The MANual: Wedding Music

Wedding Music: Your Guide To Setting The Vibe

With all that you and your fiancé have to worry about when planning your wedding, you might be tempted to give the music less attention. “We know what music we like,”  you’ll think. “We’ll just throw on a playlist. It’ll be fine.”

By all means, do that. But your wedding will be a disaster.

Wedding music can’t be an afterthought. As we’ve said elsewhere, music is the most important factor in determining how much fun your guests will have, next to food and booze. The music sets the vibe. A wedding isn’t a wedding without the right tunes.

The Purpose Of Wedding Music

What does wedding music actually do? A couple of things, some more obvious than others:

1)    It elevates the event from a mere party into the once-in-a-lifetime moment it should be;
2)    It enhances any particular wedding theme you’re going for;
3)    It helps people keep track of where they are in the ceremony or reception, and clues them in on what’s coming next;
4)    It gets them on the dance floor.


Decide on your wedding venue and theme before you pick your music. The right soundtrack can magnify or even define your chosen wedding theme. Classical music tells people it’s an elegant, traditional event; country music that it’s a downhome affair; jazz that you’re going for that sophisticated mid-century effect.

The music should complement the décor, dress code, and venue—but it also can point things in specific or unexpected directions, even changing the atmosphere created by the physical surroundings.  Let’s say your venue is a renovated barn. If you play jazz from the 1920s, you’ve created a vintage Great Gatsby vibe. If you play Sam Hunt or Little Big Town, it’s a modern country wedding.

Similarly, certain tunes will work better depending of what you’re wearing. While there’s nothing that says you can’t break out “Baby Got Back” while dressed in an expensive wedding outfit (please don’t), the more formal your look, the more elegant you’ll probably want to go with the music. Similarly, if you’re dressing casual, maybe classical music will seem a little forced.


Though it is stereotypically the groom who handles the music, modern wedding planning is all about collaboration. Music is the perfect area in which to showcase how well the two of you work together. That means picking songs together, finding a common ground between your styles.

A special note for the music nerds: don’t get too snooty here. If she wants to play some Spice Girls song she loved as a kid, let her. It won’t kill you—and it might even give you the cover to slip in a few Radiohead b-sides. Fair is fair, after all.

Plan For Your Guests

Keep this in mind: the music isn’t really for your enjoyment. You’ll be so busy you’ll barely notice its on. The music is for your guests to enjoy, which is why you need to plan it around them.

This is one of the fundamental challenges with wedding music: how do you pick something that will appeal to your teenage cousin Blue, your Great Aunt Irma, and everyone in between? This is the reason it’s always the same thirty tracks that come up on the Internet playlists you turn to for inspiration. Certain tracks are so universally familiar they can’t fail to get people dancing. We don’t care if your crowd is mainly Trump Republicans from Witchita or a Vegan Progressives from Berkeley: when “Billie Jean” comes on, you’re going to shake it.

That doesn’t mean you must stick to the tried and true songs (or overplayed, as the case may be). It just means you should think how your guests will react when you throw them a curveball. Are there going to be a lot of older relatives there? Then don’t use “Panda” by Desiigner as your processional. Is it mainly young people? Then maybe you don’t have to throw any big band numbers into your reception mix. (A side note: big band numbers are actually completely awesome and you should never cut them out of your reception mix.)

Go For The Flow

Finally, you’ll need to sequence your music to the ebb and flow of your event. The easiest way to do this is to hire a professional: any DJ or band leader worth their fee will know when to amp things up, when to get slow and romantic, when to bring in the pleasant background music. They attend a lot of weddings, and they understand how these events usually go. They’ll know which songs are guaranteed to fill the dance floor and which will are “party killers.”  

Sure, they may cut out your favorite dub-step track, and insist on throwing in a little ABBA, but don’t argue. They know what they’re doing, and you won’t have time to worry about it anyway. (Of course, if you want to do it on your own, you can check out the playlists we’ve collected from some great professional DJs for inspiration.)

Bottom Line

Don’t neglect the music: it’s the key to setting the right vibe at your ceremony and reception.


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