Couples planning their wedding will often ask me, “How do you get people on the dance floor?” My response isn’t to start a line/group participation dance, or play “I Gotta Feeling” (let alone “Celebration” and/or “We Are Family) , or even open the dance floor with the #1 Top 40 song on the charts. Rather, my response comes from years of experience: “It starts with proper programming and building energy over the course of dinner.” That’s right, dinner music matters.
Dinner music sets the atmosphere, and while you and your spouse are making the rounds, music is either entertaining your guests or boring them to the point they have already decided to leave as soon as the cake is cut and the dance floor opens. Here are three things that ALWAYS should be taken into consideration when preparing music ideas for your reception’s meal:
- The Venue – the music selections for a rustic barn wedding likely won’t be the same as a downtown ballroom wedding.
- The Desired Atmosphere – no matter how you want dinner to start (perhaps romantic, maybe specific individual songs with meaning, or maybe down-tempo lounge), it needs to end upbeat and familiar to your guests.
- The Demographics of Your Guests – this is the hardest part and it takes skill and knowledge to pull this off – you can’t be selfish and force music in their ears because “they’ll come around to it”.
What I have found to work the best is to play sing-a-long songs that guests know and love. Not all of them are necessarily “danceable”, but they will get people to tap their toes and create anticipation to celebrate with you on the dance floor. Because hey, after all that great dinner music, the dance floor just feels like a natural destination.
Neil Diamond – “Sweet Caroline”
This is my favorite song of all-time, and my favorite song to play to “test” if people are ready to dance or not.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary”
“Proud Mary” is a fantastic song that will work on the dance floor, but I’ve found it to have a greater impact during dinner. It is one of my favorite wedding dinner songs to play.
Billy Joel – “The Longest Time”
If I have guests at a wedding that are from the Northeast, I will ALWAYS play this song. Actually, I’ll play this song at any wedding, when appropriate.
The Four Seasons – “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)”
See Billy Joel – “The Longest Time”. (Yes, I know what the song is about, and your guests do, too. Everyone still loves it.)
Temptations – “My Girl”
Like “Proud Mary” this is also a great dancing song, but has a much better impact during dinner. (Unlike “Proud Mary”, I’d probably play it again during the dancing portion of the night if requested.)
Kenny Chesney – “When The Sun Goes Down”
When appropriate, country is a blast for upbeat dinner music. “When The Sun Goes Down” pretty much foreshadows the night to come (and that’s a Jedi mind trick!)
Bobby Day – “Rockin’ Robin”
Fantastic toe-tapper. Two minutes and thirty-two seconds of feel good music. The Jackson 5 also did a great version of this.
Lyn Collins – “Think (About It)”
Ever danced to a song called “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock? Here’s the original record. The original songs that were sampled by hip-hop producers (shout out to Puff Daddy!) make for a fun and educational dinner experience.
Herb Alpert – “Rise”
Here’s a great jazz tune that was sampled by a very popular 90’s hip-hip song. Can you name it?
Michael Bublé – “How Sweet It Is”
So, Bublé has built his career around performing his rendition on pretty much every awesome song of all-time. Props to him; I’m a huge fan of his work because it is good. So here’s a fresh twist on standards and classics.
Toto – “Africa”
This song is just awesome. All the ladies will be singing along to it, at least.
Hall & Oates – “You Make My Dreams”
The day that this song doesn’t work is the day I retire from DJing. Feel good, upbeat, and the message is perfect for a wedding reception.
That’s just twelve of the hundreds of songs that are fantastic for dinner.
This post was originally published on May 13, 2014 at www.TonySchwartzBlog.com.
Filed Under: Music, Weddings
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