Nothing sets an atmosphere quite like music. It can create a mood of excitement, romance, tranquility or energy. (Just think about how music is used on film soundtracks to make you feel happy one minute and terrified the next!)

So it’s really important that you give some careful thought to the music you choose for your wedding and the party you give for your reception, because it has the power to make (or break) the whole evening.

Make sure your guests are entertained

We’d also say that the music isn’t just about you. Okay, so it’s your wedding day but you’re going to be entertaining the guests you’ve invited, and you need to make sure they have a good time – which includes playing some tunes they won’t be able to resist dancing to.

If your wedding is anything like the majority of weddings, there is going to be a mix of different ages amongst your guests, which means there is going to be a variety of musical tastes going on.

You like Rihanna? Fair enough, but you’re going to have to cater for parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, too.

Make sure you play some golden oldies

Some songs have universal appeal, no matter what the age of your audience. We’re thinking of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. You want that dance floor to be hopping for most of the night, not looking sad and empty!

A good DJ will be able to look at a crowd and gauge the sort of music that is going to get guests going. Like all your wedding suppliers, you should meet beforehand, discuss your tastes in music, the ages of the guests and see what the DJ has to suggest. Ask the DJ what sort of event (and age group) he specialises in. When you’ve briefed him on your wedding, ask him what sort of music he thinks would be suitable – it’s a good test.

We consulted Al Mayfield, who runs Great Events. He has masses of experience and has been DJ at hundreds of parties. Here’s what he suggests you do to make sure the music at your wedding is memorable for all the right reasons.

10 ways to get your wedding music right

  1. Start making a playlist on your phone/tablet/computer.
  2. Ask your friends to send you their top ten tracks as their input will help shape your night (Wedding Ideas thinks this is a GREAT tip and that you should ask for requests with your RSVPs).
  3. Ensure you discuss and agree your first dance with your fiancé. It sounds obvious but it has been known! You also should both like the music, not just one of you.
  4. Temper your selection so as not to alienate your guests. Play rap music non-stop and the oldies are probably going to disappear off. Play a bit of Elvis or The Beatles and they’ll enjoy reliving their youth (and could amaze you with their moves). By the same token, if you have young children at your wedding, play some music they’d like – a recent X Factor winner usually goes down well.
  5. Ensure you listen to the whole song and understand the lyrics  (some folk consider Band of Gold as a wedding hit but it’s about leaving!).
  6. The music should in most parts reflect your personalities (but see note 4 above – anything too extreme is going to clear that dance floor fast).
  7. Consider what type of atmosphere you would like to create. Do you want a fun and lively evening? Do you want a mood of romance? A mixture? In which case you’re going to have to think of different styles of music you like that suit different moods.
  8. Remember most parties come alive when the ‘cheesy selection’ is played.
  9. Have the discussion regarding a live band versus a DJ. But if the budget allows have both – a DJ will give you more choice but a live band creates a special sort of atmosphere.
  10. Make sure there is music that your parents can dance to. In fact, if your parents have a special ‘tune’ that they have made their own, make sure it’s played for them (with a dedication from you too if you like).


Kieran from Rock My Reception also makes some valid points. “We have played non-stop at weddings for up to four hours in the past. Make sure the band isn’t just going to do an hour and then pack up and go home. Also never underestimate the power of music to create the atmosphere. We play before the ceremony as guests arrive and it is great for taking away that nervous tension before the entrance of the bride.

“Also music throughout the drinks reception is much underrated. It keeps the guests entertained while the bride and groom are away having their pictures taken.”

So there you are. Plenty to be thinking about when deciding on what wedding music to have. You’ll also find some useful discussion on the Wedding Ideas Forum right here.


  1. This is one of the BEST wedding music write ups I’ve seen. Good tips!

    ..EXCEPT for the tip about asking guests for their top ten songs on RSVP slips. This becomes a time devouring affair and results in A) a collection of mish mashed songs that don’t flow and/or B) the disappointment of guests when ‘their song’ doesn’t get played.

    Do yourself a favour and give the professional [DJ or Band] your general tastes in music and let them do their job to ensure everyone has a great time. It will save you a heap of time and almost certainly result in a better night.

    Instead of RSVP songs, guests should be encouraged to approach the entertainer and deliver their requests ‘in the moment’ (you would be amazed how much more ‘context appropriate’ their requests will be).

    • Hi Simon, many thanks for your great response.

      Many brides have used the RSVPs to gain information about what their guests would like played at the reception, and I know this has worked for a lot of people but you make a great point – I’m sure requests are much more ‘context appropriate’ when they are actually there, enjoying the moment.

      Are you a DJ or in the entertainment industry? Do you have any more top tips?


      • No worries Rachel! Just my two cents, but mostly concerned with saving the couple time at a very busy period in their lives.

        Yes I’m a wedding DJ in Sydney, Australia. Don’t have any more actual selection tips to add as you’ve hit the nail on the head with the importance of variation and inclusion of all guests (even if that means playing the odd song that the couple might not choose to listen to in the car).

        The only tip I would add is more ‘practical’ regarding entertainment – and that is that sound fades substantially from it’s source, so always try to get the DJ/Band setup as close to the dance floor as possible and try to seat older guests (hard of hearing) and those with infant children as FAR from the sound source as possible. Sit the young guests closer as they’re less likely to be disturbed by slightly louder music and more likely to spend a large portion of the night on the dance floor later.

  2. Getting it right really involves the following check list:
    Research bands – agencies are a great place to start because they are on there because they are reputable.
    Do not trust soundclips alone – these can be auto tuned and adjusted and often are not representative of what you get on the night.
    Set list – many of my clients have a wide age group attending the wedding and therefore you want a mix of music spanning the genres. There are die hard popular songs that fill The floor such as Sex in Fire, Get lucky, Valerie, superstition, sweet dreams, Car wash, Mr Brightside so think long and hard about what your guests like and not just what your own tastes are.
    Keep it upbeat with few slow songs. Many of my clients want a mix of everything -rock, pop, Indie, Jazz, Soul, Motown which is a good choice but stere clear of focusing on one genre as it can get very ‘ samey’ and alienate guests.
    Don’t have long Gaps between sets as the energy will drop. Half an hour to 40 mins should be the max!
    This check list has been put together by me after performing at over 3,000 weddings the past 18 years so I’ve been there done it worn the t shirt!


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