In is the most classic second line march song.
If your band is able to play knows this song, then you should give them the green light.
6. Recommend Comfortable Footwear
Here’s a simple but often overlooked tip:
Recommend to your guests that they wear comfortable footwear.
Dancing through the streets or on the hard pavement or in dirt in heels can be very uncomfortable.
Let your guests know about the parade in advance and recommend that they wear or bring comfortable shoes like flip flops or tennis shoes.
Then, hopefully, even your die-hard stiletto wearers will have stashed some flats in their purse so they can enjoy your parade to the fullest.
7. Be The Leader of Your Own Parade
As we mentioned earlier, the brass band or the grand marshall typically leads every wedding parade or second line march.
But having the happy newlyweds lead the procession for part of the parade is something you must not forget to do.
Because it makes for incredible pictures.
Think about it.
Would you rather have pictures where your sandwiched between the band and your guests.
You should be the center of attention…
Which means that you’ll need to plan to have a few moments where you and your new bride or groom are leading the way.
Take a look at this picture to see what I mean.
Tell me that that picture isn’t worth framing.
8. Kick Up the Fun and Be Photo-Ready With Party Favors
To make the parade even more exciting for everyone, consider passing out fun party favors for your guests to wear and wave during the street party.
You can pass out:
- Mardi Gras beads,
- percussion instruments (like tambourines and shakers),
- and more!
Not only will these make the experience more entertaining and engaging for your guests, it will also liven up all of the photos and video your photographer and videographer are going to take.
Plus, if you’re willing to part with these inexpensive props (less than $100 for everything listed above on Amazon), they can also be great keepsakes for your guests to take home.
You can even personalize these party favors by adding your names and wedding date.
9. What’s the Rush? Take a Breather
Planning to take some breaks during your parade is important and practical.
Breaks are important for multiple reasons.
First, your guests might need to catch their breath, especially if you’ve opted for a longer route.
Also, people travel at different paces and it’s important to let the back of the line catch up with the crowd.
You’ll want everyone to be able to interact with the rest of the line and enjoy being in the front of the group.
Plus, if it’s hot outside, your guests will get tired more easily.
It’s important to let people rest and recover in hot weather.
If you know it’s going to be hot outside during your parade, it’s also a good idea to provide your guests with bottles of water so they can stay hydrated.
If you’re traveling in a straight line, you can take a break by simply pausing your forward motion and waiting in place for a bit.
But if you’re in a safe space, like a closed off street, you can form a big dance circle and party while you wait for the rest of your guests to catch up.
10. Capture the Moment
One of the best things about wedding parades is the incredible pictures and videos you’re going to get during the procession.
To make sure you capture every exciting moment, you should consider how much coverage you’ll want.
- Do you want to have just one photographer?
- Or do you want to have multiple photographers capturing every angle?
- Do you want to invest in a videographer to make sure you get some amazingly shot live footage of your parade?
- Or is video less important to you?
Remember, this is a moment you’ll never forget.
Wedding parades are not only memorable, they’re symbolic of the exciting new life you’re starting with your new partner.
Make sure you capture the moment exactly the way you dreamed of.
One cool way to capture the moment to ask your guests to pull out their phones, download the Veri app, and do some of the filming themselves.
Want to know the best part?
Not only will you get tons of awesome video, but it will be from different parts of the line and from different perspectives.
As you watch all of the video your guests took for you, you will no doubt get the feeling that you were walking with everyone regardless of where they were in the line.
You can then make a video of all of the snippets that you were given and turn it into one big nostalgia moment for you and your husband or wife.
11. Consider Onlookers
You might be wondering:
“How do I handle the strangers that will undoubtedly be curious to find out what we’re up to?”
If you’re doing a permitted, closed off walk through the street, those people will likely remain just as onlookers.
But if you’re having your parade on an open city sidewalk or in a park, then these spectators might try to join in on the excitement.
For example, people might begin to follow your parade or you might get some honks from passing cars.
Some people might not care about this.
Maybe, to you, that sounds like it would make the occasion even more thrilling.
But if you don’t like the idea of being honked at or followed, it might be best for you to make sure you look into getting a more controlled, enclosed, permitted environment for your wedding parade.
There you have it:
11 steps for having the best wedding parade!
Which of these ideas do you think is the hardest to pull off? Are there any that we left out that we should’ve included?