Your Ultimate Cocktail Hour Playlist

From Sinatra to Sheeran, these cocktail hour songs will definitely delight.
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
by
Lauren Dana Ellman
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
Lauren Dana Ellman
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren is a contributor for The Knot covering topics such as music, cakes, venues and speeches.
  • She has been published in a wide array of lifetsyle-oriented publications including SELF and Allure.
  • Lauren is a proud graduate of Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.
Updated Aug 30, 2021

When it comes to ensuring a fun and memorable wedding day for you and your guests, music is instrumental (see what we did there?). And while the focus may be on creating a playlist for your wedding reception and ceremony, don't forget about cocktail hour, which marks the midpoint of the big day.

Your cocktail hour is the perfect time for guests to socialize over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Use this time to create a fun, memorable and relaxing environment for your guests before dancing the night away. Further, adding music to your cocktail hour is an easy way to elevate the ambiance.

Not only does cocktail hour music serve as excellent entertainment for your guests, but it also helps set the scene for all the fun that's yet to come at the wedding reception. Whether you choose to have live music (a full string quartet or a solo acoustic guitarist, perhaps?) or a DJ, the options are truly limitless—so feel free to get creative.

To help get some inspiration flowing, you'll find a few of our top wedding cocktail hour songs, which include everything from romantic pop ballads to jazzy duets and much more. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but most couples do opt for songs that exude romance or relaxing vibes so guests can focus on mingling rather than dancing. However, feel free to include any song that best celebrates your love: It's your big day, after all!

There is one thing to note: After you've finalized your cocktail hour playlist, send your top picks to your wedding band or DJ. The goal is to give them as much notice as possible before the big day so that they have enough time to work your cocktail hour music requests into their song lineup.

"This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)," Natalie Cole

Lyrics you'll love: "Loving you is some kind of wonderful/Because you showed me just how much you care"

Natalie Cole released "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" back in 1975. Fast forward to today, and it's one of the most popular love songs played at weddings around the country. It's safe to say that this now-iconic R&B hit will have your guests singing and dancing during cocktail hour.

"Here Comes The Sun," The Beatles

Lyrics you'll love: "Here comes the sun do, do, do/Here comes the sun/And I say it's all right"

"Here Comes The Sun" is one of The Beatles' most famous tracks. Band member George Harrison wrote the tune in the winter of 1969 in anticipation of warm, sunny springtime weather. It also features stunning acoustic guitar instrumentals, making for an extra-sweet-sounding cocktail hour song.

"The Best Is Yet To Come," Frank Sinatra

Lyrics you'll love: "The best is yet to come, and babe, won't it be fine?/The best is yet to come, come the day you're mine"

Delight your wedding guests by playing "The Best Is Yet To Come" at cocktail hour. The feel-good tune was first recorded by Tony Bennett in 1962; however, Frank Sinatra is often credited with making the song popular since it was featured on his 1964 album, It Might as Well Be Swing.

"When I Fall In Love," Nat King Cole

Lyrics you'll love: "When I give my heart/It will be completely/Or I'll never give my heart/And the moment I can feel that/You feel that way too/Is when I fall in love with you"

Jazz enthusiasts will love listening to Nat King Cole's romantic rendition of "When I Fall In Love" in between bites during cocktail hour. The track was featured on the singer's 1957 album, Love Is The Thing. Decades later, in 1996, Cole's daughter, Natalie Cole, covered the song and transformed it into a duet using her father's vocals from the 1957 version.

"You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," Stevie Wonder

Lyrics you'll love: "My life has been waiting for your love/My arms have been waiting for your love to arrive/My heart has been waiting/My soul anticipating your love, your love/Your love love love love love love love love

Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" features the singer's signature pipes—plus the drums, electric piano, electric bass, conga and horns. The beautiful and one-of-a-kind melody is perfect for marking the start of your marriage. It also makes a great parent dance song to add to your wedding music playlist.

"XO (Acoustic Version)," John Mayer

Lyrics you'll love: "In the darkest night/I'll search through the crowd/Your face is all that I see/I'll give you everything/Baby, love me lights out"

John Mayer initially covered Beyoncé's "XO" at a concert in Australia back in 2014 after tweeting about her "real and raw" voice throughout the song. Nearly a month later, the singer-songwriter officially released his own rendition of the song, which is celebrated for its soft-spoken vocals and sweet acoustic instrumentals. The soothing albeit distinct composition is excellent for a cocktail hour.

"Sway," Michael Bublé

Lyrics you'll love: "I can hear the sounds of violins/Long before it begins/Make me thrill as only you know how"

Dean Martin originally recorded and released "Sway," the English-language version of "¿Quién Aerá?" back in 1954. However, Michael Bublé covered the song in the early '00s, breathing new life into an old classic. Bublé's version—which fuses pop and jazz elements—feels light and airy as he croons about a chemistry-fueled dance.

