Saturday, October 8, 2016

How to Make an Awesome Wedding Playlist

Wedding planning is a very unusual task. Hopefully, you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime event, and yet you somehow need to accomplish a ton of tasks (negotiating vendor contracts, renting a tent, finding an officiant) that normal life gives you zero experience with.

Photo credit: the fabulous Marble Rye Photography.

While I struggled a bit with certain aspects of wedding planning (calling people I don’t know, having ‘cute little details’), our wedding itself was absolutely perfect. (By 'perfect,' I mean that my guests all saw me before the ceremony because I was putting out the place cards in the room they had to walk through, I stuffed myself into my tiny car and drove myself to the wedding, and as seen in the above photo, I accidentally shouted something out of sheer excitement as I walked down the aisle. Whatever. I'm a big-picture person!)

The one thing I knew from very beginning was that I'd be creating playlists for the wedding, rather than hiring a band or a DJ. Bands are expensive (and rightfully so!), and DJs seem to involve a little more 'hey everyone, stop what you're doing and stare at the happy couple' than either Jeff or I wanted. Happily, my years of throwing parties in college and grad school prepared me rather well for this task, and the musical portion of the wedding was a resounding success, so I've pulled together my top tips on how to master the art of the party playlist.

1) Consider your audience

Photo credit: Marble Rye Photography.

The cardinal rule of wedding playlists is know thy audience. What do I mean by this? Let me illustrate with a totally-hypothetical and not-at-all-something-I-thought-about example. Let's say that a hypothetical bride was obsessed (non-ironically) with the song "99 Problems" in college, and used to play it at literally every party she hosted. Let us further hypothesize that the imaginary and totally not-Emily bride is still super close with her college roommate. This bride might think 'hey, wouldn't it be fun to rehash our college years by proving that I still know every word to '99 Problems?'"

And yeah, it would be fun. For her. Her grandma and twin toddler godchildren? Not so much.

2) Keep it familiar
Photo credit: Marble Rye Photography. She is amazing!

As someone who likes music with cellos, twee lyrics, and/or what my sister terms 'bleep-blorpy music,' it's hard to imagine that not everyone shares my particular tastes. Unfortunately, unless everyone at your wedding is also a devotee of experimental theremins/banjos/William Shatner, you're going to have to cater a bit to everyone's tastes. And as Thoreau once said, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and they also listen to Top 40.

At my wedding, 'Hey Ya' was the song that got my grandma out onto the dance floor. Have I listened to that song on purpose since 2003? No. Is it the kind of song that everyone knows, and will it make people go 'oooh, I know this one!' and rush out to dance? Yes. Find a smattering of songs like this from every decade from 1950 onward (but go light on the 1970s!) and you'll be golden. Seriously, you can't go wrong with the Four Seasons, Motown, Chuck Berry, or 99 Luftballoons.

3) Have dedicated playlists for different parts of the party
I fulfilled a lifelong goal by walking down the aisle to this track.

This one is a pretty obvious one: the music you rock out to is not the music to eat your beef, chicken, or fish to. Keep it chill for the eating-time playlist, and then pick up the energy when it's time to dance.

4) Take your time!
1/2 of my Karaoke A-Team. Photo credit: Marble Rye Photography.

When I sit down and try to think of the perfect four hours' worth of songs out of all the songs in human history, my mind goes blank and I want to lie facedown on the bed until the source of my panic goes away. Instead of trying to make this approach work, I went to karaoke and kept a running list of all the songs that we pick that make me go 'I *love* this song!' and shout along even though it's not my turn and I don't have a mic. Two marathon karaoke sessions, several car rides out to Shelter Island, and one afternoon of combing through my entire iTunes library later, I had a pool of about 150 amazing songs to choose from.

5) Pay attention to flow

One of the problems with adding songs to your playlist by scrolling through iTunes is that if you pick more than one song per artist, they'll likely play one after another. This is weird and sort of awkward, so it's worth it to go through and reorder your songs.

Also, think about how well the energy level of your playlist flows. If you want to have people going hard, avoid more than one or two slow songs in a row. I think that one slow song per eight fast songs is a pretty good ratio, but your preferences may vary.

6) Give yourself a buffer
Photo credit: Marble Rye Photography.

While you might only plan an hour for dinner, lots of things can happen to foul up your timeline. Maybe you're the world's slowest eater (guilty) and you keep getting sidetracked from your food by all the people you want to talk with (also guilty). Maybe everyone seems to be having a great time mingling. In any case, make sure you have more music on all of your wedding playlists than you expect to listen to.

7) Don't be limited to love songs
Photo credit: Marble Rye Photography.

Many love songs are cheesy. Maybe you're into this, and maybe you're not. If you're not, don't feel like you have to choose lovey-dovey songs just because it's a wedding. It's the first day of the rest of your life, people. Start it off on the right foot! (Then again, I had Lola by the Kinks on my wedding playlist, so your mileage may vary. But I maintain that it's an awesome song. And people did dance and sing along!)

So those are my top tips for being your own DJ! If you have any tips to add, leave me a comment and let me know!

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  1. I always think I will make my own playlists but I am so unsure - knowing how much of a control freak I am, I think if I had less to worry about (by hiring a DJ), the better my sanity will be. But I do think it's a good money saver to do it yourself! I wanna see more wedding photos, by the way!! =D

    1. If you've made party playlists before, it isn't that big of a step up, difficulty-wise, to do a wedding playlist! But I have a specific sort of antipathy directed at DJs who try to stage-manage events, so YMMV. I'm also a huge control freak, and doing the music was quite helpful for setting my mind at ease. I figured that I more than made up for the time I would've had to invest in researching DJs and working with them, and got to do it in my PJs on my laptop!

      I'm trying to convince Jeff to let me put more photos on the blog ;).

  2. Great list, but I loved seeing more or your wedding pics too lady ;) They're all so fun and lovely!

    1. Awww, thank you! The wedding was definitely a super special day :)!