Wedding Dinner Music & Cocktail Hour Songs
Wedding background dinner music sets the tone for the entire reception. It can be played as early as when the guests arrive at the reception. Many times the wedding party is busy with the photographer at this point, anyway.
When Do You Play Wedding Dinner Music?
Play dinner music in the background as early as the cocktail hour and right up until the couple’s first dance. You can choose to have a cocktail hour before dinner or skip it. You may even want to change the vibe of the music for cocktail hour and calm it down for dinner.
Background dinner music continues until the end of the main course at a wedding reception. Depending on the chain of events selected by the wedding couple, background dinner music usually plays for about an hour and a half. Need help with the order of events? View our common format of a wedding reception article.
How Much Dinner Music Does a Wedding Reception Need?
That is a great question. The short answer is that it depends. This is why, as a wedding couple, you should have a conversation with your wedding planner and the DJ.
If the wedding dinner is a formal, sit-down dinner with courses, you may need at least an hour. Add another half hour for pre-dinner cocktails. Your wedding planner will help you decide when the dinner music should end.
“But in a restaurant, you want to have peaks and valleys that reflect the average time that a guest dines—every 2 1/2 to 3 hours you want to turn that energy up.” Charlie Reyes
A black-tie event will have different background music than a backyard cookout. Music outdoors can be louder because the sound will escape the area. Your professional DJ should be given a tour of the dinner space so they can properly place speakers and play the correct volume.
Background Music Isn’t Dance Music
We know that “Baby Got Back” brings back some great memories, but your wedding guests are trying to eat. You know Aunt Margaret is going to get up and start dancing in the middle of the courses if you play that song. Don’t let her embarrass herself — at least yet.
“Never waste a good party song on your cocktail hour. Save those crowd-pleasers for later.” Wedding Shoppe, Inc.
Think about dinner music as background music — music barely noticed. It sets the tone for the evening. It allows people to have conversations. It’s not the dominant sound. It’s in the back of the noise.
Dinner Music & Cocktail Hour Ideas
One way to choose the wedding dinner music is to honor a relative that has passed. You can do this by including their favorite genre or song. It’s a gentle nod and not a distraction.
Some sites say never to play Michael Bublé, we’re not going that route. Choose what makes you feel comfortable. Better yet, have a conversation with your wedding planner and professional DJ. Professional DJs are music historians; they choose music to set the tone.
“Start low. As the place fills, keep turning it up. Volume should be loud enough that you can have a conversation with your friends next to you, but not able to fully listen in on a conversation the next table over.” Rogan Howitt
We could literally list millions of songs in all different music styles. That’s impossible. We will guide you through a mixture of old and new songs in a few music styles. Know your guests and their music likes. Stick to your wedding’s theme, too.
Similar song lists for further reading:
The Best Background Songs to Play?
What vibe do you prefer while you’re eating? Something fast or something relaxed? Do you want to honor a genre or a memory? We want to know your favorites, too. What dinner background or cocktail hour songs should we add to our list?
Please comment on the songs below. We read and respond to all the suggestions.
Dinner & Cocktail background music song list curated by Matthew Campbell
Last Updated: February 23, 2021
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