Hang the DJ: Your Wedding Playlist

by editor
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I’m a wedding veteran. I’ve been to dozens of them, including my own first one. My friend Liz’s wedding stands out, though. (OK, mine stood out too, but for different reasons.) Liz didn’t want to deal with a lot of the wedding planning, so she just hired a DJ and never checked in with him about anything but what time he should start playing and what time he should stop.

You know those songs you hear played at almost every wedding you’ve ever been to? The worst clichés you can imagine? He played all of them. One of them twice.

You and your fiancé will never regret sitting down with your band or DJ to register some strong opinions, good or bad. It won’t take long, and it will save you and your guests from club remixes of The Hokey Pokey. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Wedding Song Dos

The Special Dances
Assuming you’re having any or all of these, you’ll definitely want to take a little time to think about the songs you want for your first dance with your groom, your dance with your father, and your groom’s dance with his mom before you meet with your DJ. Just to keep from blurting out something under pressure and sharing your first dance as husband and wife to “Disco Inferno.” Unless that one is really special to you.

The Must-Play List
If you and your guy have songs that you absolutely love, your DJ wants to know. Spend a fun half-hour with your fiancé putting together a wish list of your favorite songs – a mix of romantic and danceable.

The Older Relatives List
Your DJ or band can help with this one. You’ll want to throw in at least a few to help the older set feel like getting down. Your friends will enjoy a few classics too, especially when Wedding Dance Fever takes over. Don’t worry about kids – they’ll dance to anything.

Wedding Song Don’ts
Some of my friends objected to me writing this part. They think that the whole idea of a list of songs to avoid is wrong. Their point is that the whole reason these songs get played – and overplayed – at weddings is that people love them and they get the crowd dancing. On the other hand, none of these friends were at Liz’s wedding.

Lyrical Offenders
Lots of DJs (this happens way less with bands) are so focused on getting people moving that they don’t think about the lyrics. This made for an entertaining moment at my friend Dave’s family-friendly wedding when about eighteen different people leapt up to get the DJ to cut off a really fun, really danceable, really dirty song. You may also want to give the playlist a quick scan for anything about heartbreak, cheating, or revenge… You get the idea.

The Clichés
These songs are wedding standards… Maybe too standard. Fun? Absolutely. But everyone’s heard them before. On the other hand, everyone’s had cake before, and they still like that. Your call.

“We Are Family”
“Old Time Rock and Roll”
“Love Shack”
“Shout”
“Mony Mony”
“Hot, Hot, Hot”
“YMCA”
“I Will Survive”
“Stayin’ Alive”

The Ballads
You know why. Just be careful.

“(Everything I Do) I Do it for You”
“Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”
“My Heart Will Go On”
“Unchained Melody”

The Line Dances
They make a lot of people who can’t dance very happy. And a lot of other people very annoyed.

“The Chicken Dance”
“The Electric Slide”
“The Macarena”
“Cotton-Eyed Joe”
“The Cha Cha Slide”

The Hall of Fame: Proceed with Extreme Caution
These were the songs most likely to make my friends scream and whimper when I brought them up. Just be careful.

“Celebration”
“Brown-Eyed Girl”
“I Will Always Love You”

Under No Circumstances Should the DJ Be Allowed To Play This Song

“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”

Seriously. Don’t let him do it. For one thing, the lyrics are horrible and shouldn’t be allowed within a hundred yards of your wedding. Have you listened to it? The Incredible 70’ Couple is getting tired of each other, and instead of, oh, I don’t know, talking about it and working things out, the man reads the personal ads with the intention of cheating and ends up answering the ad that his lady ran with the intention of cheating. How romantic.

Plus, it’s a monster earworm that is guaranteed to stay stuck in your head for the first day and a half of your honeymoon, and then to come roaring back in anytime anyone offers you a piña colada. Which, if you’re honeymooning in the tropics, will be a lot. Trust the voice of experience. Don’t do it to yourself.