Photograph: Johnson Photography LLC
Planning a wedding takes a lot of effort, from choosing your venue to designing table decor and selecting the menu for the meal. But one of the most fun parts of the planning is working with your DJ to create the perfect playlist for the reception. After the toasts are made and the plates are cleared, it’s time to party!
Your musical selections will say a lot about your personality. But whether you prefer country or R&B, it’s a good idea to incorporate a variety of tunes for your guests to enjoy. To help you get started, we’ve provided the ultimate list of popular wedding songs, broken down into helpful categories.
Most wedding parties arrive at the reception well after guests have had a chance to sip a cocktail and mingle. To catch everyone’s attention, your DJ can announce your entrance and play some mood music.
- “Dancing Queen” by ABBA: This 70s classic is a great choice for bridesmaids, especially if they feel the spirit move them to dance their way to their seats.
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars: The infectious beat is pure fun. This song works for everyone but is especially good for groomsmen.
- “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake: This feel-good song works for everyone!
- “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates: Another upbeat pop tune that’s all about happiness — which is what weddings are all about!
You should also feel free to use a song that says something about you as a couple. For example, when a sailor and a teacher recently wed they entered to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” The crowd went wild!
The First Dance
This is the time to be romantic, so if you and your soon-to-be spouse have a tune you call “our song,” use it! If you don’t, here are some tried-and-true love songs to consider:
- “At Last” by Etta James: This soulful number is the perfect tempo for swaying and gazing into each other’s eyes.
- “It Had to Be You” by Harry Connick, Jr.: If you prefer the classic sound of a big band to set the move, this song ticks all the boxes.
- “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele: This Billy Joel cover has piano, strings, and Adele’s gorgeous voice. Perfect!
The Parent Dances
It’s up to you whether you dance with Mom and Dad, but if you do, pick a song that’s meaningful to you both. If you’re uncertain, these are perennial favorites:
For Mothers and Sons
- “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
- “In My Life” by the Beatles
- “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men
For Fathers and Daughters
- “Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon
- “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle
- “Unforgettable” by Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole
The Group Dances
There’s nothing like a good group dance to get everyone out on the dance floor. That’s because anyone who’s shy about their moves knows they can just follow the crowd. Here are some of the most popular choices:
- “The Chicken Dance”: This is the ideal dance for all ages.
- “YMCA” by The Village People: Everybody knows it!
- “Electric Boogie” by Marcia Griffiths and Bunny Wailer: This is the song you need to get people doing the Electric Slide.
- “Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid: Everyone can do this because the instructions are right in the song lyrics.
- “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker: This is a sweet song that’s perfect for some line dancing.
Favorites Across the Decades
There’s so much great music out there, so it would be a shame to limit your options to just the current Top 40 hits. Choosing songs from past and present will help all of your guests have a great time. Try these sure-fire hits from the 1950s to today:
- “Shout” by The Isley Brothers
- “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
- “Runaround Sue” by Dion
- “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley
- “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets
- “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke
- “Earth Angel” by The Penguins
- “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
- “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees
- “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups
- “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations
- “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett
- “Stand by Me” by Ben. E. King
- “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
- “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
- “December ’63 (Oh What a Night)” by The Four Seasons
- “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad
- “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf
- “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger
- “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate
- “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton
- “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners
- “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins
- “Bust a Move” by Young MC
- “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
- “What I Like About You” by The Romantics
- “Love Shack” by The B-52s
- “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles
- “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot
- “Livin’ la Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin
- “Macarena” by Los Del Rio
- “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite
- “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex
- “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John
- “Have I Told You Lately” by Rod Stewart
- “Hey Ya!” by Outkast
- “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
- “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyonce
- “I Got a Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas
- “Love Story” by Taylor Swift
- “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
- “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
- “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor
- “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO
- “Love on Top” by Beyonce
- “All of Me” by John Legend
- “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheehan
The Last Dance
The last song will be the one your guests hum on the way home, so make it a good one! Here are some popular choices:
- “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes: You don’t have to do the lift to enjoy the finale from “Dirty Dancing”.
- “Last Dance” by Donna Summer: This disco classic lets everyone know the party’s winding down.
- “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong: This is a sentimental favorite that brings your wedding to a close in classic style.
Like the first dance, this is an ideal place to show your personality. For example, a pair of die-hard Red Sox fans chose The Standell’s “Dirty Water” to close out the festivities, while many New Yorkers drop the mike with Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
A Final Note
Remember, there’s no way to get your song list wrong — just be sure to tell the DJ your favorite must-plays, and he or she can do the rest. A good DJ already has a sense of what tunes wedding crowds respond to, so don’t feel obligated to select every single song for a five-hour party.
You should also let the DJ know ahead of time if there are any songs that you want put on the Do Not Play list. First, think about your guest list and cut out songs with bad language or risqué topics that are inappropriate for children or guests who could be easily offended. Next, you should take time to consider your preferences and add any songs you really don’t like. If “The Chicken Dance” sounds like nails on a chalkboard to you, ban it! There’s no need to suffer through your least favorite song on your wedding day.
Music is just one way to personalize your wedding. Your decorations and table linens will also make a big impact at the reception. For more great ideas to help you plan your big day, be sure to check out the Linen Hero blog.