good reception

Good Reception

How to build a playlist that will make your post-wedding party a success

Creating a playlist for your wedding reception is just a matter of picking your favorite songs – right? Wrong. While choosing music you enjoy is a crucial part of setting the tone for the evening, there are a few other factors to consider, starting with who’s coming to the party.

Consider Your Crowd

“Do we have a lot of older folks? Devout family members? Do they all love country music?” These are just a handful of questions Evelyn Sizemore, owner of Alaska’s R&R Productions Professional DJ Entertainment, asks couples when she helps them choose their music. Though your wedding is all about you, your playlist has to appeal to your guests if you want to keep them at the reception and on the dance floor.

Here are some quick tips:

• Find a pro. “You’ll have a variety of ages and social backgrounds, so you want to play music that will touch everyone,” advises Martin James of Alaska Professional Entertainment. “The key to doing that is finding an entertainer whose musical background covers a wide range of generations and genres.”

• Discover great covers. Professional entertainer Lou Sizemore suggests using covers of classic songs to appeal to old and young alike. A Diana Krall cover of a Frank Sinatra classic like “Fly Me To the Moon,” for example, “will seem new to young people but will be really familiar to the older folks who remember the Sinatra version.”

• Take requests – but not just on the night of the reception. Guarantee a succes sful party by including a space on the RSVP where guests can list their favorite tunes or request the “first dance” song from their own wedding.

• Whether your out-of-town guests are coming from Pennsylvania or Peru, make them feel included by playing music from home. “When you’ve got a wedding with guests from different cultures, you can play songs from Peru pop radio or a cover of a familiar song done in Spanish,” suggests Lou.

Timing Is Everything

Pleasing everyone from your Catholic aunt to your Elvis-loving cousin doesn’t mean you can’t play your favorite hip hop music, though. It’s all about timing, says Lou: “Once the grandparents have gone home and things get more loosened up – that’s when I’ll break out the coarser music.” How you play your music is just as important as the kind of music you play, says Martin. “Volume and sound quality is crucial. Get somebody who has the proper equipment and knows how to use it.” That “somebody” shouldn’t be your little brother hitting “shuffle” on his iPod. “This is one job you don’t want to burden your family or friends with,” Martin adds. “They’re attending a once-in-a-lifetime celebration! Give them a break by hiring a professional who can read the room and play the right music for the moment.”

Avoid the Awkward

To prevent uncomfortable music moments, Evelyn recommends compiling a “do not play” list. “As the entertainer, you don’t want to play the song that was the bride’s song with a boyfriend 10 years ago,” warns Lou. Music that reminds you of a relative who passed away, songs that get overplayed at weddings, songs about cheating or infidelity – whatever you want to avoid, put it on the list.

Father-daughter and mother-son dances can be a way to acknowledge the bride and groom’s parents. But Evelyn reminds couples to listen closely to lyrics. “All country performers have written amazing mother-son songs, except for one little problem: Mom dies at the end of the song!”

First dance music represents another potential landmine, since some songs that, at first glance, appear to be about love, turn out to be about the opposite. “Some brides know what the song’s about, but they still want it,” says Evelyn. “But it’s important to have a DJ who can give you a heads up so you can make that call.”

Leave It to the Pros

A professional DJ is someone who can not only steer you toward the right music; he can make the entire reception a success by structuring the evening. “You want someone who’s not just a DJ, but is trained for weddings specifically,” shares Martin. “Someone who’s a good public speaker, who knows how to keep the energy up and the evening moving. Literally, your entertainer can make or break the night.”

Hiring an expert can also bring a personalized touch to your reception while allowing you to be as hands-on – or as hands-free – as you want to be. Some entertainment companies build a personalized website for each bride and groom, where the couple can create “must play,” “play if possible” and “do not play” lists. Once you’ve created a sample playlist, your DJ can build from it and play what he feels is the right song at the right time.

Or you can hand-pick every single song on your playlist, says Evelyn, who likes to sit down with her clients to get a sense of their tastes and needs. “That way, I can verify exactly the song and the version they want. There’s nothing more exciting than when you’ve picked your music, and the guests hear it and go, ‘Oh, I love this song!’ ”

“Music generates memories, and you reminisce on the dance floor,” Evelyn adds. “But the night of the wedding reception, you’re also creating moments you’ll reminisce about in years to come.” And by choosing the right music, you can create the perfect soundtrack to your future memories.