Okay, I’ve decided to just answer your question here in case other people are interested in discussing playlists and such. OP I’m sorry and do not mean to hijack your thread, and will gladly start my own if you wish!
In general, think of your entire evening as a crescendo. If you’re not a musician so you don’t know what that term means/looks like, think of it as a bobby pin shape or a really long version of this shape: < . The cocktail hour should be low key, the dinner should be similar, and once you get into dancing, you can let that beat drop.
Cocktail hour: I suggest anything downtempo but happy, Meaning, jazz standards and solo piano/vocal works great, so long as the song is not sad. Solo jazz guitar also works great. Classical music is okay but may put some of the younger guests to sleep.
DO play: Norah Jones (Don’t Know Why, Come Away With Me, Nearness of you [this is a jazz standard and there are like 100 versions on itunes, but her version is very pretty.], Turn Me On, Sunrise); Feist; Joni Mitchell; James Taylor; Hall and Oates; jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Chet Baker, Anita Baker, Etta James, Nat King Cole. Oh my lord, Nat King Cole is the most beautiful vocalist/pianist to ever live, in my opinion.
Do NOT play: Break up songs, angry songs, songs about death, songs explicitly about sex.
My “break music” for gigs of this genre is comprised of songs based of of “My Girl”.
Dinner Hour: This can certainly be more spirited than cocktail hour but be careful that you don’t break into EDM or Top 40, since most people aren’t ready to dance yet. Big band music (jazz with horns) is great. You can find Ella Fitzegerald, Etta James, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and others in this sort of arrangement. For more current genres, chilled out pop and folk work. Colbie Caillait, Sarah Bareilles, Feist, Ben Harper, Jamie Cullum, Michael Buble. etc. Again, no break up songs or sad songs. I’ve played songs requested by brides who didn’t realize they were requesting break up songs and it was weird. It was fine, because they were beautiufl songs, but I personally felt it was weird to be singing songs about going separate ways when they literally got married 1.5 hours ago.
Be prepared for some asshole to yell “OKAY ENOUGH WITH THE SAPPY SONGS LETS DANCE” and for your grandma to say, at the same time “This is too loud! Turn it down!” If you can have someone monitoring the room at this part of the evening, it will help. then they can change the song if it seems too slow or turn it down if it’s suddenly too loud.
Dance/Post-Dinner: Think uptempo and dancey. Subject matter doesn’t matter as much. It doesn’t matter if your demographic is jazz, country, pop, or R&B, there are a few soul/funk songs that EVERYBODY loves, just like there are one or two country songs that everyone secretly loves, and there are plenty of classic rock that people will dance to.
Examples: Play That Funky Music, Brick House, I Feel Good, Happy (a lot of people on this thread hate that song, which is fine. I just know when my band plays it, everyone rushes the dance floor), Boogie Shoes, The Bird, Shout, etc. Similarly, there are a few 80’s rock tunes that EVERYBODY loves such as Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Stop Believin, Your Love, Lights etc. And, no matter how un-countrified the party demographic is, everyone sings along to Man! I Feel Like A Woman. And everyone of every demorgraphic dances to At Last.
Now that the 20- and 30- somethines are getting married, NSync, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Ace of Base, and old school hip hop/R&B are finally becoming popular again! So happy. Examples: Bye Bye Bye, Baby One More Time, Toxic, If U Wanna B My Lover, Ice Ice Baby, Pony (hell yes this is my favorite song), No Scrubs, anything Ashanti or JA Rule, Waterfalls, etc.
Some current electro pop that I really love and is popular among the younger/indie crowd is: The 1975, M83 (my bridesmaid is in this band!), MGMT, Jess Glynne…
These are some examples that may help you.
I suggest choosing music from what you own (on iTunes and CDs) and then what ever you need to add should be PURCHASED from itunes or whatever other source you use that can all be put into one playlist. Yes, as an artist I will always advocate for purchasing music. However, for your wedding it’s more important that your music actually PLAYS. If you rely on a streaming service like a YouTube playlist, Spotify, or Pandora, you run the risk of the internet cutting out and your song just stopping. YES this has happened to me in the middle of trying to DJ a first dance song between the newly wed couple. Just purchase the music. You’re helping the artist and you’re helping yourself.
My last bit of advice is to think about actual decibel levels. If you’re unsure what should go in the cocktail hour vs the dinner set vs the dance set, it’s totally okay to keep the music at a literal LOW volume during those first two events. As soon as you feel like dancing, just dim the lights and go over to the speakers and crank that shit. I promise that even if it’s “Build Me Up Buttercup” people will finish their drink and start dancing. The ambience you set can be just as important as the actual song playing.
*Side note: make sure you have good speakers. There should be large speakers and subs available to you. Personally I would need to see them and test a few songs through those speakers before renting them. You could play the grooviest song in the universe but if there’s no low end (Bass frequencies) it’s gonna sound like shit and your audience won’t want to dance. Test those speakers, crank them to the loudest level you are permitted (the room changes when populated with tons of furniture and people, but it will still give you an idea of how it will sound) and make sure they sound fantastic.
Hope this helps! And sorry OP for hijacking the thread!