Hey, Mr. DJ: On Picking The Right Wedding Playlist


My sister is getting married in roughly one month, and though mostly everything is ready to go at this point, there’s still one part of her reception that is proving to be trickier than expected: choosing the right playlist.

There’s something both weird and wonderful about throwing a dance party for basically everyone you care about in your life, as it’s an opportunity for your aunts to break it down with your college friends and for your grandma to engage in a dance off with your best friend from kindergarten. Still, you have to make sure you have the kind of music that gets everyone on the dance floor. And not only that, but you have to make sure you have the kind of music that doesn’t come across as offensive to some or boring to others. The bride and groom, naturally, want their musical tastes represented, as well. So how to you find a balance?

My sister is currently considering dividing the night into sections, playing jams from the 60s as the party starts, then working up to 80s songs, then 90s songs, and finally, as the night wears down and it’s mostly her peers left on the dance floor, recent and perhaps more “scandalous” tunes. Though she has that out of the way, she’s still trying to pick “first dance” songs for the night, which is also tricky, in that many of the typical father-daughter songs people use on their wedding days are actually not totally father-daughter appropriate if you really stop and listen to the lyrics. I have found myself cringing at several weddings due to a bad first dance song pick, thinking, “I know you love your father, but this song kind of implies that you’re in love with your father, know what I’m sayin’? Not so good!”

I’ve also been to weddings where the reception kicks off with something like “Back That Ass Up,” which is all well and good when you’re up and dancing, until you see the horrified looks of the groom’s 84-year-old Nana, who just wanted to hear some Mel Torme and throw back a couple Manhattans. You can’t really do much about the generation gap in those instances, I suppose, but the awkwardness it causes can often be palpable.

However, I’ve been to several weddings where Nana is the first one out on the floor, dancing to the dirtiest songs on the radio, so you just never know. Weddings are supposed to be ridiculous and fun, so I guess it comes down to knowing your family and how they’ll react to such things; you want to make sure everyone has a good time, and though you can’t design a perfect playlist, it’s probably worth trying to make one that’s as inclusive as possible. I think my sister has a good plan: a lot of standards, a lot of MJ, some throwbacks, and, as the night goes on, some current hits. (She’s also promised to play the “Tootsie Roll” at my request, because I am a 13-year-old from 1994.)

So for those of you who have been through the process, how did you go about it? Did you have trouble finding appropriate first dance songs? Or did you just spin what you wanted to spin and hope that your family got up and danced along? Also, if you have any great family playlist suggestions for any brides or grooms-to-be that happen to be reading, feel free to leave those in the comments, as well.

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