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Wedding Music Turns Up the Reception Heat

By Alicia Dziak

Photo by Jamey Jean Photography

For many, the highlight of a wedding is when the lights are turned down and the music is turned up. It’s time to hit the dance floor, and the young and young-at-heart are all encouraged to get up from their seats, get out there and get down!

Band or DJ?

There are advantages to both, and a little research or referrals from friends will go a long way. Many wedding venues will also provide couples with a list of musicians if they need a starting point.

A live band can really get the party started, especially if they’re playing a wide variety of crowd-pleasing songs.

“I love weddings,” said Dave Elder of local favorite band The Party Squad, which has played at hundreds of weddings throughout the years. “A good live band can create a lot of fun at a wedding reception, especially if it’s versatile, experienced and attentive to the dance floor. It’s simply a fact that music is a key element that should be emphasized in the planning of a wedding.”

Elder noted that many of the weddings they play at are a result of a constant stream of referrals from happy couples and their guests.

Modern cover songs are a trending fave, and what better way to add a new twist to a classic than having a live band perform its version of it?

And as far as the set the bands play? “I find that couples generally reflect their own tastes and what has meaning to them personally,” Elder said, adding that it’s rare that couples try to micromanage band’s sets. “Personal, live and custom is better, from my observation.”

If very specific songs are the most important thing to you, DJs may be the way to go, as they can play a huge variety of hits and requests “on demand.” DJs also tend to cost less than live bands, so for couples looking for an option that’s a little easier on the wallet, this is it.

The Wedding Playlist

Whether you choose a band or a DJ, the most important decision when it comes to the music is the first song. With literally millions of songs to choose from, how do you find just the right one?

Lyrics are huge. A good starting point is listening to love songs that are either currently popular or are meaningful to you.

According to time.com, the following were the most requested first dance wedding songs of 2014: “At Last” by Etta James, “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, “You Are The Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne

“All of Me” by John Legend, “Better Together” by Jack Johnson and “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.

Fair warning: At one point, “Every Breath You Take” was a popular wedding song because couples thought the “I’ll be watching you,” lyrics meant “I’ll be watching you because I love you and I’ll take care of you.” Unfortunately, those words may have meant, “I’ll be watching you because I’m obsessed with you and stalking you!” Carefully listen to the words in a song to avoid choosing one that has various, and possibly disturbing, meanings! Maybe even run it by a few other people and get their interpretations on it, too. Just sayin’.

Length is something else to take into consideration. While a meaningful song is important, you also don’t want your guests to get bored while you spin around in endless circles with the love of your life on the dance floor. If you have to have a certain lengthy song for a certain dance, check into whether a shorter version is available.

Don’t forget about the other “traditional” dances—the father-daughter, the mother-son and possibly the bridal party dances—lyrics and length should probably apply doubly for these!

Next, let your guests burn off some of those dinner calories—it’s time to party! Weddingmuseum.com lists the following as the biggest party songs to get your guests on the dance floor: You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles. Other favorites include Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer and Earth Wind and Fire’s “September.”

And, of course, don’t forget the songs that are truly meaningful to the bride and groom—perhaps a song that brings back memories of a particularly fun night with members of the bridal party. In my circle of friends, to this day, any night together begins by blaring Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” which is always accompanied by a dance routine we came up with many moons ago. While not necessarily a traditional dance song, none of us could imagine getting married without insisting it be played at our receptions. The more personal, the more memorable, not only for the couple, but for the guests as well.

Winding down

A typical band or DJ will spend about four hours at the reception, but timeframe is definitely negotiable. While it might not seem like a long time, four straight hours of dancing can take a lot out of you! A three hour booking might be just perfect, depending on the crowd.

Oh, and don’t forget. Consider tipping the band or DJ for a job well done; after all, they have certainly done their part to make sure you and your guests have had a blast!

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