The south, especially New Orleans, is big on tradition and passionate about celebrating them. We’ll find any reason to throw a party {Oh, there’s a hurricane coming? That can clearly only mean one thing: It’s hurricane party time!} and a wedding is the grandest of them all! So often I get a destination bride who wants to give her guests the experience of a good ole’ New Orleans wedding but doesn’t know where to start when it comes to our little crazy {eh, “unique”} customs.

So, today I’m breaking down my favorite {and, in my opinion, the “must have”} southern wedding traditions:

  1. The Second Line: It’s really just not a true New Orleans wedding without a second line parade. On any given day in New Orleans, while walking down the street in the French Quarter, you can find yourself spontaneously caught up in the music and dance of a second line parade. The term “second line” comes from the idea that the brass band members leading the parade are the “main line” or “first line” and those following/dancing behind the musicians are the “second line”. In a wedding, this parade is typically the celebration from the ceremony to the reception OR the last dance at the reception. The bride customarily carries a festive white umbrella and the groom a black umbrella, bopping them up and down in the air continuously, while guests dance and wave hankies {i.e. handkerchiefs} behind them. The hankies are often personalized and double as wedding favors.  It’s also not uncommon for the bridal parties to don Mardi Gras masks and throw Mardi Gras beads. The second line is such an amazing way to get the party started or to end the party with a BANG!
  2. Wedding Cake Pulls: This tradition gets it’s roots from an old Victorian ritual, “ribbon pulling”, which entailed bride’s placing charms of luck and good fortune into the wedding cake for her single friends. Today, bakers place charms with specific meanings on bracelets or key-chains inside the bottom layer of the wedding cake and the bride’s closest single girlfriends are given the opportunity to pull a random charm from the cake just before the bride and groom cut the cake. It’s silly, fun and makes for a few wonderful candid photos! Charms may include: Ring {Next to marry}, Fleur De Lis {New beginning or rebirth}, Chili Pepper {Red-hot romance} and Button {Old maid/bachelorette}.
  3. Groom’s Cake: This tradition also originated in Victorian England… but let’s be honest, does anything matter other than the fact that you get to have MORE CAKE at your wedding?! Customarily the groom’s cake was a surprise gift from the bride to the groom that reflected his personality/interests and was his favorite cake flavor. However, I’m seeing more grooms design their own cake nowadays. Whereas the wedding cake is typically almond cake with white icing, the groom’s cake can be any design/color/flavor; although, more often than not, it is a chocolate cake in order to offer guests more dessert variety. Some of the most popular southern groom’s cake designs revolve around hunting, fishing and football. What else is there, right?! If your wedding falls within carnival season and your groom doesn’t have a specific desired design, this is a great way to incorporate a king cake!
  4. New Orleans Specialty Cocktails: The Sazerac, the Vieux Carre, the French 75, the Hurricane… instead of the standard “Blushing Bride” cosmo, why not treat your guests to a specialty cocktail that was invented in New Orleans? We promise that nobody else does them better!

Now that we’ve covered our bases, who’s craving some cake and a cocktail? We can work it off in the second line parade that’s happening in 3… 2… 1!