7 Tips For Choosing Your Wedding Reception Playlist. (Don’t Be Afraid of Number 7)

music for wedding

After engaging the services of a wedding DJ for your special day, a key task in the planning process is picking a wedding reception playlist. Assuming a four hour reception party and 15 songs per hour, you could have a wedding reception playlist of 60 songs.

How many songs should you pick in advance? My recommendation would be to prepare a list of up to 20 “Must Play” songs, plus another 20 “Play If Possible” tracks. Your wedding reception playlist is getting there, but that still leaves an additional 20 tracks for your DJ to select. However, the DJ would pick these additional songs within your genre parameters. For example, if you love 90s dance music but dislike country music, the DJ would keep the mix within these parameters.

MORE: See our Ultimate Guide to Wedding Music and other  Definitive Wedding Guides.

In picking specific songs for your wedding reception playlist, listed below are seven great tips:

1) Select a Variety of Musical Styles – Your wedding reception will feature a wide range of guest ages, most likely from teenagers to older adults. You would be wise to select songs that cater to the various age brackets, so that all guests feel like they are a part of your special day.

2) Start Your Dance Sets with Recognizable Oldies – For the initial dance set after your first appetizer course, begin in an oldies genres such as 60s Rock, Motown, or Disco, to gain the trust of older guests. By doing so, they will go with the flow for your modern dance selections later in the night!

wedding reception playlist

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3) Use Non-Danceable Selections for Cocktail Hour or Dinner Music – If you enjoy non-danceable genres such indie rock, use these selections for the atmospheric cocktail hour or dinner music. For open dancing after dinner, this eclectic fare will likely fail and result in a thin or empty dance floor.

4) For Open Dancing, Gravitate Towards Mainstream Selections – After dinner, the DJ needs to quickly mobilize your diverse group of guests and create a packed dance floor. It is sound advice to use songs that are recognized by most guests! For example, young adults will recognize a classic party jam like “Shout” from the movies, while adult guests will have heard today’s super-hits by the likes of Pitbull, Rihanna or LMFAO on the radio. One of the more interesting dynamics that I’ve observed performing at weddings is when older guests request current hits while teenagers request classic rock n’ roll from the 60s and 70s!

5) Consider Using Line Dances as Icebreakers – Surely, there has been a trend in recent years towards “non-tacky” DJ entertainment with minimal or no line dancing. You know, the usual suspects like the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle. That said, for the right crowd, line dances can quickly pack a dance floor with guests of all ages. The DJ can then guide this packed dance floor to the music that you really want to hear.

6) Include Several Ballad Sets During the Evening – Wedding receptions are celebrations that should feature a combination of romance and fun. I recommend two or three ballad sets of two songs each. Incorporating slow dancing makes sense because; first, this allows your shy and older guests to join the action. Second, ballads are a welcome relief from extended sets of high tempo dancing. The reason that I recommend programming ballads in pairs is that typically a couple will not get to the dance floor until the middle of the first song.

7) Have a Detailed Discussion About Music with Your Wedding DJ Professional wedding DJs are highly experienced with musical programming, and can provide suggestions that will enhance the quality of your event. Show the DJ your playlist and ask for their honest feedback. Have a detailed discussion with the DJ about your guest demographics that may provide clues on what music will work. Discuss your policy on fielding guest requests, line dances, and your expectations for the dance floor action. If you envision a lower-key event, don’t be afraid to let the DJ know that a frenetic dance floor is not your goal.

I would like to conclude this blog with two real-life stories. The first is for a client playlist that failed at the event. The second is for a client playlist that was a smashing success. Miles and Lycel were a modern couple with a love of punk, alternative, and New Wave music. Their playlist largely reflected this. At the event, I was faced with a room dominated by middle-aged and older guests, as well as a large Filipino contingent. With the New Wave open dancing selections not working, I spoke with the groom who gave me the thumbs up to broaden the mix. The party quickly got back on track and ended on a high note!

The successful playlist was submitted by Laura and Billy, and featured a great mix of oldies, line dances and current upbeat dance music. Their great musical selections united guests of all ages, and the dance floor was packed from start to finish.

Follow these tips, and you can look forward to guests commending your wedding reception as the best that they’ve ever attended!

MORE: See our Ultimate Guide to Wedding Music and other  Definitive Wedding Guides.

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About the Author
Gregg Hollmann is the owner of Ambient DJ Service, a boutique-style mobile DJ entertainment company specializing in weddings and based in New Jersey. Ambient DJ Service's wedding business was recently profiled in DJ Times magazine. Gregg holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from The College of New Jersey. His interests include international travel, tennis and recording mix CDs.

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