16 Wedding Music Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

Don't kill the vibe.
Bride and groom first dance at wedding reception
Photo: Lea Jones | Stocksy
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Dec 05, 2023

From prioritizing the wrong decor to not leaving enough time to get ready, there are countless mistakes you can make throughout your big day. Most of them will go totally unnoticed by your guests. But there's one area where your entire reception could suffer if things go awry: making a wedding music mistake.

It doesn't matter whether you have a band or a DJ, the wedding music matters. The music sets the tone for the entire evening and, if you get it wrong, your guests could end up standing awkwardly around the perimeter of the dance floor rather than cutting a rug all night long.

You can have great music on any budget, but, if you want to have the party people are talking about for months and years to come, you have to get the tunes right. Ready to start perfecting your playlist? Here are the 12 wedding music mistakes to avoid in the process.

1. Not Hiring a Professional

Your 16-year-old cousin is an aspiring DJ and he's excited to do his first gig for free. However, it won't take long to realize you get what you pay for, especially when you realize the set list isn't what you discussed and you're listening to an experimental remix of what you thought was your first dance song.

Wedding Planner's Tips: "Hiring a professional DJ is like bringing in a wedding superhero. They know how to read the room, gauge the vibes, and adjust the music accordingly," says Jamie Wolfer, Wedding Planner and Founder of Wolfer & Co. Interviewing your DJ is key to finding someone with the right credentials.

Not sure where to start? You can research wedding live bands and/or DJs on The Knot Vendor Marketplace.

2. Hiring Entertainers Without Seeing Them

The first time you hear your wedding band or DJ shouldn't be on your big day. Ideally, you've seen them in person, perhaps at a friend's wedding, or maybe you pull a Wedding Crashers move and sneak in a song or two at one of their other gigs.

Wedding Musician's Tips: "If you haven't heard the talent in person, try to find recent videos or short form content of them in action. Follow them on social media to see examples of the vibe that a DJ or band will bring to guests. Look out for what they sound like, what they look like, how first dances play out, how they sound with busy dance floors and most of all reviews, comments and reposts from couples who are sharing their big day." says Jason Jani, DJ and owner of SCE Event Group,

3. Hiring Someone Without MC Skills

Playing great tunes is great, but a wedding reception will stall if your DJ totally neglects their MC duties. MC'ing doesn't come naturally to a lot of people and hiring someone without those skills can be a big miss.

Wedding Musician's Tips: Dominic Fournier, DJ and one half of the husband-wife team The Wedding Duo, explains, "Playing music is one thing, but being comfortable on the microphone is another. If you are hiring a DJ/musician who isn't familiar with weddings, they may not have experience addressing a crowd and making announcements properly."

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4. Playing the Wrong Version of a Song

Imagine you step out onto the dance floor for your first dance, one you've rehearsed for months. The first notes start — and it's the techno remix of your favorite country song. "We have heard many horror stories where the DJ plays the first dance song and it is not the version that the couple planned on hearing," says Fournier.

Wedding Musician's Tips: Fournier suggests, "There are so many covers and songs with similar names, it is important for couples to share a link or name and artist with their entertainer."

5. Not Planning for Breaks

A band can rarely play for hours on end without taking a quick break to rest their voice and grab a drink of water. And if you don't plan for that, you could end up with awkward silence on the dance floor and a wet blanket on the party.

Wedding Musician's Tips: "Ask your live music group how they handle breaks. You want to check that they are prepared to put on a playlist. If not, the couple will want to assign someone to this task. The last thing you want is silence during your event, especially during the party portion," says Fournier.

6. Hiring Entertainment Without Talking to the Day-Of Person

Especially when you're dealing with a bigger act who works through a booking agent, whether it's a DJ or a band, you may not actually talk to the entertainers themselves. This can go awry if you find that your personalities are like oil and water when you're already three songs in.

Wedding Planner's Tips: "Make sure that you get the chance to speak to and ask questions of the person who would actually be your on-site DJ, not just a company representative," says Jani. "If you do not connect with the people who will be onsite you could be placing your entire celebration in the hands of someone who you may or may not click with."

7. Having a One-Track Playlist

Your guest list probably spans a wide range of ages and musical tastes, so if every song is a 2015 EDM hit, your grandmother might not feel inclined to hit the dance floor.

