The Best Advice On How To Program Music For Your Wedding

You've finally hired your perfect wedding DJ - congratulations! However, depending on who you are, the next few steps when working with a DJ can seem like a total breeze or very daunting. What are we talking about? We're talking about programming or choosing the right music for your celebration!

For some couples, they want to be very hands on when choosing the music for their wedding reception. Others tend to give a general idea of the songs they love, and trust their DJ and their expertise. Neither is right or wrong, but we're going to try and help you out no matter which type of couple best describes you.

It's a great rule of thumb that a DJ can play roughly 15 songs per hour. So, if you have a 4-hour reception, your DJ will likely get through 60 songs. However, the number may change slightly depending on:
 
  • Number of toasts (and length of toasts)
  • Formalities and special dances

Stoppage time - or dead air - will reduce the number of songs a DJ can play in a night too!

The next question you're probably wondering is...how many songs should I pick in advance? If you would like to pick them all, you'll probably want to skip ahead a little bit, but if you're not interested in picking every song, we would recommend:
 
  • up to 20 "must play" songs
  • up to 20 "play if possible" songs

If we go back to our 4-hour reception example above, this would give the DJ roughly 20 songs to select for the rest of the evening. The DJ isn't going to just pick "their" favorite songs...they will select 20 songs that fit within your preferred music style. Not a fan of heavy metal music? Let your DJ know and they will stay away from songs in that genre when making their 20 selections.

Tips for Music Selection and Music Programming

Below you will find a list of tips that will help you with your music programming and choosing the right music for your wedding reception:

  1. Use your non-danceable music for Cocktail/Dinner. Cocktail Hour and Dinner are two of the most overlooked parts of the day regarding music selection, yet it helps set the tone and atmosphere you're trying to create early on. As the decor of the celebration should reflect your taste and style, so should your music. If you enjoy indie rock or today's cruise country hits, use these selections to enhance your cocktail and dinner periods. If you try and play these types of selections during the dancing period, they will fail and empty your dance floor. Feel free to browse our blog for some great examples of playlists to use during these times.
  2. Think about what EVERYONE would like. You have a room full of your closest friends and family. And if you're a Classy Cat Entertainment couple, chances are you want a packed dance floor because music and entertainment are extremely important to you. In order to accomplish this, you have to cater to the majority of your guests. Talk to your friends and family and find out what kind of music they love. Try and remember the songs you loved hearing at your bachelor/bachelorette party and incorporate some of those in your list. When the majority of guests feel included, you'll get a packed dance floor and fun atmosphere!
  3. Start your early dance time with recognizable "oldies." Once the dance floor is open, start with oldies from the 50-60s, Motown or Disco to make your older guests happy and to gain the trust of the room early on. It's all about trust, and when the DJ has the trust of the room, you'll reap the benefit of a packed dance floor for the remainder of the evening. 
  4. Include several ballad or "slow dance" sets. We've even found success in opening the dance floor with a slow song. Never forget, wedding receptions are celebrations that should feature a combination of romance and fun. Our recommendation is to come up with 2-3 of these sets (a set is 2 songs) that can be spaced throughout the evening. We recommend pairing ballads because - typically - a couple will not get to the dance floor until the middle of the first song. Slow dances are also great because there will be older guests that will only slow dance or shy guests that will only slow dance. Additionally, slow dance sets are a welcome relief from extended sets of high tempo dancing.
  5. Line Dances are great ice breakers. Although many couples tend to find them "cheesy" or "tacky," they do still work. The songs we're talking about are the Cupid Shuffle or Cha Cha Slide, for example. If you know your crowd, they can instantly pack your dance floor when it seems to be losing a bit of steam after coming out of a ballad set. Once the dance floor is packed, leave it up to your DJ to navigate your guests through their next musical journey of songs on the list.
  6. Keep the music mainstream and recognizable. The goal is to pack the dance floor, but if your guests don't know or recognize the music being played, they aren't going to be jumping out of their seats and sprinting to the dance floor. Your goal is to find older songs that your friends may know, and new songs that your older guests have heard. For example, many young adults have heard older songs because of shows like "Glee" or movies like "Pitch Perfect," while older guests have heard hits from Lady Gaga, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars on the radio.
  7. Discuss music in great detail with your DJ. Remember, you hired your DJ for their expertise in this area of the event. Make sure to discuss your thoughts and ideas with them so they can see what you're trying to do and offer help and suggestions as needed. Talk about the age range of your guests, your feelings on guest requests, line dances, etc. If you feel like your event will be on the mellow side, or dancing isn't really that important, don’t be afraid to let the DJ know that a packed dance floor isn't the main goal of the night.

If you found these tips helpful, please let us know in the comments and share this post with your friends! Also, be sure to visit our blog often for some awesome upcoming playlists. Not sure you'll remember? Fill out the form below and have them sent to you each week!
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Jonathan Paduano

I am the owner of Classy Cat Entertainment - an award winning, upscale wedding and corporate entertainment company. As an open-format DJ, I love performing at weddings and marquee private events. In my spare time, you can find me watching the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, spending time with my beautiful fiancée Sarah and our cat - Princess - and rat - Stewart.

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