DJ Your Own Wedding

My fiancé and I are getting married in July and we’ve decided to DJ our own wedding using an iPod. After doing a little research, I noticed that not many people have posted their wedding playlists online. So, in the interest of making life easier for our fellow lovebirds, I’ve decided to post our tentative wedding dance playlist. Hopefully this will be useful to those of you who want to DJ your own wedding.

Honestly, I think the biggest reason I want to DJ our own wedding isn’t because of the money, but rather because I absolutely refuse to let some hack DJ play “The Chicken Dance” at my wedding … or “The Locomotion” … or “The Macareana” … or “YMCA.” Basically I hate all songs that come pre-packaged with their own stupid dance. If you’re looking for that kind of thing, you should probably go somewhere else.

Now, I may not know a heck of a lot about planning a wedding reception, but I do know quite a bit about assembling effective playlists. I’m an audiophile. I love music, and I’ve got pretty diverse tastes. So before we get to the actual playlist, I thought I might give a few pointers to people who aren’t as confident putting together playlists.

The main thing to keep in mind when using an iPod to DJ your own wedding dance is the audience. Your objective is to get as many people on the dance floor as you can and keep them there for as long as possible. To that end, keep the following things in mind:

1. Who is at your wedding?

Who is going to be at this wedding? Is the dance floor exclusively for 20-somethings, or are the young people going to be sharing the floor with your great aunt Eunice? Chances are it’s the latter, and if that’s the case you need to make sure your wedding playlist includes a balance of old stuff and new stuff. You need some golden oldies to balance out the Lady Gaga.

2. Can you dance to this song?

Remember, just because you love a song doesn’t mean it should be on your wedding dance playlist. Some songs are great sing-a-long-songs. Some songs are great road-trip songs. Those same songs might not be the best wedding dance songs. If you’re unsure about a song, try dancing to it.

Seriously.

If it’s awkward and difficult to dance to when you’re alone in your living room, imagine how much worse it’s going to be trying to dance to it by yourself on a dance floor.

3. Pay attention to flow

Try grouping songs together by genre or mood. You don’t want to play Rihanna, The Dixie Chicks, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Beastie Boys in quick succession. Of course you want to play a wide variety of music, but you want to group like with like.

Play three or four songs for the hip-hop set; follow that up with some awesome 80’s music; pair together a couple of lovey-dovey slow songs and then bring out the classic rock.

4. What’s the mood?

Generally speaking, stay away from sad songs. The mood of your wedding dance should be equal parts romantic, euphoric, funky, cheesy, bad-ass, and bombastic. Avoid anything weepy or angry. Pay attention to the lyrics of the songs on your playlist. Some songs sound like they’re about falling in love when they’re actually about getting your heart ripped out. Use caution.

That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. Basically, if we’re talking about The Temptations singing a jazzy-as-hell number about teenage heartbreak, you’re golden. If we’re talking about your favorite singer-songwriter from college whining into a microphone about how wounded and broken he/she is, you’re sunk.

Further examples:

“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield = Good

“If I Were a Boy” by Beyoncé = Bad

“Ain’t to Proud to Beg” by The Temptations = Good

…anything by Ani DiFranco = Bad

5. Do people know this song?

Lots of people want to DJ their own wedding dance because they are themselves music fanatics. They have thousands of songs on their iPods, and they trust themselves more than they trust some random DJ to put together a kick-ass playlist. I am one of these people.

The dangerous temptation for people like us is that we may want to use our wedding reception to demonstrate to our guests the sophistication and diversity of our musical interests. However, giving in to this temptation will likely ruin your wedding.

Your wedding is not the occasion to introduce people to new bands or to lecture them on your superior musical taste. Skip the up-and-coming indie bands and stick to the classics. If you really want to personalize your wedding dance playlist, try mixing genres or pairing together songs from different eras.

7. Watch your language.

This is especially important with Hip-Hop. I love Jay-Z, but he’s got a mouth like a sailor. You don’t want to offend anyone at your wedding, especially elderly relatives who’ve travelled a long way and bought you expensive gifts. So, reserve the more libidinous and profane songs for the end of the evening (when your great aunt Eunice is sleeping comfortably in her hotel room).

And just to be safe, spend an extra $10 and buy “clean” versions of your favorite dirty songs on iTunes. All the bad words are replaced by split-second silences. That way you can rock out to “Gold Digger” without worrying about offending anyone.

6. Know your crowd pleasers

There are several songs that are guaranteed to fill a dance floor. If you’re going to DJ your own wedding, you should know. In fact, you probably already know most of them. Space these songs out over the course of the evening to provide periodic bursts of energy to your wedding dance. Here are a few that people might expect to hear:

“You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC
“Crazy In Love” by Beyonce and Jay-Z
“Bust a Move” by Young MC
“The Twist” by Chubby Checker
“Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf
“Hey Ya” by Outkast
“Love Shack” by The B-52’s

7. Make it yours

While you don’t want to create a playlist that only you will enjoy, you should, of course, create a playlist that makes you happy. The whole point of DJing your own wedding dance is that you can tailor it to your tastes, so have fun with it!

    Our Wedding Playlist

This list contains six hours of music. Note that songs are grouped together by genre or mood. We’ve put a lot of effort into making sure these songs all flow into one another. It’s entirely possible you won’t like some of these songs, but hopefully this playlist will give you some ideas for your own wedding playlist.

To start, a few upbeat, cheery songs to get people in the mood to dance.

“Do You Wanna Dance” by Cliff Richard
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder
“You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins

Start strong with some wildly popular and widely recognizable stuff.

“I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas
“Dynamite” by Taio Cruz
“Say Hey (I Love You)” by Michael Franti & Spearhead

Now into some Oldies music. Make sure to play some classic music early in the evening for your older guests.

“Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen
“Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
“Burning Love” by Elvis Presley
“You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morison

Classic fun stuff that appeals to everyone.

“Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel
“Faith” by George Michael
“I Wanna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers
“Run Runaway” by Great Big Sea

We’re about an hour in; so we start to heat things up. People have had a couple of drinks; they’re ready for the hard stuff.

“Magic (ft. Rivers Cuomo)” by B.o.B.
“Crazy in Love (ft. Jay-Z)” by Beyoncé
“Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna
“Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flo Rida

Now the first slow songs of the evening.

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by Amy Winehouse
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
“Have a Little Faith in Me” by John Hiatt

Back to the Oldies, a little faster paced this time though.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations
“Do You Love Me” by The Contours
“The Twist” by Chubby Checker
“Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley

This is essentially the “Ladies” portion of the playlist. During these songs, expect to see your dance floor flooded with females.

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” by Beyoncé
“Down (ft. Lil Wayne)” by Jay Sean
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
“Like a Virgin” by Madonna
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Switch it up with a little Rock, hopefully drawing the guys onto the dance floor to join their dates.

“Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen
“Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band
“Free Girl Now” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

More Oldies. Remember to return to each genre at regular intervals. If you’ve got guests whose dancing interests are genre specific you want to tempt them back onto the floor every 45 minutes or so.

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
“The Wanderer” by Dion
“Twistin’ the Night Away” by Sam Cooke

After another hour, another set of (our favourite) slow songs.

“Sea of Love” by Cat Power
“First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes

Thus begins the heart of our playlist, when everyone is dancing, and no one is thinking about leaving.

“Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams
“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
“You Might Think” by The Cars
“Love Shack” by The B-52’s

Kick-ass Hip-Hop!

“Hey Ya” by Outkast
“Forever” by Chris Brown
“Mo Money Mo Problems (ft. Mase)” by Notorious B.I.G.
“OMG (ft. will.i.am)” by Usher
“Angel” by Shaggy & Rayvon

There are six or seven songs in this section (between Bryan Adams and Meatloaf) that will cause people to rush the dance floor. You want a similar high-energy set at the core of your wedding dance playlist.

“December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!)” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
“Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen
“She Ain’t Pretty” by The Northern Pikes
“Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
“You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC
“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf

Let people cool down and refill their drinks with a couple of slow songs.

“Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis
“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

Then transition smoothly into another set of high-energy Oldies.

“Having a Party” by Rod Stewart
“Shout” by The Isley Brothers
“A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles
“Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison

As it gets later, you can feel free to focus on the younger (and likely drunker) crowd.

“Get Off of My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet
“Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol

A high-energy Hiop-Hop set in the midst of two Rock sets.

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
“Bust A Move” by Young MC
“Let Me Clear My Throat (Live)” by DJ Kool
“Daylight” by Matt & Kim
“Summer Love” by Justin Timberlake
“Stronger” by Kanye West
“Encore” by Jay-Z

Time for another set of slow songs.

“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
“When I Fall in Love” by Nat King Cole

As you can see from here on out, we’ve pretty much dispensed with the slow stuff. Anyone left on the dance floor at this hour is here to party. Give the people what they want.

“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“Love in an Elevator” by Aerosmith
“Elevation” by U2

Another set of Hip-Hop

“Yeah” by Usher
“Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake
“Gold Digger” by Kanye West

Some Fast-paced Punk/Hard Rock numbers.

