The All-Important Wedding Playlist

Wedding music is tricky. Not only are you picking songs that represent you (as a couple and individually) on this highly important day in your life, but you’re also selecting music for a lot of other people from a broad cross section of generations and preferences. If you want a good party you must keep your audience in mind. It’s really true for any playlist or mixtape you make– keep the listener in mind. I’m a consummate people pleaser and definitely would run through the playlist and guest list in my head, guessing how they would react to it. I’ve been to too many weddings where the couple selects only their favorite songs, which is great for them but unfortunately many of their guests do not know or appreciate the music. That there is a party killer, and the event goes downhill quickly, its only saving grace being the free food and booze.

For months I collected the names of great songs as I heard them on a note app on my phone. Then I’d transfer them to a Google Docs spreadsheet that Sean used to collect the MP3 files, whether they already be in our extensive joint music library or freshly downloaded. This is not something you can throw together in an evening! Even the couple weeks leading up to the day we were still adding music. Instead of hiring a DJ (the mere idea makes me shudder), we had a friend and coworker MC the event for us, and all the music was prepared in a series of playlists for his convenience.

The reception is the one playlist you can’t get too obscure with, for the sake of your party. This is also where you need to blend the hits from today and yesterday to get as many people on the dance floor as possible. That said, we avoided most of the standard wedding reception songs for ones we thought would work just as well, if not more so.

The  music that played before the ceremony, during the cocktail hour and dinner were a little more obscure to the general population, using songs we both loved, but also set a mood and undertone to that time of day. The pre-ceremony playlist was dreamy, soft and often acoustic, befitting a glowing late summer afternoon. The cocktail hour had a little more swing (without resorting to the standard Rat Pack playlist either) to increase the energy while we were off taking photos and our guests were getting their first drinks. Dinner contained some songs from both prior playlists, with more bluesy guitar and uptempo mixed in, slowly getting livelier as time wore on. By the time the reception rolled around, everyone was raring to go.

The Avett Brothers, “I And Love And You”
Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More”
Bon Iver, “Skinny Love”
Damien Rice, “The Blowers Daughter”
Band of Horses, “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Regina Spektor, “Us”
The Temper Trap, “Sweet Disposition”
Lisa Hannigan, “Knots”
Florence + the Machine, “Dog Days are Over”
The White Stripes, “Lord, Send Me an Angel”
Cat Power, “Sea of Love”
The Pixies, “Here Comes Your Man”
Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
The Black Keys, “You’re the One”
Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel”
First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”
The Beatles, “In My Life”
Iron & Wine, “Such Great Heights”
The Lumineers, “Ho Hey”

Sigur Ros, “Starálfur”
This song was just as perfect as I had hoped for such an integral, emotional moment. I was mildly concerned about playing a song in Icelandic (about a staring elf, no less), but Sean’s grandma even thought she recognized and loved it. I came to the end of the aisle, arm-in-arm with my dad, around the 2:28 mark. I got to the “altar” right around the 3 minute mark, ending exactly where I had planned.

Karen O & the Kids, “All is Love”
Also perfect. Upbeat and very obviously a love-focused, celebratory song, featuring the lead singer of one our favorite bands that we’ve seen live together.

Bright Eyes, “First Day of My Life”
The Ramones, “Baby, I Love You”
She & Him, “I Was Made For You”
The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “American Girl”
Flogging Molly, “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”
The Pixies, “Where is My Mind?”
Otis Redding, “Try a Little Tenderness”
The White Stripes, “Hello Operator”
The Turtles, “Happy Together”
The Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”
Fujiya & Miyagi, “Collarbone”
Cat Power, “Sea of Love”
Bonnie Raitt, “Angel from Montgomery”
Dean & Britta, “Friday I’m in Love”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Maps”
Loretta Lynn ft. Jack White, “Portland, Oregon”
The Lumineers, “Ho Hey”
Cat Stevens, “Wild World”
Louis Armstrong, “La Vie En Rose”

Fun., ft. Janelle Monae, “We Are Young”
The Black Keys, “Tighten Up”
Bruno Mars, “Marry You”
Bloc Party, “This Modern Love”
Cults, “Go Outside”
Dobie Gray, “Drift Away”
Coconut Records, “West Coast”
First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”
Grouplove, “Tongue Tied”
Band of Horses, “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Mumford & Sons, “Awake My Soul”
Arcade Fire, “Wake Up”
James, “Laid”
The Black Keys, “Girl is on My Mind”
Cream, “Sunshine of Your Love”

Loretta Lynn ft. Jack White, “Portland, Oregon”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Little Shadow”
We actually didn’t finalize this choice until the week before the wedding. There were ones with lyrics more obviously suiting, there were ones we couldn’t quite figure out how we’d dance to, and then there was this. Tender, soft, dramatic, heart-wrenching.

