Your wedding music checklist and 7 planning tips to make it dead easy

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Wedding music checklist as seen on @offbeatbride
Danny and Johanna rocking their wedding. Photo by Kim Fox Photography

Planning out the wedding music has always been top-of-mind for me, I think because it's so vital in setting the mood. A lot of offbeat couples approach it casually and either set up playlists for each part of the day or allow a DJ to run with it. If you're planning on taking more control of the music, these are the tips you'll need to make sure your wedding day is rocking in all the right ways.

Figure out where your interests overlap

You and your partner should see where there's overlap in your tastes and what types of music will be most appealing for your guests. We've compiled some pretty rad playlists that appeal to more family friendly music, even for metal and punk fans! Don't feel like Top 40 is your only option here. Once your list is set, you can start narrowing down options.

Compromise on choosing specific songs

Come up with a system to choose songs with your partner. Maybe you'll alternate choosing songs, maybe you'll each make a list and match them to specific events/times, or maybe you'll let one of you manage it all. Either way, set expectations ahead of time so that one of you isn't left feeling like the music is one-sided.

Make a list of your favorite songs

This is more for reference than anything else. You may find your perfect processional song in your favorite '90s band's repertoire once you've gotten out of the “traditional wedding music” mindset. You may not end up including all of these songs, but it'll get your head buzzing with ideas.

Keep your options open

Look in soundtracks/film scores, video game themes and soundtracks, television background music, and other less typical genres for songs with which you can connect. This is especially true if you're planning a specific theme like a geeky wedding (hello Pokemon theme song!), goth wedding (hell yes, Atreyu!), or '80s rock (kick-ass '80s cover band and Billy Joel!).

Look for instrumental versions of your faves

If you're opting to accommodate more traditional guests, consider looking for some of your favorite music in instrumental form. Bands like Vitamin String Quartet offer alternative genres in more traditional-sounding formats, like rock ‘n' roll and geeky themes.

Match your music to your reception activities

If you're having a reception, determine if you want dancing, chilling with board games, mingling with appetizers, karaoke, etc. The music can definitely set a vibe for getting everyone out of their seats or settling in for a chill time.

Consider do-not-play songs

Some DJs don't recommend having a do-not-play list, but if there's a song you definitely don't want to hear (I'm looking at you, song I associate with my ex!), then be sure to note that in your brainstorming.

Wedding music checklist as seen on @offbeatbride
Lovesick making music magic happen.

Wedding music checklist:

Here's a more traditional run-down of music you can consider including if you're planning on the usual ceremony + reception lineup with events like the parent dances. If you're going a different route or skipping some of those traditions (totally cool to do!), you can alter this to match your own schedule. Pick and choose!

Wedding ceremony music lineup

• Pre-ceremony music played while your guests arrive and are seated.
• Processional music played as the wedding party and the couple enters.
• Recessional music played as you and the wedding party exit the ceremony.
• Cocktail hour before the wedding reception music to which to mingle.

Wedding reception music lineup

• Ambiance music played as your guests arrive.
• Your entrance music played as you enter the venue, often a little more lively to get everyone psyched.
• First dance music, if applicable.
• Parent dances, if applicable.
• Dance or party music depending on what you chose for your reception activity goals.
• Garter and bouquet toss music played if you're planning on tossing a garter and/or a bouquet (or something else entirely!)
• Cake-cutting music if you'll have a cake.
• Last dance music saved for the end of the reception.

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Comments on Your wedding music checklist and 7 planning tips to make it dead easy

  1. Oh thank you so much for this! We’re going the ipod route and this breakdown is so helpful for planning it all out!

  2. This is so useful! The one thing I would add is to look for your favourite songs sung by different artists, or in different languages, or in the original version. Charles Aznavour’s ‘She’ may sound cheesy in English, but is decidedly more classy in Italian (and even German!). And while we’d never play Beyonce, we’re more than happy to have her inspiration for ‘Crazy in Love’ on our list (the Chi-Lites ‘Are you my woman’). Many of our playlist songs are recognisable but intriguingly different, and will go nicely with our mellow-no-dancing-vintage wedding. We’ve ended up with a massive and very ‘eclectic’ playlist lasting 10 hours, spanning nigh on 10 decades worth of songs. But, until this article came along, I would not have thought about splitting it into different sections, which makes perfect sense now. Thank you!

  3. Great post! I was very lucky for my wedding, me and my husband have a very similar taste in music. I love the suggestion of having a do not play list. I wish I would have thought of that.

  4. Music plays a huge role in creating the perfect atmosphere at any wedding. And having the right music playing at the right time to create desired ambiance takes planning! It is important to soak up these tips for selecting wedding music for the different parts of wedding day.Thanks

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