“I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones
“I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” by Ida Maria
“Someday I Suppose” by Mighty Mighty Bosstones
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister

Close things out with one last killer set of Hip-Hop

“Fight for Your Right” by Beastie Boys
“Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang
“Run This Town” by Jay-Z
“Low” by Flo Rida
“Raise Your Glass” by P!nk
“The Rockafeller S***k” by Fatboy Slim
“One More Time (Short Radio Version)” by Daft Punk

A happy, sleepy, goodnight song to close out the night.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow/ What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

If any of you have decided to DJ your own wedding, I’d love to here your comments on the experience. Feel free to post below.

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24 responses to “DJ Your Own Wedding

  1. a much needed post!! nice one!!

    LeEP

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for this post! I have been DIYing (not to mention planning) my July wedding mostly by myself and one of the major things left to do is to organize my itunes playlist. It seems we have a lot of the same songs in mind, so this really helped me see how the flow should be throughout the evening.

    Good luck with everything! And srsly, thanks!

  3. Pingback: Going with the Flow « F that aiSle

  4. My wedding is in a few weeks and we’re DJing our own dance! My (almost) sister in law gave me this link and I am SO excited because I needed help thinking of some good oldies! Thank you!

  5. How hard was the audio set up for using your iPod at the wedding? Do you rent speakers? Thanks! We are getting married in November and really like the idea of playing own music.

  6. This is such a great and helpful post! Thank you for sharing your thought process and songs! I’m interested in your response to Randy on setting up the audio – how hard is it to do that? Did you rent speakers? Did you have a friend moniter the I-pod or pause for any announcements so that you could be relaxed and out on the dance floor?

  7. Wow! thank you so much! This list is going to help us out so much… and there were songs that I completely forgot about!! thx!

  8. Thanks so much…we are crating a playlist for our July wedding and your post is helping us to narrow down the mix….great tips…..gracias!!!

  9. This is great. Thank you so much! In my case I will add one or two latin dance sections with at least this songs:
    Danza Kuduro – Don Omar
    Suavemente – Elvis crespo
    Bailando por ahi – Juan Magan
    Rabiosa – Shakira
    La vida es un carnaval – Celia cruz

    And I think this year you will need some LMFAO for sure

  10. This a fab template – thanks for sharing.

  11. What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing what you went through and you thoughtful playlist. It will be very helpful to my wedding!

  12. Great post!Thank you! My fiance and I are planning a mostly DIY wedding and the music part was making me nervous. We have a wide diversity of guests and tastes in music. Your advice and song suggestions are going to help so much!

  13. this was amazing!!!!! Thank you so much

  14. This was pretty much perfect! Thank you so much for posting.

  15. thank you so much, i was scared of doing my own music for our wedding… this is brill!
    x

  16. I’m in the midst of planning our Caribbean wedding, and we’ve also decided to “D.J” our own evening. Thank-you so much for the post and the selections – as soon as I have our playlist together, will be happy to share it also. Cheers :-)

  17. Just stumbled upon this post – thank you Google gods! Actually, thank you, this is amazing and exactly what I was looking for to give some bones to my reception music! I’ve got an eclectic taste and will dance to pretty much anything and everything, so this has really pointed me in the right direction. The tips were great and I am definitely going to be incorporating some of those classic songs into my playlist. Thanks again! Hope your wedding is/was spectacular :)

  18. Pingback: Practice what you Preach | How to DIY your Wedding and Not Break the Bank!

  19. Curious, how did it turn out? Now that you had your reception, what would you have changed, music wide? Or added?

  20. thank you so much for this post!
    i’ve started putting together a playlist on youtube yesterday. a harder task than thought. your post gave me new insight. my playlist already featured some of the above mentioned songs, but with some of your songs i had this “doh! how could i forget this one?!” and especially when it comes to hip hop and r’n’b i’m at a total loss what to play because i usually don’t listen to that kind of music. so it was very helpful! thank you!!!

  21. Two thumbs up! Thank you for this post. Building my playlist as we speak! :)

  22. This is awesome – thanks for sharing! Definitely bookmarking this for when we start looking at our playlist!! :-)

  23. Excellent! This has been very helpful. I had some of those songs already but there were some that I couldn’t believe I forgot. Thank you. I’ll be bookmarking this for the future. :)

  24. Thank you for this post! I have a fairly good list of songs going BUT I was having a hard time figuring out the correct order for the songs. My fiance and I were actually thinking about setting up a playlist and hitting shuffle (*gasp*) but we have seen the error of our ways! lol. We are already using your template to help us organize the varied types of music we want to play.Thank you again for taking the time to post this information; it has been extremely helpful to us! :)

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