"Vision Of Love," Mariah Carey

Lyrics you'll love: "I had a vision of love/And it was all that you've given to me"

"Vision Of Love" was Mariah Carey's first-ever single. The emotional ballad combines R&B, pop and soul elements—plus, its slow tempo makes it an ideal choice for cocktail hour.

"By Your Side," Sade

Lyrics you'll love: "When you're on the outside, baby/And you can't get in/I will show you/You're so much better than you know"

With Sade's soft vocals and stunning harmonizing—combined with the poetic lyrics about unconditional love and the sweet guitar strums—"By Your Side" (2000) contains the perfect recipe for an utterly romantic song.

"I Choose You," Sara Bareilles

Lyrics you'll love: "My whole heart/Will be yours forever/This is a beautiful start/To a lifelong love letter"

Sara Bareilles' "I Choose You" is a pop ballad you can't help but sing along to, thanks to its catchy melody and upbeat instrumentals. If you're having live music at cocktail hour, have the ensemble perform the song with a guitar for a more intimate rendition.

"Cheek To Cheek," Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

Lyrics you'll love: "Heaven, I'm in heaven/And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak/And I seem to find the happiness I seek/When we're out together, dancing cheek to cheek"

In 1956, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, two of the most acclaimed 20th-century jazz musicians, teamed up to release a rendition of the 1930s-era song "Cheek To Cheek." The jazzy duet is a cocktail hour staple thanks to its steady, slow pace and sweet lyrics. Don't be surprised if you spot some guests happily swaying along to the music.

"My Funny Valentine," Tony Bennett

Lyrics you'll love: "Don't change a hair for me/Not if you care for me/Stay little valentine stay/Each day is Valentine's Day"

Inject some humor into your cocktail hour music by having your DJ or band play "My Funny Valentine." The 1937 show tune, which has gone on to become a jazz staple, is the goofiest love song on our list, beginning with LOL-worthy lyrics before concluding with adoring words of affirmation.

"Can't Take My Eyes Off You," Andy Williams

Lyrics you'll love: "You're just too good to be true/Can't take my eyes off you/You'd be like heaven to touch/I want to hold you so much"

While the original "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" was released by Frankie Valli, another American singer, Andy Williams, recorded his own version of the song. Williams' recording of the romantic ballad offers softer vocals and subtler horn instrumentals, which makes it a great pick for cocktail hour music.

"Lucky," Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat

Lyrics you'll love: "Though the breezes through the trees/Move so pretty you're all I see/As the world keeps spinning round/You hold me right here right now"

"Lucky" is a sweet and breezy pop duet from Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat (per Billboard, the two also wrote the song together over email). In the chorus, both singers croon, "Lucky I'm in love with my best friend"—an ideal sentiment for a wedding cocktail hour song.

"Better Together," Jack Johnson

Lyrics you'll love: "Sometimes life can be deceiving/I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together"

"Better Together" puts Jack Johnson's soothing voice on full display, and it's hard to believe that the now-beloved track was released more than 15 years ago in 2005. The acoustic love song serves as a much-needed reminder that, while life can be hard at times, it's always better when you have someone you love by your side.

"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," Marvin Gaye

Lyrics you'll love: "With sweet love and devotion/Deeply touching my emotion/I want to stop and thank you, baby"

"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" was performed by Marvin Gaye. However, the lyrics were composed by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland—a trio of famous Motown songwriters. Its incredibly catchy chorus is just as sweet and soulful today as it was following its 1965 release.

"You And I," Ingrid Michaelson

Lyrics you'll love: "Don't you worry, there my honey/We might not have any money/But we've got our love to pay the bills"

This quirky duet is from Ingrid Michaelson's 2008 album, Be OK. "You And I" is nothing short of charming with its endearing lyrics and breezy instrumentals. The gorgeous harmonizing will leave wedding guests awestruck.

"At Last," Etta James

Lyrics you'll love: "At last/My love has come along/My lonely days are over/And life is like a song"

Etta James' rendition of "At Last" has remained a popular wedding song (and in particular, first dance song) for decades. Playing it during cocktail hour affords your wedding guests the rare opportunity to truly savor the slow-paced song's passionate lyrics—over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, of course.

"Ho Hey," The Lumineers

Lyrics you'll love: "I belong with you, you belong with me/You're my sweetheart"

This song skyrocketed in popularity back in 2012. Its uber-catchy chorus makes it easy and fun to sing along during cocktail hour.

"Thinking Out Loud," Ed Sheeran

Lyrics you'll love: "Take me into your loving arms/Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars/Place your head on my beating heart"

Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" is practically perfect for cocktail hour, from the swoon-worthy song lyrics to the soft acoustic guitar instrumentals. Have your band or DJ play the ballad as guests mix and mingle.

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