If you are reading this, you have probably never planned a wedding before or are currently planning one. In this article, we are going to explain how to plan your wedding reception music. In this article and our interview, we will be referring to our Wedding Reception Planning form here.
The Wedding Reception Timeline (order of events) typically looks something like this:
- Cocktail Hour
- First Dance
- Family Dances
- Father Daughter Dance
- Mother Son Dance
- Additional Family Members
- Last Dance
The first place you start is at the cocktail hour. The first thing we like to find out when planning for this is, where is your cocktail hour going to be held? What time will the cocktail hour take place? Once we know where and when the cocktail hour will take place, we will be prepared for what we need to bring. Usually, an extra speaker is needed. This is all included in your Wedding DJ Package.
We like to understand what styles of music you like to be played during this time, so on our planning form, you can select from many different styles of music. We suggest you select the ‘surprise me!’ category of music. No matter what DJ you go with, at EPIC we will have a curated list of good pop tunes and classics. The music we play will be upbeat and happy. This music is awesome and it will not be some elevator music that is sure to bore.
After you are announced as husband and wife, you are usually whisked away to take your wedding photos. This cocktail hour is there for your guests. It kind of breaks the ice, allows them to get a cocktail and some hors d’oeuvres, so once they come in for dinner everyone is comfortable.
Essentially, we like to know the time, the place and the vibe you want to set for cocktail hour. There is a place on the planning form for if you have a specific list, we definitely welcome any type of list you have been working on.
After cocktail hour, we have the introductions. Again, we look for the time that this will happen. We need to know if you want the entire wedding party introduced, just the bride and groom, or if you want to skip being introduced. This can also depend on the location or the vibe you’re setting.
The first question we’ll then need to ask is, “What song do you want to come out to?” This can be tough to think of a song that is fun and upbeat. You can always leave it up to us and we can pick it for you. If you do want the entire wedding party introduced, everyone is optional, your parents may want to be seated to watch everyone enter. If we do introduce them, we will need to get the names of the parents of the bride, parents of the groom, flower girl, and ring bearer, bridesmaids and groomsmen. On the form, you want to pair the bridesmaids and groomsmen with who they will be entering the reception with. Lastly, we do maid/matron of honor paired with the best man.Then we have the entrance for the bride and groom. Most of the time it is “Mr. & Mrs.” sometimes it is “Dr. & Mrs.” Every wedding is completely different, so you should put down whatever you are most comfortable with.
We meet with everyone before the entrance to go over the order and pronunciations. We also let everyone know that after being introduced, they can stay on the dance floor. Some people have never been part of a wedding party before and we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable in what to do and where to be. It is important that everyone is getting ready for the bride and groom to come out.
Now we move right into the first dance. Most of the time, this takes place directly after the grand entrance. Sometimes this may be later in the evening, depending on dinner, the couple may just go right into a welcome speech and this could take place later.
For this example, we will say it takes place after the grand entrance. You’ve picked a song to come out to for your first dance. (see blog to help you in picking out song) About a minute and a half is the golden number for song length and when to fade the music out. Some people like to pick a certain part of the song where the music fades out. The DJ and bride and groom will be on the same page. During this time, the photographer is also taking pictures, so you don’t want the dance to be too short. An experienced DJ watches for this so they know when the perfect shots have been captured and when to fade the music out to create the perfect first dance.
Family dances can immediately follow your first dance but can also work well when saved until after dinner. These can be moved around. We advise that you do these dances all upfront while you have everyone’s attention and also because you want to limit the time the DJ is on the microphone, once for the entrances, again for the toasts and cake cutting, then at the end for when everyone leaves. Father/daughter, mother/son, and additional family members if there is a grandparent you want to dance with. We have a list of song recommendations (here).
After those dances we move into the meal, or dinnertime. The first most important thing, is “When is dinner scheduled for?” This is important for a DJ because you do not want to announce that dinner is ready and then have to go back and say, “oh, no, not yet.”
If there is a blessing, we always want to make sure we announce the person’s name so that everyone is ready, we never want the person speaking to have to quiet everyone down on their own. We want to know who this person will be so that we can reach out to them and know where to find them at the reception so that they feel comfortable, see the microphone they’ll be using and have a heads up for when they will do the blessing.