Wedding Planner's Tips: Wolfer says, "Consider the diverse tastes of your guests. A good mix of classic hits, current pop songs and sentimental tunes keep everyone engaged. Music strongly affects the mood of your event, so a variety of songs that cater to different tastes and keep the energy high."

8. Not Considering the Kids

If you decide to invite kids to the wedding, it's a good idea to make them feel included, both through what you do and what you don't play. "You don't want parents pulling their children from the dance floor because of inappropriate words or suggestive content," says Wolfer.

Wedding Planner's Tips: If children are part of your guest list, remember to include some kid-friendly songs and save the more adult-themed music for later in the evening when most of the kids have left," recommends Wolfer. Remember, kid-friendly doesn't have to mean "Baby Shark". Kids love anything that's fun and appropriate to bop to—it's a good bet that most kids these days love Taylor Swift.

9. Not Hiring a DJ or Venue with Quality Equipment

Not every venue has sound equipment and not every DJ expects that they're traveling with their own. You don't want to end up morning-of-the-wedding finding out that you don't have a professional sound system at the venue. Your bluetooth speaker isn't going to cut it.

Wedding Planner's Tips: Wolfer says, "I can't stress enough the importance of quality sound equipment. Good speakers can make a world of difference in how your music is experienced. If you're going the DIY route, you might want to consider investing in, or renting, a quality sound system."

10. Playing Too Many Songs During the Ceremony

Too much music? Yes, it's a thing. Choose too many songs, and you could end up with music that's playing long after the wedding party has exited the venue. Fournier says, "If you start adding too many songs it can get choppy and you only get a small portion of each song."

Wedding Musician's Tips: 'How long is the walk and how many people will be in the ceremony? If you have a short walk and smaller wedding party, you probably only need three to four songs. You'll then need one for your processional and one song after you say 'I do,'" explains Fournier.

11. Not Letting the Timeline Guide the Music

If you don't let your flow of events and timeline guide the music selections, then you could end up with awkward silences, inappropriate beats for quiet or lively moments, or an overall chaotic atmosphere. "You wouldn't want an upbeat dance track playing during a poignant moment or a slow ballad during the height of the party," says Wolfer.

Wedding Planner's Tips: Wolfer says, "You need to know when speeches are happening, when you're transitioning from one part of the event to another, and how music fits into all of this. Allocate different types of music for different segments of your event, like pre-ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dance party."

12. Choosing a DJ Without Wedding-Specific Experience

DJing a wedding is a different experience than any other type of party or event. A DJ could be incredibly talented at getting everyone at a bar's 80s nights to the dance floor but have no idea how to speak to a wedding crowd. You need someone that has experience in this specific type of event.

Wedding Planner's Tips: "Ensure your DJ has a good understanding of wedding dynamics. They need to know when to play the right song and how to read the room. A good DJ is more than just a human jukebox; they're also part-time event coordinators, ensuring the flow of the event aligns with the music," explains Wolfer.

13. Letting Budget Play Too Big of a Role

Sticking to your budget is critical when planning a wedding, but if you're spending too little, you might not get the talent you thought you were paying for.

Wedding Planner's Tips: "As much as we all love a good bargain, a DJ or band offering their services for a significantly lower price than the industry standard might not have the skills or equipment needed to deliver a stellar performance. Remember, you're investing in the atmosphere of your event," says Wolfer.

14. Not Taking Into Account Musical Tastes

Don't assume that just because a band did an incredible job playing Motown favorites at your best friend's wedding that they'll be perfect for the '90s themed dance party you have in mind. Some bands and DJs excel in different areas—and that's okay.

Wedding Planner's Tips: Wolfer recommends, "Share your favorite songs or genres with them and see if they can build a playlist that resonates with what you're envisioning for your big day."

15. Making a Sleepy Cocktail Hour Playlist

While a beautiful classical playlist for cocktail hour might seem like the right move, going too soft can kill the energy of your party before you even get to the dance floor.

Wedding Musician's Tips: Fournier suggests, "There are so many great love songs, but you also want to consider the mood you're trying to create. We suggest upbeat, toe-tappy songs that will get your guests ready to hit the dance floor!"

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