Selecting the right music can make all the difference in creating the perfect atmosphere for your special day. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting music for different parts of your wedding day. We asked Vermont wedding DJ Nick of 802 Events for his best tips to help you choose the best wedding songs for your ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and reception. Crank up their playlist and get ready to party!
Wedding Ceremony Music
Your wedding ceremony is the cornerstone of the celebration. As you and your partner exchange vows and make your commitment official, the music should reflect your love story and the importance of this moment.
When selecting music for your ceremony, consider choosing a mix of traditional and modern songs.
“There are a lot of great instrumental versions of classic songs that feel more modern and still ceremonial,” says Nick. “We encourage couples to have fun with their selections and to pick songs that are meaningful to them. There is no ‘wrong’ choice!”
If you’re having a ceremony in a house of worship, such as a church, make sure to check with your officiant about any restrictions on the type of music you can play.
Pre-Ceremony Wedding Music
Pre-ceremony music is important for setting the mood. As guests take their seats, music can create an atmosphere that’s elegant, romantic, or downright party-tastic. Your choices will subtly give guests a clue of what’s to come for the ceremony and reception.
Nick says this is a time when you can’t go wrong with acoustic or piano covers of popular or classical songs. They fade into the background, but are still upbeat, adding to the anticipation! I think this can also be a great conversation starter for guests (“Wait, is that Taylor Swift?”) as they mingle. (Pst – The Bridgerton soundtrack is another great resource for ideas!)
Wedding Processional Songs
Your processional is a big moment in the wedding ceremony. Choosing a song that reflects you will add to the moment. A processional song is a great place for an instrumental cover of a song that’s meaningful to you and your partner.
On a personal note, I walked down the aisle to an instrumental guitar cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which was the same song my mom walked down the aisle to. It added to a very special moment, and I still tear up when I hear it! I’ve also seen a bride walk down the aisle to an organ version of the Zelda theme song (she and her husband are big gamers). It was a fun nod to their shared passion, and still felt ceremonial because of the instrument choice.
Wedding Processional Song Suggestions:
- Can’t Help Falling in Love – Brooklyn Duo or Piano Guys
- Canon in D – Brooklyn Duo
- Thinking Out Loud – Brooklyn Duo
- I Get To Love You – Ruelle
- A Thousand Years – Piano Guys
- Here Comes the Sun – Brooklyn Duo
Wedding Recessional Songs
Congrats – you’re officially married! This momentous and celebratory moment calls for music that’s equally exciting! Even if you choose traditional music for your processional, your recessional can be a fun place to mix in something more modern.
Wedding Recessional Song Suggestions:
- Signed Sealed Delivered – Stevie Wonder (an acoustic or string cover of this is fabulous as well!)
- You Are The Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
- This Will Be (an Everlasting Love) – Natalie Cole
- Lovely Day – Bill Withers
- Best Day of My Life – American Authors
- Sky Full of Stars – Piano Guys
Hit Play on The Playlist
Wedding Cocktail Hour Music
After your ceremony, it’s onto the party! Cocktail hour is a time for your guests to mingle, so the music should be upbeat and lively, but not too loud or distracting. “Don’t worry and stress about trying to pick specific songs or artists,” says Nick. Pick a few artists or songs as inspiration for the direction you’d like, and let your DJ handle the rest.”
Consider choosing a mix of upbeat jazz or French lounge music, or light rock, folk, or mo’town. These choices will add to the atmosphere without taking away from the conversations.
Wedding Dinner Music
Similar to cocktail hour, the music during dinner should enhance the atmosphere but fade into the background. Nick suggests continuing with a similar vibe from cocktail hour, but perhaps a bit slower or more faded. Again, this is a time when you can give your DJ some clues and then relax and let their expertise take over!
The Best Wedding Songs for Your Reception
Ready to really get the party started? If you’re like me and my friends, the dance floor is the highlight of the night, and Nick has tips for getting your guests out there – and staying there all night long!
First, talk with your DJ about the kinds of music you want to hear. “The music doesn’t have to be a typical playlist of Top 40s if that’s not what you want!” says Nick. “We work with couples to make sure the playlists are reflective of their tastes.”