Taken By Trees, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
It’s difficult to find a song to dance with your parent(s) that isn’t horribly inappropriate or saccharine sweet. A stripped down version of the GnR hit (piano replacing the guitar and a simple female vocalist replacing shrieky Axel) seemed a decent choice.

Loggins & Messina, “Your Mama Don’t Dance”

About half way through the song they insisted everyone join them on the dance floor.

Doris Day, “A Sentimental Journey”
Sean did this specially for his grandmother. His grandfather passed away a little more than a year prior, and he donned Grandpa Darwin’s cap for this dance with Lucy. There were many a teary eye in the crowd.

The White Stripes, “Conquest”

Placebo, “20th Century Boy”

Stevie Wonder, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”
Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”
Flo Rida, “Good Feeling”
Soft Cell, “Tainted Love”
Queen, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Urge Overkill, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”
The Romantics, “What I Like About You”
Wreckx-n-Effect, “Rumpshaker”
LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It”
The Troggs, “Wild Thing”
Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Come On Eileen”
Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock”
The Clash, “Rock the Casbah”
Rihanna, “We Found Love”
Usher ft. Lil Jon & Ludacris, “Yeah!”
Earth, Wind & Fire, “September”
Daft Punk, “One More Time”
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, “Home”
The Kinks, “All Day and All of the Night”
Wings, “Maybe I’m Amazed”
The Contours, “Do You Love Me?”


Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx, “Gold Digger”
The Black Keys, “Gold on the Ceiling”
Bob Seger, “Old Time Rock and Roll”
The Pretenders, “My City Was Gone”
Salt-n-Pepa, “Shoop”
The Notorious B.I.G., “Hypnotize”
Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
Edwyn Collins, “A Girl Like You”
Elton John, “Your Song”
Otis Day & the Knights, “Shout”
Montell Jordan, “This is How We Do It”
Enur ft. Natasja, “Calabria 2007”
Nelly, “Hot in Herre”
M.I.A., “Bad Girls”
Hall & Oates, “You Make My Dreams”
The White Stripes, “Hotel Yorba”
The J.Geils Band, “Love Stinks”
Van Morrison, “Crazy Love”
Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce, “Telephone”
2Pac ft. Dr. Dre, “California Love”
Savage, “Swing”
The Hives, “Hate to Say I Told You So”
T.Rex, “Get It On”
Don Henley, “All She Wants to Do is Dance”
Vanilla Ice, “Ninja Rap”
This was the only song Sean picked that I almost nixed. I didn’t think it was popular or danceable enough to warrant its inclusion, even though both of us were huge TMNT fans as kids. I should have known better with a large group of late 20 and 30 something, super fit jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts guys in attendance. It resulted in an epic dance battle that included flips, jumps and tons of swagger, the onlookers chanting “GO NINJA, GO NINJA, GO!”, and a photo like this:

Yes, that is my husband.

Wham!, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”
Ini Kamoze, “Here Comes the Hotstepper”
Michael Jackson, “Smooth Criminal”
Outkast, “Bombs Over Baghdad”
Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dog, “Nuthin’ But a G Thang”
Jimi Hendrix, “Foxy Lady”
The Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
K-Ci and Jojo, “All My Life”
The Pretenders, “I’ll Stand By You”
Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, “Get Low”
The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy”
The B-52s, “Love Shack”
50 Cent, “Disco Inferno”
Jay-Z & Kanye West, “Niggas in Paris”
Robyn, “Stars 4-Ever”
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, “The Message”
Boyz II Men, “I’ll Make Love to You”
Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin'”
The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup”
Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
Oasis, “Wonderwall”

Not all of these songs ended up playing, and that was the only playlist that was not played in its original order, which is fine by me, as our MC Jason was awesome enough to read the cues and know what to play. Also, I had factored in a slow song every 5-7 songs based upon what I had heard from other people, but we barely touched the slow songs. In fact the party raged so hard I eventually pulled the plug, because our friends were clearly going to dance all night if we didn’t.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: