In this section you will find questions to consider when planning the dance music for your wedding reception.

We see the dance portion of the reception as the culmination of the musical format for the evening. If you consider the music in steps or stages, you’ll see what we mean:

1. The first stage of the musical program is often the cocktail hour music. This is usually light, background music.
2. Stage two is the dinner music. This is a step up from the cocktail hour music. Often, some vocals are added to the music to keep it interesting, and a bit different from the cocktail hour. Still, it is generally background music, played low enough so people can chat easily while having their meal.
3. Stage three is “dessert” music. This is a step up from the dinner music, and includes very recognizable ‘sing-along’ tunes that begin to get your guests’ blood boiling, gets them into a festive mood, and begins to prepare them for the dancing portion of the reception. The volume is increased a bit, and songs like “That’s Amore” (“when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…’THAT’S AMORE!”) and “Chapel of Love” (“GOIN’ TO THE CHAPEL AND WE’RE GONNA GET MAAARRIED!”) are played.
4. Finally, stage four is the dance music. The volume is up, and people are headed to the dance floor. It is the culmination of the music program for the evening. It’s time to party!

The trick to stage 4 is getting people to dance. A lot of that will be the DJ's/Band's responsibility, but there are several things for you to consider when letting them know what type of music is to be played at the dance portion of your reception.

Some things to consider:
1. The musical preferences of the crowd
2. The musical preferences of your wedding party
3. The musical preferences of your immediate families. (Parents, Grandparents, Children, Siblings)
4. Your own musical preferences
5. Any special songs or dedications
6. Songs you don’t want to have played

Let’s look at each of these separately:

1. The musical preferences of the crowd
Some things to think about here are the age and cultural background of the crowd.

When considering age, certainly think about the range (i.e. The youngest is 8 and the oldest is 80), but mostly, think about the dominant age group or groups at the reception. (eg. Most of the guests will be in their 20’s and 40’s) The dominant age groups give you an idea of the kind of music they may dance to. Guests in their 20s may be big into early 2000's music. Folks in their 40s might be big into 80's & 90's music.

Cultural background speaks for itself. Although you might not want to have a lot of cultural music played, at least consider having some, especially if there is a dominant group. You might want sprinkle bits and pieces of the music throughout the evening - not only in the dance portion, but perhaps during dinner and cocktails too. Or, you may want to have all the cultural music played during dinner (eg. Irish/Celtic New Age Music/ Italian Love Songs), and skip it for the other musical portions of the wedding.

And let’s not forget to consider past performance as an indicator of future success. If you’ve been to a wedding or a number of weddings where the crowd has been more or less the same crowd that will be at your wedding, you’d be wise to consider what they danced or didn’t dance to. (eg. If the DJ played mostly 1990s dance music, and the floor was full a good part of the evening, you might want to consider having a good deal of 1990’s dance music played at your reception. On the other hand, If the DJ played mostly 1990s dance music, and the dance floor was empty most of the time, you might want to consider something else) If you are going to attend some weddings where many of the same people as will be at your wedding will be in attendance, you might want to take note of what they’re dancing to. It could help your reception to be more of a success.

Finally, one other way that you may improve the chances of people dancing even more is to have your DJ/Band pass out a list of Dance Songs among your guests sometime before the dancing begins. The guests can mark their preferences down and pass them up to the DJ/Band before the dancing starts, or just use it as a reference to make requests as the reception goes on. This works well with some crowds, and doesn’t work as well with others. Also, some DJs/Bands will do this and others may not. If you would like your DJ/Band to do this, let them know at your pre-wedding consultation.

2. The musical preferences of your wedding party
If your wedding party is dancing, the crowd is more likely to join in. So, it’s a good idea to play songs that your wedding party will dance to. Let them see a Dance Song list provided by your DJ/Band, and ask them specifically what they want to dance to, and be sure that your DJ/Band knows what they want to hear.

3. The musical preferences of your immediate families. (Parents, Grandparents, Siblings)
Again, let them see a Dance Song list, and ask them specifically what they want to dance to.

