A typical wedding reception lasts up to five hours. While that might not be much time to celebrate with friends and family—you’ll need a long wedding music playlist to fill it. Of course, some of that time includes happy hour for guests, while the party is taking photos. And then the MC introduces the wedding party and you have a first dance, with other traditions sprinkled in. So you don’t need wedding music for every second of those five hours.
But you need a lot! Typically, the DJ or live band will do most of the heavy lifting for your wedding music. After all, this isn’t their first wedding—even if it is yours! However, you’ll still need to give them some direction, so you don’t end up disliking your wedding music.
These tips are designed to make creating your playlist easier. Some of the responsibility falls on you, but you can also task members of your wedding party (and even guests!) to help you out. And remember—you can always ask potential DJs or bands for sample wedding music playlists. This not only lets you experience their work, but also inspires you for your own celebration.
Know What You Want…
Whether you choose a DJ or live band—or even a simple hand-selected playlist—decide what kind of music you want to hear. You can be specific, with a musical genre or decade. Or, you can establish an overall vibe and let the DJ or band do the rest.
Bonus Tip: Ask yourself, “Do I want guests dancing the night away? Or do I want a conversation-oriented reception?”
Your list of wants should also include any songs that you absolutely want to hear at some point during the reception. This doesn’t include first dances, or any parent-child dances. (Special dances are a separate conversation.) Maybe you have a few inside joke songs with your spouse. Or a theme song with your college friends. Your wedding is one of the few times everyone will be together in the same place—don’t let the opportunity go to waste!
…And What You Don’t
The wedding music you don’t want to hear is just as important. If there are any songs that would make you rush across the reception hall and ask the DJ to turn it off—make sure they know ahead of time! DJs often pull from the radio for inspiration. So if there are popular hit singles that you don’t like, add them to the list.
And don’t forget about common wedding songs like “YMCA” or “Cha-Cha Slide.” If you’re unsure about playing some of the classics, ask your wedding party for input. Definitely play any songs that will get your friends dancing! But if none of you like those group dance songs, skip them. You should be excited about your wedding music!
Task the Wedding Party
While your wedding party probably isn’t involved when you choose a caterer or go to cake tastings—there are plenty of other ways they can help. Like, for instance, choosing your wedding music. Once you have a general idea of what you do (and don’t!) like, ask your wedding party to make a list of specific must-play songs that meet your criteria.
Bonus Tip: Establish how many songs you’d like the list to have. Or ask for a set number of suggestions from each member.
To make it easy, create an online spreadsheet that everyone can edit. Write your preferences at the top, and label two columns with “Song Title” and “Artist.” Add any of your choices first, and send it out for your BFFs to add to. Then, once the list is complete, download and send it your DJ or band.
If you don’t have a large wedding party—or if you’re really worried about what everyone else will want to hear—then ask! When a guests RSVPs, ask them to include a song they want played. There are two ways you can do this, to keep it easy for you and your spouse.
The first is with your invitations. In your invitation packet, include a question on your mail-back RSVP card. It can say something like, “This song will get me dancing:” or “Play this song to get me out of my chair:”. Then, when guests mail back their response, a song request comes, too!
You can also choose to ask via your wedding website. If you enable online RSVPs, guests choose their meal option, and even submit a song suggestion. Make sure you choose the right wedding website, though. Not all of them allow for custom questions like song choice!
Maintain Veto Control
No matter who gives input on your wedding music, always give it a final review before handing it off to your DJ or band. Your wedding party might misunderstand your preferences. Or someone may request a song you forgot that you hate. This is your big day, and what you want is most important.
As requests come in from guests, don’t even add them to the list if you don’t like the suggestion. If you’re on the fence—adding a few mediocre songs won’t hurt. And for your wedding party’s recommendations, there’s no need to check every day—you have too many other things to do! Have your best man or maid of honor text you when the goal is met, and make a single review before passing it off to the DJ or band.
Your wedding music might not seem like a big part of your wedding. And you’d be right to say that choosing your venue and wedding dress are more important. But having music at your reception will set the mood, and fill the otherwise awkward silence during mealtime and cake cutting. The good news is that you can collaborate with your wedding party and guests to choose your music!
Do you like when weddings play songs like the “Cha-Cha Slide” and “YMCA”? What song do you hope every wedding reception will play?