Secondly, give your DJ an idea of what your guest list looks like so they can tailor the playlist to your crew. “Since there are often guests of all ages, we like to cater the song list to appeal to many generations,” explains Nick. This usually involves sprinkling in some more “classic” dance songs, especially toward the beginning of the reception.
You can also work with your DJ to create a “do not play” list if there are songs or genres you specifically want to exclude. (For example, some couples do not want any “group” songs like the Macarena or Cotton-Eyed Joe.)
And what about requests from guests? “We always make sure that couples are okay with us taking requests,” says Nick. “Sometimes guests can come up to us and let us know, and other times it’s easier to communicate via a request sheet. We let guests know that we will do our best to play their requests, but we can’t guarantee it…This is especially helpful when people request songs that are on the couple’s ‘Do Not Play’ List! Ultimately, we want to make sure our couples are happy with the music!”
The Best Wedding Songs – Reception Hits:
- Runaround Sue (Nick suggests this is great for the beginning of the night) – Dion DiMucci and The Belmonts
- Staying Alive or You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
- I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
- Yeah! – Usher
- Mr. Brightside – The Killer
- We Found Love – Rihanna, Calvin Harris
- You Makes My Dreams – Hall and Oates
- Starships – Nikki Minaj (the last five are especially popular toward the end of the night, says Nick)
First Dance Songs
When choosing your first dance song, many couples choose a specific song or artist that has meaning to them. (Perhaps it’s “your song” or the first concert you went to together, etc.) If you don’t have a specific song in mind, Nick suggests narrowing in on a genre that you both like, and sampling some songs from there. (He’s also happy to make suggestions!)
One tip: be sure to read through the lyrics and ensure the song is wedding-appropriate! And know that your first dance doesn’t have to be the full length of a song; you can work with your DJ to find a good place to fade it out if you’re done!
First Dance Song Suggestions:
- Crazy Love – Van Morrison
- Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
- All of Me – John Legend
- Nothing Can Change This Love – Sam Cooke
- At Last – Etta James
Traditional Parent Dances: Father Daughter Dance Songs & Mother Son Dance Songs
Many couples choose to honor their parents through a dedicated dance (ex. Mother/Son, Father/Daughter dance). This can be a very special moment! Similar to your first dance, please note that you don’t have to play the full song if you don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention for that long. Another option is to do one combined parent dance where each partner dances with their parent. That’s what we did at my wedding, and it was nice to have a special moment without it taking up too much time away from the reception. (We danced to “In My Life” by the Beatles)
The Best Wedding Songs For Parent Dances:
- I Hope You Dance – Leann Womack
- Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- My Wish – Rascal Flatts
- Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
- Daughters – John Mayer
- Butterfly Kisses – Bob Carlisle
Last Dance Songs
Real talk: I don’t think couples think about this moment enough! It’s common to give a lot of thought to your first song, but how you close the night can also be a core memory. “Think about what you want the vibe of the last song to be: Do you want it to be an upbeat song that everyone can sing to? Something dancy? A slow song?” says Nick. Can’t choose? “We’ve had a few couples choose to do a last group song for everyone to enjoy, and then have a final, private last dance.”
The Best Wedding Songs for Your Last Dance:
- When Love Takes Over – David Guetta, Kelly Rowland
- Last Dance – Donna Summer
- (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warner
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
- Dancing in the Moonlight – Toploader
Finding the Best Vermont Wedding DJ For You
Your DJ is a critical part of your wedding experience! Not only are they in charge of getting the party going, they are integral to keeping the reception on schedule. “Your DJ helps with your grand entrance, toasts, and special announcements throughout the night,” explains Nick. Therefore, it’s key you like their personality and emcee approach.
Nick suggests asking potential DJ’s about their approach to emcee duties and music and explaining what’s important to you to see how you fit. You want a wedding DJ who is not only receptive to your ideas and understands your vision for the evening, but who you can trust to deliver on that so you can relax and celebrate!
Thanks, Nick! If you’re looking for your Vermont wedding DJ, learn more about 802 Events in the vendor guide.