The Most Common Wedding Music Mistakes
by DJ Ben Boylan
Music is a must for every fun wedding. Most of my couples want music that reflects their taste played throughout the night. And a big dance party at the end. Regardless of what you want, music is going to help. Unfortunately, it is possible to screw it up.
Here are the most common wedding music mistakes couples make when planning their wedding.
Only Playing Music You Like
Obviously your wedding music should reflect you and your partner. But if you want your guests to dance, you have to play songs they recognize. People only dance to songs they know.
Ironically, couples who care most about music are the ones who make this mistake. They spend a lot of time finding new music. They are music experts. Unfortunately, their family members often are not.
Most people like music that was popular when they were in high school or college. Take the first 15 or 30 minutes of your dance set and devote it to your older guests. Then have your DJ play songs for your other guests. Finally, end the night with a long set of your favorite songs.
Disclaimer: you only have to do this if you want your guests to dance.
Not Taking Advantage of Cocktail Hour and Dinner Music
The music played during cocktail hour and dinner has two uses:
It allows you to play rare songs your guests won't dance to later on. There's no pressure to dance during this time. Cocktail hour plus dinner can be half the wedding or more. That's a lot of time to play your songs.
It gets your guests warmed up. You can play the same types of music you will be playing later in the night. Just have your DJ play less obvious ones. Your guests will be drinking and in the party spirit well before dancing starts.
Don't make the mistake of just playing background music in a genre you don't normally listen to.
Hiring a DJ, then Requesting 100 Songs
There are only a certain amount of songs that can be played during a 2 to 3 hour dance set. Giving your DJ a "must play" list with 75 or 100 songs on it is usually a bad idea. A DJ's main talent is choosing songs that will make people dance.
Yes, a DJ brings all the sounds equipment. Yes, a DJ mixes the songs together. But those things are pretty basic compared to choosing songs to play. Choosing two and a half hours worth of music is hard. Weddings have guests of different ages, different genders (obviously), and often guests who hail from different countries (and speak different languages). Getting them all dancing is a challenge
Your DJ (hopefully) has years of experience packing dance floors with happy people - just by choosing songs. So, give your DJ the list with 100 songs on it, but only choose 10 or 20 as "must plays."
RSVP Card Requests
Recently it has become popular for couples to include a place for a song request on their wedding invites. This can be really fun. It's not always bad. It depends on the type of couple you are.
If you are the type of couple who wants a fun dance party and isn't too picky about what songs get played, then this is fine. You can send your guests' requests to your DJ before the wedding, and he or she will include many of them in your dance set. Guests love it when their request gets played. "That's my song!" they will yell out.
But if you are the type of couple who is very concerned with what songs are played during your dance set then you will hate this. Your guests will probably choose traditional wedding songs like "September" or "Don't Stop Believing." I was with one couple when they went through over 100 requests from their guests. They did not accept even one of them. At the wedding, guests asked me when I was going to play their request. That was awkward.
So, it really depends on what type of couple you are. If you wouldn't feel comfortable with someone else choosing many of your dance songs, then RSVP song requests are not for you.
Being Lazy About Prelude, Cocktail Hour and Dinner Music
There are types of music that were traditionally played during a wedding. During the "prelude," (the time before the ceremony started), they would play classical music. During cocktail hour and dinner they would play crooners like Frank Sinatra or maybe jazz.
This is fine if you like classical music or jazz. But there are many couples who write this on their music questionnaire just because they don't know what else to put. These parts of the wedding are great for non-danceable songs or to warm your guests up. See what I wrote above about dinner and cocktail hour if you missed it.
Don't ask for classical music or jazz if you don't regularly listen to it.
Trying to Force it
OK, here goes... Some people don't like to dance.
I have DJed at least three weddings where the couple was disappointed because their guests didn't dance. We chose music their guests would like. I made a few announcements inviting them to dance. They were at nice venues with delicious food. A normal crowd would have danced.
So what happened? Those people just weren't really into dancing. At one of those weddings, many guests brought research books. There were groups of five to ten people looking at a thesis and discussing it. True story. Almost no one danced. At the end of the wedding several guests came up and told me what a great DJ I was and that I "killed it." Go figure!
Are you getting married? You know your family. Do they go to rock shows? Hip hop clubs? Do they dance at family gatherings? You will have a good idea whether they will dance.
So don't ask your DJ to keep inviting people to dance. Or to play "Levels" and turn it up. Not all weddings have raging dance parties. Some couples ask for a chill wedding. A bar vibe. Decide what you want, and whether your guests will go along with it. It's ok if there isn't a lot of dancing. Music can set a mood and you can have fun.
Not Playing the Music you Like
Many couples have told me something like this. "We don't have to play my favorite music because our guests won't dance to it." That is wrong! Ok, technically it might be right. Maybe the guests won't dance to it. But you should still play some of it.
The most popular genres like this are explicit rap and heavy metal.
Let's discuss explicit music first. A lot of DJs say they will only play clean versions of songs. I only get clean versions too... unless my couples ask for the dirty version. If you want to hear Migos, WAP or whatever that's fine. It's your wedding! Your DJ can play it at the end when the kids (and older guests) have left. If there are still some left, the DJ can make an announcement saying you're about to play some explicit music. Who cares? Have fun!
And as far as heavy metal goes, same thing. Play it at the end of the night. In my experience, this music is less well known than rap. Talk it over with your DJ and decide how many songs you want to play.
I DJed a wedding where the groom loved "hardcore," an especially loud and aggressive form of metal. We played one song, and yes it cleared the dance floor. But he and the best man danced to the song while everyone watched and took photos. It was one of the highlights of the wedding.
Only Picking Songs with "Wedding" Lyrics
Some people believe that you should only play love songs at weddings. And that you should avoid songs about breakups, hookups or heartbreak. This is wrong. Play the type of music you normally listen to. Play songs your guests know and will dance to. Don't worry about the subject matter.
YOU Don't Dance
If you want your guests to dance, you have to dance too. It's your wedding and your guests want to be with you! If you are outside playing cornhole all night, your guests will be too.
Many times, couples have asked me why their guests are outside hanging out with them. And why they're not dancing. When they moved to the dance floor, their guests followed them.
Seating Hard of Hearing Guests in Front of the Speakers
There are two DJ tips for your seating chart. First, seat the dancers near the dance floor. Second, don't seat hard of hearing guests right in front of the speakers. The second one is more important. Have mercy on these people (and on your DJ).
"I CAN'T HEAR MYSELF THINK!" "MY HUSBAND CAN'T ENJOY HIS SOUP!" "CAN YOU TURN THE MUSIC OFF FOR EVEN THREE MINUTES?" These are the types of things I hear when certain guests are seated in front of the speakers. Just a heads up.
If you avoid making these mistakes, the music at your wedding will be great. Whether you want a chill party or a rager, these tips are really going to help. If you have any questions, or you're looking for a DJ in the northeast, get in touch!