Guests may need to be instructed as to where they will be seated. We can help provide that direction. We can also instruct table on when they can get up and go to the dinner stations, depending on how everything is set up. We also let everyone know that the bridal party goes first. It is important to have that mic presence.
We ask if you have any musical preferences during the meal. We also address this in our other blog post (here). You can always set it and forget it. We like to play a lot of Frank Sinatra. Or you may have a group, such as Vitamin String Quartet, and want everything played by them. Requests are always welcome. We will always make sure they are dinner appropriate.
Typically towards the end of dinner, the toasts will take place. This could also be before, or after cutting the cake. For this example, the toasts will take place while people are finishing their meals. Let us know the names of who will be giving the toasts and their relationship to the bride and groom. You can also let us know who you do not want to ever get their hands on the microphone. We can always handle this and still make that person feel special without ever handing them the mic.
Cake cutting can also take place before the toasts are given. This gives the caterer time to take the cake back and get it cut while people are giving toasts. That way, when the toasts are finished, the cake is ready to be served. Everyone can enjoy cake or go ahead and jump on the dance floor. Some couples just want to cut the cake with the photographer and not make it a big thing so they don’t have to keep stopping and guests can go ahead and start enjoying the dance floor. We can do it in any order, it is really up to you.
The biggest part of the reception is the dancing. Starting from the first question on the planning form, we ask if it is OK to take requests. Just like dinner, it is perfect to take requests, we do have a good filter so you don’t have to worry about what will be played. Our goal is to have a wedding playlist that everyone enjoys and all of your guests hear music they really like so everyone stays happy.
On the planning form, we have a matrix for you to fill out will many different music styles/themes. This sets an initial snapshot of what the dance floor might look like. We will know what you love, what you like, what you don’t want to play, but we continually read the crowd, so we may tweak things just a little bit to see what best fits the night and what the crowd goes crazy for.
In 2017, we are moving away from participation dances such as the YMCA and the chicken dance. We do not ever play these dances. However, there are participation dance songs that people love. Depending on the family and crowd, some of these songs are perfect. You do not need to worry about what is played because we are there to make sure everyone has fun. We are going to put together an awesome night, put a lot of energy out on the dance floor and do a lot of custom mixes where we are in the moment with you.
Go to the bar, grab a drink and enjoy the night.
Bouquet and Garter
The bouquet and garter are completely optional and can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t have to be cheesy, we can help you select some great current songs for these. Or you may want these moments to be silly, we are cool with that too.
Now we’ll talk about the last song and its importance. There isn’t a formal last dance anymore, just a last song for everyone to get together. Journey is a perfect example for the last song. Songs that people know and can sing together are great, whether it’s hip hop, country or classic rock. This is a little behind the scenes secret, it gets everyone in the mood, and if it is “the last song” then we will probably throw a good five to six minutes of material together. You get people in the crowd chanting “one more song”. We take everything, from the initial phone conversation, and may write down or remember something that had significance to you as a couple that you just mentioned in conversation, maybe even a year ago, and then pull that out and play it at the end. We always want to capture that “how did you do that” moment, throughout the entire night. We want to give you that last memory.
Finally, we are at the departure. We announce you as Mr. and Mrs. one last time. We like to know how you will be leaving the venue. Some weddings simply end, others are more extravagant. Is there anything we need to tell the guests? We need to provide them with instructions before they go outside. Are they grabbing sparklers, glow sticks, bubbles? We instruct them outside and get them lined up. We need to be overly specific and give good instruction. Let the guests know where the sparklers are. Tell them to make sure they do not light them until everyone is ready. The wedding planner will also help out at this time.
On the last page of the EPIC Wedding Reception planning form, we have specific song requests. We recommend getting Shazam or SoundHound to help you come up with some songs that you hear and think are perfect. With this list of specific songs, this kind of builds a theme that we develop your mixes and music around. We also include the do not play list, which is also very important.
If you have any questions, email Nick at email@example.com or go to our website at epiccharleston.com.