Over the years I’ve had a lot of time to think about the music played at wedding receptions, and how I think that a lot of it is wrong for the occasion. I mean it’s great for dancing, or maybe has a nice tune, but when you get to the lyrics, we have a problem. For example, Heard it Through the Grapevine may be a great song for a stroll-type dance, but have you taken the time to listen to the words? I didn’t think so. And while I’ll Get Over You was a personal favorite of mine after a certain breakup back in 1979, and is still a song I love, I don’t think that’s really something you want to play at your wedding reception. And then there’s the DJ who played Like a Virgin at a friend’s wedding many years ago, back when that song was still current. I’m not gonna make any assumptions about my friend, but even though it was a very good dance tune, there were snickers all around the room because the DJ didn’t think about either the title or the lyrics.
My wife and I just celebrated our 30thanniversary, and her parents threw a huge party for us. During the party and after it was over, people kept talking about the wonderful choices of music the DJ played. That’s because I picked them…every…single…song. Then I gave the five CDs with that music on it to the DJ we hired for the night. I saw this as a chance to show people what could be done with choosing appropriate music for a party like that.
How did I do it? First I went through the 2000 or so favorite songs on my laptop and made a playlist of four hours of songs that I thought either presented relationships in a positive light or were totally neutral, while specifically eliminating the ones that didn’t. And wasn’t all that hard…after all four hours works out to be only about 66 songs. Surely you can pick 66 songs with appropriate lyrics from a set of 2000.
And there were still a lot of pretty good songs to dance to…from all decades, styles, and genres…after all, one thing that people forget at wedding receptions and parties like this is that it’s not just about the music you want to hear, but having a little something in there for everyone.
Now…admittedly, this is a whole lot easier to do with a DJ, who you can just hand five CDs to, than with a band, that only knows so many songs; but it can be done to some extent, even with a band. A friend of mine told the band at her reception that if she heard The Chicken Dance, they weren’t getting paid…no matter how many people asked for it. And if the band has a list of songs in their repertoire that you can look at, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go through it and select which ones you specifically want and specifically don’t want…if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
So when people commented on the music choices, I’m betting that they weren’t consciously thinking about the lyrics to any of the songs, but they did notice that they all seemed to go well with the theme of the party.
But yes, it can be done. You can choose appropriate and danceable music for your wedding reception or anniversary party, and I challenge you to try it. People will talk about it.
And in a good way!