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Six Tips for Curating Your Wedding Reception Music

An esteemed wedding planner shares her tried-and-true advice for planning the entertainment of the evening.

After choosing the band or DJ for your wedding, the next step is guiding them on your musical preferences. Get tips from top wedding planner Beth Helmstetter on curating your wedding music!

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Photo: Braedon Photography

After choosing the band or DJ for your wedding, the next step is guiding them through your musical preferences. While making sure you hear the music you personally love at your wedding is obviously important, there is a bit of an art to keeping wedding guests engaged in the way you prefer. That said, here are a few tips to help you as you start guiding your entertainment for the wedding reception.

1. Decide What Type of Event You Hope to Have

Do you want a dance party or a dinner party? Or maybe a nice mix of both where guests are engaged in dinner while dining yet ready to go when it’s time to dance? Determining your vision for the event not only guides the flow of the evening but also guides the band or DJ on the type of energy to bring to the table during certain segments of the night. For instance, if your vision is to have more of a dinner-focused event with lots of conversation, you may ask for lighter background music. If you want to be sure the dance floor is packed, you may want to start the higher-energy music the second your guests enter the reception.

2. Create a "Do Not Play" List 

Depending on how much time and energy you want to spend on curating your wedding playlist, I recommend prioritizing your list by first creating a "do not play" list. This can be as specific as asking the band to avoid playing the song you and your ex-boyfriend considered significant way back when to requesting they avoid a complete genre altogether. 

3. Create a "Must Play" List 

Second on the list of prioritization would be creating a "must have" play list. This should include significant songs for you and your soon-to-be husband or wife, favorite songs that you absolutely have to dance to, and any guidance on music genres you want to focus on throughout the evening.

4. Create a "Nice to Play" List

Lastly, if you have time, a "nice to play" list can offer a third tier of guidance for your band or DJ to get the sound and energy a bit closer to your overall vision.

Joyous First Dance at Outdoor Wedding
Photo by Max & Friends; Bridal Salon: Mark Ingram Atelier; Planning & Design by Beth Helmstetter Events. See the full real wedding here: Outdoor Destination Wedding with a European, Garden Party Feel in California

5. Avoid Going Too Obscure 

While having great musical taste and knowing every new artist there is can be great knowledge to show off at a house party filled with guests your age, this same approach during a wedding can be a flop. Remember, you’re typically hosting an event with a lot of diversity in age, culture, and musical tastes. Unless you don’t care about having a great dance party, it’s best to stick with music that you like, but also songs that your guests will know and be excited to dance to throughout the night.

6. Give the Band or DJ Flexibility

You may think your wedding guests are going to dance to Latin music all night long and want to plan accordingly, but if on the night of the wedding, that plan isn’t getting the guest response needed, make sure the band knows they can change genres as needed to keep the energy alive. While you may assume you need to provide a ton of guidance to ensure the band or DJ gets it right, remember that they are experts at creating a mood and an energy at events. Give them guidance on your preferences as mentioned above, but then take your hands off the wheel and allow them to lean into their experience and expertise.

No matter what, remember that music has the ability to make or break your wedding. Making sure to give this element enough thought and attention will ensure not only a successful celebration but a memorable one at that!

For more tips and expert advice on your wedding entertainment, find out how to maximize dancing at your wedding reception, discover the ultimate wedding playlist of love songs, and learn the dos and don'ts of wedding music.