Think back to some of the best times you’ve had at weddings, and I’ll bet many of them were “hold my drink” situations during the reception. You know, the ones—you hear that song start and, suddenly, makeup and blowout be damned, the dance floor becomes your stage.
Every couple’s wedding day soundtrack will, and should, be different. There are over 3.5 million wedding-related playlists on Spotify. And that’s the benefit of premeditated tunes: you can pick songs and find the one how cemented the friendship between you and your MOH on the dance floor.
You really have to think about your guests, at a wedding, you have a very broad list—from your grandparents to guests as young as two. You have to think about music that is not only appropriate for that varied audience but also what they’re going to like and get into. That’s very difficult to achieve. But don’t fret your set yet.
Recognize Sometimes It Is a Popularity Contest
Spotify figured out which songs were most often added to users’ wedding playlists—let’s check out the top 10:
“Thinking Out Loud,” by Ed Sheeran
“Marry You,” by Bruno Mars
“All of Me,” by John Legend
“Uptown Funk,” by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” by Whitney Houston
“Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey
“Crazy in Love,” by Beyoncé, featuring Jay Z
“A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri
“I’m Yours,” by Jason Mraz
“Hey Ya!” by OutKast
Nothing on this list surprises me, You’ve got representation of up-tempo fun songs with ‘Hey Ya!’ and ‘Uptown Funk.’ Some of these songs are very romantic with an appropriate message for a wedding like ‘I’m Yours’ or ‘Marry You.’ Then you’ve got John Legend’s song ‘All of Me’ that’s been popular since its release because Legend wrote that song about Chrissy Teigen, and it’s all about how much he adores her. What bride wouldn’t like to echo that sentiment at her wedding?
Even if you feel like some songs, such as Pharrell’s “Happy” or JT’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” are overplayed on the radio, they can take on new life at a wedding. They’re still great additions because most of your guests will have heard them, and they’re such feel-good tracks. They encourage your guests to move or sing, and they’re also great for younger kids.
Embrace the Crossover
Pop. Country. Rock. Hip-hop. What do all these genres have in common—besides a hit song featuring Nelly? They can all feel at home on a reception playlist. I think anything goes at weddings. Most of the time, you’ve got a mix of genres. It’s all about what makes people happy and puts them in the mood to dance. It makes sense that you’re going to have the full spectrum.
While you and your sorority sisters may have an entire choreographed routine to “Crazy in Love,” maybe your mom and her pals have an equivalent with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” So go ahead and put Frank Sinatra, Notorious B.I.G., and Dolly Parton in a room together; you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before.
Serenade Your Guests—Even If It’s Weird
If your wedding day is simultaneously the only time your kooky aunt is willing to fly across the country and the only time she’s game to juju on that beat, you’ve got to make the most of it. You can’t expect every song to cater to absolutely everybody, what you can do is include specific songs for specific guests, especially if they’re traveling really far distances to come to your wedding. That is such a big commitment and such a loving thing for them to do. It’s nice to sprinkle in one or two songs they especially would appreciate.
And are there certain songs that really encourage people to let their freak flags fly? Songs that include extreme emotion are great songs for weddings.
We also recommend up-tempo songs that appeal across generations. If your mom really loves Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ and that’s a song that’s going to get her excited, why not put it in there?”.
Mind Your Do-Not-Play List
We’ve already established the power music has over people’s emotions, so be careful. If a song, or the bad memory (read: ex-boyfriend) behind a song has made it onto your list of names “in red underlined,” keep it off your playlist. Even if it’s a song that everybody loves, if you have some negative association with it, you don’t want to hear it at your wedding—where you should be as happy as can be.
Similarly, if there’s a song that’s going to upset someone else at your wedding, probably best to leave it off too. You don’t want sad songs, and you don’t want songs with perhaps overly offensive lyrics, instead of we can switch out the explicit tracks here for their radio-friendly versions—a good idea if you’ve invited the entirety of the tee-ball team you coach on weekends. Better to be safe, and sometimes it’s more fun to yell obscenities over the censored silence anyway.
Save the First Dance for Everyone
At this point in your process, we don’t doubt you’ve stockpiled your playlist with gems of jams, but only one belongs at the top of your list chronologically. It’s always good to kick off the dance floor portion of your wedding with the right tone. That tone is, it’s party time! Encourage people to dance. The first song must be a beacon, its bright boppiness guiding your guests away from their hesitations and insecurities toward a warm, safe place to dab, drop, and dougie all night long.
Curating the perfect wedding reception playlist is something of an art form. It takes taste, grace, and forward planning. You want to make sure that every second of this celebration is accounted for. From pop-tastic tunes to classic tracks, you need to make sure that the roster has something for every single wedding guest. It’s a tall order.