By Casey Nilsson
At first, we swore off all typical sources for reception music: no Chicken-Dance-leading DJ, no cheesy wedding band, just our favorite tunes on shuffle on my iPod. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s us. What could go wrong?
Cue Murphy’s Law: I misplaced my iPod (read: I still have no idea where it is) and thus lost the “<3 Love” playlist that I’ve been freakishly compiling since my man and I started dating. Without my beloved red Nano, we started getting into Pandora at home. Really getting into it. After toying with the “Add Variety” feature, we successfully fused Florence and the Machine, Deer Tick, Ray Lamontagne, Amy Winehouse, Iron and Wine and Kate Nash into one mutant station. Perfect for a wedding reception. A funky Frankenstein, if you will.
Then, out of the blue, my talented brother offered to reassemble a one-time wedding band from several years ago, which includes a bunch of gifted dudes from high school. This was great, since I can’t really see my new mother-in-law getting down to “Dog Days are Over.” We could have the best of the music world: free, mostly contemporary tunes off of Pandora during the cocktail, appetizer and dinner hours, then almost free (cases of beer still count as payment) danceable retro and oldies songs for the rest of the reception.
But what will they play? Whether you get a DJ or hire a wedding band, it’s important to chat about which songs you treasure and which ones make you gag. As you may have guessed, I can’t stand “The Chicken Dance.” Or “The Macarena.” Or “The Cha Cha Slide.” Or anything, really, that requires all guests mime the same ridiculous steps like malfunctioning robots (though the robot is a pretty sweet dance move). I’m after some meaningful tunes mixed in with silly songs that keep everyone, from my cool aunties to my girlfriends to my dad, happily bobbing their heads. Check out some of our band requests for your own musical inspiration, and — as always and very much encouraged — leave your own song tips in the comments.
- “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” Otis Redding. Sigh, so beautiful. This is one of our forever-songs.
- “Dancing in the Moonlight,” King Harvest
- “God Only Knows,” the Beach Boys
- “Prove My Love,” Violent Femmes
- “In My Life,” the Beatles
- “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” the Smiths
- “Waste,” Phish
- “I Want You to Want Me,” Cheap Trick
- “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green
- “Wonderful Tonight,” Eric Clapton
- “I Walk the Line,” Johnny Cash
- “The Boxer,” Simon and Garfunkel. Not exactly a love song, but my mom and I do a killer duet to this one.
- “All You Need is Love,” the Beatles
- “Here Comes Your Man,” the Pixies
- “The Twist,” Chubby Checker
- “Jackson,” Johnny Cash and June Carter. Hopefully we can get a lady onstage to represent!
- “Bad Moon Rising,” Credence Clearwater Revival
- “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley
- “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the Beatles
- “Always on My Mind,” Willie Nelson
- “Can’t Hardly Wait,” the Replacements
- “My Girl,” the Temptations
- “Isn’t She Lovely,” Stevie Wonder
- “Stand by Me,” Otis Redding
- “Twist and Shout,” the Beatles
Listen to the whole playlist on Spotify here.
Casey Nilsson is the copy-editing extraordinaire for Rhode Island Monthly magazine. She’d like to marry her dreamboat, throw a personal, romantic reception and avoid angering any immediate family members — in less than eight months and for about $8,000. Follow her thrifty, DIY journey here or on Pinterest @cnilssonRIM.