4. Your own musical preferences
Finally, think about what you want to hear. After all, it is your wedding! Our personal belief is that receptions where the bride and groom dance are usually the best. The crowd is much more likely to dance and have a good time if they see the bride and groom are dancing and having a good time.

If you’ve taken into consideration your musical preferences and those of your guests, immediate family, and your wedding party, then you have done all you can to maximize the chance that people will dance at your wedding. The DJ''s/Band's job will be to take the musical requests and mix them into a danceable format. Working together, you and your music professional(s) can make the dance portion of your reception an enjoyable time for everyone! 

5. Any special songs or dedications
People like to dance to special songs and dedications. It gives the dance music portion of the reception some flavor, and it helps to make people feel special at your wedding. Here are some special dedications to consider:
A. Dedicate a song to each other.
B. Dedicate a song to your parents, grandparents, or other family members. 
C. Dedicate a song to your Honor Attendant(s). 
D. If one of your guests is having an anniversary, try to find out what their first dance song was, and dedicate it to them.
E. Dedicate a song to a deceased parent, other relative, or friend. (you may want to consider the emotional impact of a song like this before choosing to make it a dedication)
F. Dedicate a song as a special gift to someone having a birthday. 
G. Ask your wedding party and parents if they have any dedications they would like to make.

These do not have to be all serious/romantic dedications. Throw in some fun ones also. (e.g. dedicate the song “I’m Too Sexy” to the Best Man). A couple of words of caution: 1) always do your best to make sure that the dedication is appropriate, and does not offend anyone; 2) Try to make most of your dedications danceable; 3) Don’t have too many of them. They lose their interest appeal after a while.

6. Songs you don’t want to have played
Although not often considered, these songs can have a big impact on your reception. Here are some general categories of songs that you may want to consider excluding from the dance portion of your reception:

A. Songs that may touch a negative emotional cord with a guest or someone in your wedding party.
(e.g. A song that was played at the funeral of your Maid of Honor’s father).
B. Songs that are not danceable. This is the “dance” portion of the reception. Playing an occasional non-danceable song as a dedication or as a comical interlude is fine, but if you want people to stick around, play danceable music.
C. Music with offensive lyrics. This is true especially if there are children around. Later in the evening, when the kids have left and it’s an adult party is the time to play “Strokin’” by Clarence Carter - not right after dinner. And, you may choose to have no music with offensive lyrics be the general rule throughout the reception. If you do choose this, let your DJ/Band know specifically what kind of content you’d like them to avoid.
D. Any music that you find very difficult to listen to.  
E. Songs that are frequently played at weddings. Some examples: The Electric Slide, Macarena, YMCA, Old Time Rock & Roll, Cha Cha Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Single Ladies, etc.

Songs in “E” above are most frequently mentioned as songs to stay away from. There are pros and cons to not playing these songs:

a. The very fact that you aren’t having these songs played makes your reception more unique. In other words, your reception becomes different because songs that are played at most receptions aren’t played at yours.
b. Even if you choose not to play 10 popularly played songs, your DJ/Band will still have lots of very popular songs left to play. 

a. The songs mentioned above are among the most requested of the most requested. This is why they get played at most receptions. Guests at the majority of the weddings will request and dance to these songs. And remember that the goal is to get people dancing.
b. Although you may have heard these songs at every reception you’ve been to in the past year, there will probably be guests at your reception who only attend a reception once every couple of years, and may be looking forward to hearing and dancing to these songs.
c. Finally, the wedding ceremony is mainly for the bride and groom, while the reception is generally a thank you for your guests. If they really want to hear the Chicken Dance, it is probably proper etiquette to play it for them.

Our Position:
It’s your day. You should be able to decide what songs you don’t want to hear. Our only other thought is that you don’t want to pick too many of them. After a certain number, the potential for screwing up on the DJ's/Band's part begins to multiply exponentially. Our suggestion: If you are going to choose specific songs to exclude, try to choose no more than five.  

Copyright (c) 2020 John Scuto LLC