Selecting the Music for your Wedding (Part 1 - Cocktail Hour & Dinner)

by Bethany McDonald

Choosing the music for your wedding can be a very overwhelming process: trying to pick songs that will keep your guests happy, songs that you and your fiancee enjoy, songs that your family is asking for, and songs that will get everyone up and dancing. Believe it or not, it is possible to create a playlist to accomplish all of these goals. As experienced DJs, we have created a general format for the evening of how the music flows best, and using this formula you can create the perfect song list for your wedding or special event!


Regardless of whether or not you are having an actual cocktail hour, this is always a great way to welcome your guests to your event and set the tone for the evening. More often than not, we choose a great selection of "cocktail hour standards" including artists such as: Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, etc. We tend to pick more up-tempo selections by these artists to create a relaxed but fun atmosphere. You don't want to play a large amount of slower songs too early in the evening; even if you are trying to set a more reserved tone, you don't want to slow down the tempo too much before the party even starts! If you aren't fans of the aforementioned artists, you can always pick instrumental selections as well. If you want to stick to strings and classical, you can browse traditional songs by the Lumiere String Quartet, or pick some of your favorite songs covered by the Vitamin String Quartet -- both of these groups specialize in violins, cello, and various string instruments. If you prefer to set more of a classic jazz tone, check out albums by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie parker, and more.


Picking the songs for your dinner music can be a lot of fun! Typically, this is a great place to play some of your favorite songs that may be better for listening than dancing. We like to play a fairly wide variety of music during the dinner hour, but our favorite genre would have to be "modern adult contemporary". This would include artists such as: Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Norah Jones, Colbie Caillet, Ray Lamontagne, Amos Lee, Michael Buble, Joshua Radin, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, etc. Your younger guests tend to like and identify with the music, while the majority of your older guests enjoy it as well. It's also a very light-hearted and low-key atmosphere for your guests to enjoy their meal and conversation. We enjoy this genre because the volume is easily manageable and always at a comfortable level. We encourage our couples to use this time in the night to choose music that best reflects themselves and their own styles and tastes. As dinner wraps up, we usually like to transition into older Motown-era songs. We use artists such as Van Morrison, James Taylor, The Beatles, etc... to bridge the gap between early dinner music and pre-dancing dinner music. As your guests are finishing dinner, we tend to pick songs like "Stand By Me", "My Girl", "Under The Boardwalk" and more. These songs are classic crowd pleasers, but don't really fit into the fast or slow dance category. It's also a great time to play these songs because they get your guests to sing and tap their toes along with the music, helping to lay the foundation for opening the dance floor. During this time, we tend to play artists such as Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Otis Redding, Foundations, Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. These songs and artists really lead to dancing and encourage your guests to participate when the dance floor opens.

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