DIY Wedding: Building Your Own Wedding Reception Playlist

laptop itunes wedding

This post will focus on the reception music. Ceremony and other musical moments will be covered in a separate post – stay tuned!

One of the most fun projects I undertook for my own wedding was putting together the reception music. I got to listen to great tunes, day and night, for weeks. I had an excuse to have “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “My Girl” on constant replay.

So, basically, it was bliss.

But, even though it was a lot of fun to cycle through 80s tracks and big band hits, actually selecting appropriate songs and determining a good order for them became tricky. When you’re on a budget, or are a DIY maven, and have decided to take on this task yourself, be prepared to log a lot of hours online and in iTunes.

It’s fun, though, I promise.

There are three things you need to consider when putting together your own playlist:

  1. The type of wedding you’re having: Are you having a morning brunch — or an evening affair? Do you want a quiet evening, or a rowdy dance-party?
  2. The guests you’re inviting: Are they the dancing kind, or do they prefer to sit with a glass of wine and chat? Are they older or younger?
  3. What YOU like: I’m assuming this is self-explanatory. It’s your wedding — do what you want with it. And have fun.

From here you can figure out what kind of music you may want to include and how much you’re going to need. A good estimate is to have about 3-4 hours of dance-able music for after mealtime.

To get you on your way to wedding-reception playlist-success, here a few suggestions for selecting your music:

  1. Different generations generally enjoy different styles of music: The best way to balance this out is to include well-known music from all eras. So throw in some Sinatra or Dean Martin for Grandma (or mom and dad), and Lady Gaga or Black Eyed Peas for your friends.
  2. A safe ground can often be found in 70s and 80s music. Journey, Queen, old-school Bryan Adams, and similar, usually appeal to guests of all ages.
  3. Break up a dance section with a slower selection every four or five songs. Fun, fast music is what most often gets people on the dance floor. But, everyone needs a breather.
  4. Have a large variety of music: There’s only so much ABBA one can hear in a night. Also avoid placing similar songs one after another.
  5. End the night on a strong note. Send your guests home with a rousing song that’ll get them up and dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. Choose something that’ll leave them with nothing but amazing memories!

But how do you build the wedding reception playlist?

For simplicity’s sake (since I already had the program on my laptop), I decided to use iTunes. I also discovered that iTunes allowed me to do some minor track editing (more on that below), so it really was the best choice.

itunes playlist

As you can see, I created a wedding folder. I then broke it down further into individual playlists, each of which was separated by an “event” (speech, special dance, etc.). Each individual list held about 25 minutes worth of music (if you’re having a dinner, you’ll want something similar for the start of the night, but your last set will easily be an hour). Group 5 — our first reception set — was played while we took photos. We then arrived for our first dance, which then flowed into group 6, and so on. In between the remaining sets were any speeches we knew about.

Now, one thing I didn’t consider when I first started organizing the music was flow. Some songs have stretches of silence before or after they begin, some go on for ages, and some songs just don’t fit well next to each other. But the beautiful thing about iTunes is that you can alter start and stop times for songs, as well as add cross-fade so songs blend seamlessly into each other. This part is what took the most time, frankly. I listened to the transitions between songs dozens of times, to ensure everything was smooth.

To alter the start and end of songs, right-click on the song and select “Get Info”, then “Options”. To add a cross-fade between songs, select “Preferences” under the “Edit” tab, then “Playback”. I found a four or five-second cross-fade worked beautifully (note: the same amount of time will be applied to all songs, so choose what works best with the songs you’re using!).

And for anyone needing a little inspiration, here are some of the biggest hits from my own wedding reception playlist, and others I’ve been to (or read about):

Let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be happy to help out where I can!

Photo by Stephan Geyer via Flickr Creative Commons

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Blogger. Eternal Scanner. Dog-Parent. Newlywed. Unable to let go of the fun she had planning and crafting her own untraditional wedding, Yael has returned as Wedding Republic's self-proclaimed DIY maven. Visit her online home at!


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  3. This was so helpful! Thanks for all the great tips and screen shot of your playlist which gave me some more ideas 🙂

  4. cinthya says:

    I was actually very hesitant about using my own playlist for my wedding, but after reading your post I am definitely going to look into it! I did have one question. For your wedding, what kind of speaker system did you use? Or where would be the best place to rent one?

  5. kerry – glad my song list was helpful for you!

    cinthya – i used a sound system that a friend already had (he’s a performer, so he had a fairly top-notch speaker duo), so i’m not certain what its specifics are. you could easily do a google search for “sound system rental” or “audio rental” or “audio-visual rental” + your city to see some companies in your area. let me know if you need any more help!

  6. cinthya says:

    Thank you so much!

  7. Could you list all the different playlists you used? Or were all of them the ones shown in the screen shot?

  8. Thanks for the tip! Attending a friend’s wedding recently and I suggested an 80s playlist for the event. It was fantastic! Danced all night to The Cure and The Bangles heee

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  10. Brittany says:

    This may seem like a stupid question….but did you purchase all the songs on your playlist or use an mp3 converter? We’re having a band but also having iPod breaks…and the band isn’t playing all night long so I’m creating a playlist. I’m excited to do this but feel like it could get expensive purchasing enough songs from iTunes…however, I don’t know how legal mp3 converters are??? Thanks for your advice!

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