How to Create a Playlist to Get all Your Wedding Guests Dancing

A dance floor at a wedding reception with blurred lights.

When I got married, choosing my reception playlist was serious business. I probably agonized over this more than any other aspect of the wedding. How could I find music that my guests would enjoy, suit the theme of the day, and reflect my tastes (my husband’s tastes were kind of out of the question; Lamb of God and Cannibal Corpse don’t have a place at a wedding reception)?

Whether you create your own playlist (like me), hire a DJ, or book a live band, you’ll probably end up having to compile a list of songs for your wedding at some point. This can be a daunting task—there are so many songs in the world! However, with some careful consideration, you can create a playlist that will have everyone dancing from the first track to the last call.

Start with Something Up-tempo

The first dance at a wedding is rarely the “first dance.” After all, there’s plenty of time at a reception before the guests of honor make their grand entrance. In that time, the guests are finding their tables, mingling with their friends and family and, yes, even dancing a little. Why not give them some party music to set the mood?

Every reception playlist should begin with a lively, up-tempo song to get your guests excited for the evening. This tune will help shape the energy for the evening—and if you want your guests dancing, you’ll need to give them something to dance to! Obviously, not every guest will go straight for the dance floor, but a fun, dance-able song will at least have them bopping in their seat!

Don’t Worry About “Originality”

A young woman on the dance floor at a wedding reception.

Some couples may worry about using “basic” or “overplayed” music in their reception playlist. They stare at the list of popular reception songs and cringe, thinking Who wants to hear “Uptown Funk” for the millionth time? Here’s a hint: those songs became popular for a reason. EVERYONE WANTS TO HEAR THEM!

Your wedding should reflect you and your spouse, and that includes your personal tastes. However, there’s nothing wrong with tossing a top-40 hit or two into your playlist! Your guests will enjoy hearing a song they know well—and let’s face it, most popular songs are great to dance to. Don’t worry about creating a playlist that’s super unique or obscure; in fact, that may alienate your guests more than inspire dancing.

Embrace Every Genre

Your wedding will bring together your childhood friends, your relatives, your frat brothers and sorority sisters, and all people from different walks of life who have very different tastes. Some may love country music, others may be all about EDM, and some may be into ’80s hair metal. How can you make sure everyone is happy and enjoying your playlist? Make sure there is something for everyone.

Don’t limit your playlist to your favorite genre. Instead, look for tunes that span the musical spectrum! If you’re working with a DJ or band, ask them for suggestions outside your favorite style (or consult a “most popular wedding songs” list online). If you’re making a playlist yourself, give some songs a listen before you add them to the list.

Take Requests

A couple on the dance floor at a wedding reception.

Wanna know another way you can get your guests dancing? Ask them for their favorite songs! Have your guests write down a request for the DJ or band (or you) on their RSVP card. Then, as you receive the cards, your playlist will start to come together before your very eyes! Obviously, you can add to the list with your or your partner’s favorite songs, but this method ensures that everyone hears a song they really love.

However, there is one request I would seriously consider disregarding: the “trigger” song. We all have those tunes that remind us of something terrible, like a bad relationship or a terrible time in our lives. If you spot one of these songs on your guest’s RSVP card, don’t worry about tossing it aside. Your wedding should be all about you, your partner, and the happy life you’re beginning together. There’s no time for bad memories or the songs associated with them!

Consider the Flow

Your DJ or band probably has some idea of flow: when the music should simmer down, when to play the most dance-able tracks, that sort of thing. If you’re making your own wedding playlist, however, you may not have a clear picture of how the reception will “flow.” Sit down with your partner and figure out your reception timeline (here’s a template to get you started), and then make your playlist to match this game plan.

You should start with something fun and bright, tone down the mood for dinner and toasts, and be ready to start the party up again once the meal is over. The right flow mixed with the right tunes will add a great energy to your reception and ensure everyone has a great time!

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