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Cocktail Hour & Dinner Music at your Wedding in 5 Easy Steps

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Cocktail Hour & Dinner Music at your Wedding

in 5 Easy Steps

So you're having a wedding and you want music played basically the whole time, but when you look at your schedule you realize that the dancing part isn't even half of the time... You need music at your ceremony, during cocktail hour and during dinner.

Well, I already have a video for how to do the music at your ceremony and you can find that here, but if you want to know how to get the music just right during cocktail hour and dinner at your wedding, check out the 5 easy steps below.


cocktail hour wedding music

1. Music should be playing at a volume where your guests can still have conversations

This is one of the things my couples bring up time after time. Some of their guests say that every time they go to a wedding the music is so LOUD that they can't hear themselves think, much less have a conversation with their cousin who they haven't seen in 5 years!

I get it, and that's why the first priority at every cocktail hour and dinner should be to keep the music at the right volume. It should be just loud enough so your guests can hear the music but soft enough so they can talk and catch up with their friends and family. You can turn up the music later for dancing.

Now, if your cocktail hour is outside, you can turn the music up a little because there is probably more room for your guests to move away from the music if they want to. If it's in a really small room, they can't escape it so you should keep it pretty low.

cocktail hour wedding music

2. This is a great time for songs that don't translate so well to the dance floor

We all love songs that aren't the best for dancing. And this goes for me too. A lot of the music that I listen to at home is chill music or something rare that wouldn't make anyone run to the dance floor. So cocktail hour and dinner are great times for that kind of music.

When planning with my couples I give them a music worksheet to fill out and tell them to put down every song that comes to mind. And that's exactly what you should do. Make a big list of all the songs you like and then go through them with your DJ, or on your own if you are doing the music yourself, and pick the ones which are more rare or not so dancey and plan to play those at cocktail hour.

Important tip: Don't play a lot of slow songs at dinner! Often by the time your guests sit down to eat, they have been through a 30 to 45 minute ceremony under the sun and had (at least) two cocktails. I have seen people fall asleep during dinner - so while you should throw a few slow songs in there, keep it upbeat for the most part.

cocktail hour wedding music

3. Get creative

Like it or not, the dance portion of your reception isn't always the best time to get very creative with the music because people usually don't dance to music they don't know. So cocktail hour and dinner are a great time to have your DJ get creative. Here a few ideas:

Pick an older genre, or pick a really old one. Some cool ones I've been asked to play at cocktail hour and dinner are Big Band, Boogaloo, Rocksteady Reggae, etc.. Another popular one I get is to play all the songs that were sampled by popular hip-hop tracks. And it goes over great. Try picking something fun rather than traditional and be sure to include your favorite songs that don't translate so well to the dance floor.

cocktail hour wedding music

4. A mic should be provided for speeches and toasts

Speeches often happen during dinner. The music should be completely turned off and your guests can stand by the couple's table while they speak or stand right at their seat.

If you are DJing your wedding yourself and you have over 50 guests or so, you will need a mic. Most likely you will be using a wired mic, and that's what I would suggest because wireless mics are tricky. Your guests will have to stand by the speaker obviously, but have them stand away from it as much as possible. If they are standing right in front of it there will be feedback. This is a great speaker that comes with a mic. It's also battery powered so you can charge it up beforehand and use it anywhere.

cocktail hour wedding music

5. Special dances can be done before or after dinner

If you choose to do a first dance, parent dances or a traditional dance like the Hora, you can do them whenever you want during the night. It's best not to do them too late, because shortly after dinner some guests go back to their hotel. Many times couples will split these dances up and do some of them right before dinner and the rest right after. Any combination of that is up to you.

Check out my post about choosing songs for your parent dances here.


Whether you are working with a DJ or DJing your own wedding, if you follow these steps your guests are going to love the music AND be able to have a conversation during cocktail hour and dinner.

6. Ask your DJ (me)!

He is incredibly knowledgeable about all genres of music. I didn't even have to give him much direction .. just told him a few genres we liked and a few songs and he made it happen.”
Nate S., Jericho, NY
Two months post-wedding I’m still hearing from guests of every age how fun and upbeat the wedding was… and WHO WAS THAT AWESOME DJ?!?
Allison H., Baltimore, MD

If you want to talk about how to send your guests home with a smile on their face or anything related to DJing or music, call or text me at 917.586.6753 or email me. Thanks for reading.

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