Photos by Douglas Via
Five Approaches to Welcoming Your Guests With Music
Words by Jennifer Reitmeyer, president of MyDeejay
The cocktail hour at your wedding reception serves to welcome guests to celebrate with you, and the right soundtrack is key to setting the mood for the kind of party you intend to have. Years ago, cocktail hour music was kind of a throwaway, with couples directing their DJ or band to just play “background” music. (Conducive to conversation, perhaps, but also utterly unmemorable and with no personal style whatsoever.) I always advise our clients to work with their DJ to craft a cocktail hour that really reflects their tastes and allows guests to mix and mingle in a fun, upbeat way.
Cocktail hour music can be approached in all kinds of ways. Here are five styles you may want to consider for your guests’ first musical impression at your reception:
- Timeless Classics: As everyone probably knows, jazz and vocals are among the most traditional music choices for cocktail hour. Of course your grandparents will love you for kicking off your party with songs they recognize, but everyone else will appreciate the romanticism, too. After all, these songs have stuck around for a reason! Consider artists such as Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone and Nat King Cole.
- Same Old Song (Now with a New Sound): For a playlist that appeals to guests of all ages, why not consider contemporary covers of classic love songs? Older guests will know the words and melody, while younger guests will appreciate the fresh take and modern production value. Some fun covers include Jamie Cullum’s “I Get a Kick Out of You,” Cat Power’s “Sea of Love,” Norah Jones’ “Love Me Tender,” Ellie Goulding’s “Your Song,” Madeleine Peyroux’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”
- No Ordinary Oldies: Motown songs and other oldies are great for kicking off the dancing portion of the reception, but they can also create a fun, upbeat atmosphere for your cocktail hour. Who wouldn’t smile at hearing songs such as Sam Cooke’s “Cupid,” Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her,” Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”?
- Modern Love: Most couples want to incorporate music into their wedding that is personally significant. However, unless the songs have a fast tempo and are recognizable to the majority of the guests, they won’t be hits on the dance floor, which is what makes the cocktail hour the perfect time to get creative. Some contemporary songs to consider for this romantic hour are John Legend’s “All of Me,” Cake’s “Love You Madly,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” and any of the fun, whimsical tracks from the Nouvelle Vague collective, such as their cover of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.”
- Notes on a Theme: If your wedding is centered on a fun theme, the cocktail hour can be a great opportunity to further express it. Classic and glamorous weddings may choose to incorporate Rat Pack artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Meanwhile, outdoor summer weddings might choose to include Dave Matthews Band, Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffett.
Whatever cocktail music you select, make sure it reflects your individuality and includes songs you love (almost) as much as you love each other!