Wedding Formalities – what they are and how to choose your music

(Pt 2 – your Wedding Reception)

 You want your wedding reception to be the party of your life and the music you choose (and the band or DJ who plays it) is going to be the biggest part of that.

We often have couples telling us they just want their reception to be casual or fun, so they don’t want to do any formalities. While we understand the logic of this, in our experience having some structure to the night actually makes it more fun, not less.

Without set points throughout the evening where your MC gets your guests’ attention and lets them know what’s happening (and what they need to do), you run the risk of your wedding reception just being a very expensive dinner party.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the order of events you might want to include in your wedding reception and how to pick the right songs for them.

What songs should I choose for my wedding reception formalities?

Your Grand Entrance Song (not optional)

Your Grand Entrance is when you re-join your guests after you’ve had your post-ceremony wedding photos taken. Your guests will have finished their cocktails and croquet and it’s time to get the party started.

Your bridal party will enter first and then your MC will announce the newly married couple (that’s you!). There are a few different ways you can do this, depending on the size of your bridal party.

Your Grand Entrance song should reflect the celebration that is you guys ‘entering society’ as a married couple for the first time. Choose something upbeat and fun that goes well with whooping and hollering.

You might want a different song for your bridal party and yourselves or all come in to the same one. As with your processional song, getting your DJ to edit your Grand Entrance song will make it next level. The energy will be way higher if you guys walk in to the most uplifting part of the chorus instead of at a random point halfway through verse two.

What’s critical for the best Grand Entrance is that your MC and DJ communicate with each other so announcements and music are properly choreographed.

Music for Speeches (optional)

While you don’t have to choose any music for your speeches, it can be fun to choose a snippet for each person that will be speaking. This could be the speaker’s favourite song, some kind of in-joke that your guests understand or it may reflect who they are (like using the theme song to The Godfather for the bride’s father).

Although it’s optional, choosing songs for the speeches helps keep everyone entertained during this part of your formalities.

It’s also a great idea to break the speeches up into two rounds so you don’t overload everyone. This also means you can fit them neatly between courses and cake cutting.

Cutting the Cake (optional)

The song you choose for your cake cutting will usually be sugar related, sweet related or, you guessed it, cake related. We find a lot of our couples have trouble picking a song for this part of the night so you can grab some cake cutting song ideas here.

There are several theories about the best time to cut your cake and your venue may have their own ideas based on when it’s easiest for them to plate it up.

From our perspective as wedding DJs, we don’t want to see anything get in the way of a pumping dance floor which means we highly recommend you cut and serve your cake before the dancing starts.

What we’ve seen work best is cutting the cake either before or just after your first round of speeches. This gives your caterers plenty of time to plate the cake so it can be served after you’ve finished eating your main course but before your First Dance.

The worst thing you can do is have the cake or dessert brought out mid-dancing.

There are no winners in a cake vs dance floor smackdown.

Your First Dance Song (not optional)

We’ve written in depth about why you shouldn’t skip your First Dance and the different ways you can set it up so it isn’t an awkward three minute shuffle in front of all your guests. If you’re considering getting your dance floor started without doing a First Dance, we’re sorry to tell you, it ain’t that easy.

Your First Dance opens the dance floor and lets your guests know that dinner is over and it’s time to dance.

The song you choose is completely personal and can range from hopelessly romantic to a perfectly choreographed extravaganza.

The most important thing is for your MC to get your guests up out of their seats and gathering around you before you get started.

Father-Daughter and Mother-Son Dance Songs (optional)

These are optional and not everyone decides to include them. You could make these two separate dances or have both couples on the dance floor at the same time. As with your First Dance, it’s a good idea to have everyone gather round or even join you on the dance floor.

Again, the songs you choose may be something meaningful to you both, or you could have a lot of fun with it and choreograph something awesome.

Timing-wise, these dances could happen right after your First Dance, or you could save them to happen at a point during the night to get everyone onto the dance floor if they need some extra encouragement.

Bouquet and Garter Toss Songs (optional)

There’s not much to say about the garter toss, other than most of our couples find it too cringe and don’t bother with it. Having said that, you may find the garter toss hilarious or want to add your own twist to it (and that’s fine with us!). If you do decide to do it, Hot Stuff by Donna Summer is a classic.

The bouquet toss is also optional but can be super fun if lots of your guests are still unmarried. We have a mega-list of bouquet toss songs in case you don’t want to go with Single Ladies by Beyonce.

We recommend being flexible about when (and even if) you’ll do your bouquet toss. It can be a great tool to have up your sleeve if people are flagging and energy seems low. On the other hand, if your dance floor is going off, you might not want to pull the plug on it just to watch your girlfriends tussle over a bunch of flowers.

Last Dance (Not Optional)

Ideally your Last Dance song will have your wedding end on a high note with everyone wanting more. This is one reason we recommend not ending your reception too late (11pm max).

Your Last Dance song should be epic – it could be a singalong classic like Horses or I’ve Had the Time of my Life, or if that’s not your vibe, Sandstorm goes off too.

Need more epic Last Dance song ideas? We got you.

Spoiler alert… it can be super fun to have a fake last song and save the real one for when everyone’s yelling ‘One more song!’

Exit Song (Optional)

If you plan to leave your reception before your guests, you might want to choose an Exit Song to play as you leave. This could accompany a sparkler exit or a farewell circle.

Pro tip – if you plan to do a farewell circle, remember the average song goes for three and a half minutes. This means you have to get around all your guests in this time frame or you’ll all be standing around saying your goodbyes after the song has finished. (That’s about 4 seconds per guest if you have 50 guests at your wedding).

Congratulations! You’re now a wedding formality pro!

If you want to dive down the rabbit hole a bit further, you can find more info on your wedding formalities, playlist ideas, and tips for your MC.

And if you’re still floundering, please drop us a line!