Field Guide: Music
PICK YOUR MUSIC MAKER
Is a DJ, band or iPod right for you? Depends on your budget, your control issues, and the kind of party you want.
DJ: If your tastes run toward top 40 and electronic dance music, you'll probably want to go the DJ route. Since DJs carry an almost limitless digital catalog, they can take requests and adjust to the mood of the party. Make sure you meet yours in person and let him know how much (or little) commentary you want.
BAND: Bands may be pricey, but they energize a party like nothing else. They're your best bet if you want traditional (bluegrass, rockabilly) or multicultural (Mexican and American). Ask up front about technical needs and extra charges for equipment; your venue may include some in its rate.
IPOD: Most fun DIY project ever: designing a 200-song dance playlist for your iPod. Less fun: having to rent (about $100) and hook up your own sound system if your venue doesn't have one. Appoint a friend to emcee, and tweak the playlist with the vibe of the room. And bring a laptop, an extra iPod, and burned CDs.
LEARN THE CHICKEN DANCE
Resistance is futile. Do it for the kids.
1. Make a beak shape with each hand. Open and close them four times.
2. Bend your arms and flap them like wings four times.
3. Wiggle your hips and move down to the floor for four beats.
4. Clap four times. Repeat steps 1 to 4 four times. Hook arms with a partner and swing around.
TUNE UP THE CEREMONY
Whether you're hiring a string quartet or playing recorded music, John Sinclair of Aria Melody DJ in Hoboken, New Jersey, has song suggestions for your service.
PRELUDE The Vibe: Happy, mellow Classic Pick: “All You Need Is Love,” The Beatles Sweet Update: “Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love,” Coldplay
PROCESSIONAL The Vibe: Romantic, something you can walk to Classic Pick: Canon in D Major, Johann Pachelbel Sweet Update: “All I Want Is You,” Vitamin String Quartet
INTERLUDE The Vibe: Upbeat, nostalgic Classic Pick: “Clair de Lune,” Claude Debussy Sweet Update: “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down,” Alicia Keys
RECESSIONAL The Vibe: Joyful, celebratory Classic Pick: “The Best Is Yet to Come,” Frank Sinatra Sweet Update: “Us,” Regina Spektor
POSTLUDE The Vibe: Relaxed, fun Classic Pick: “Is This Love,” Bob Marley Sweet Update: “Littlest Birds,” The Be Good Tanyas
PERSONALIZE YOUR FIRST DANCE
Do It with Feeling: It's a romantic moment, but you don't have to pick a classically romantic song, says Daisy O'Dell, a Los Angeles-based DJ. “Choose something that has meaning to you, even if it's the Charlie Brown theme,” recommends O'Dell. “My first dance was ‘If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,’ by Cat Stevens. It's from one of our favorite films, Harold and Maude, so it felt special.”
Choreograph It: Doing the Dancing with the Stars thing can be a great bonding experience. “Just keep it brief and fun, and don't get in over your heads,” says New York event planner Desiree Spinner. “No one wants to see a couple moving their lips and counting steps.”
Don't Dance: If you're not a fan of the spotlight, you can diffuse attention by inviting your friends or the kids to share the dance floor. Or upend the tradition entirely with a slideshow, trivia game, or DJ battle: National DJ company Scratch Weddings offers lessons for Brides and grooms.
Beyond “At Last”: 5 Great First-Dance Songs
Suggestions from DJ Sparber of New York's Twerking Hard DJs:
CLASSIC “My Dearest Darling,” Etta James
ROMANTIC “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
SOULFUL “I Could Write a Book,” Ella Fitzgerald
FUN “Rainbow Connection,” The Muppets
ALTERNATIVE "You Said Something,” PJ Harvey
PLAY THIS, NOT THAT
For a five-hour reception, you'll need about three hours of dance songs. Minneapolis DJ Mike Stephenson shares his list of do's and please-don't.
“Anything Michael Jackson, including ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Bad,’ and ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ "
“ ‘DJ's Got Us Fallin' in Love,’ by Usher (featuring Pitbull).”
“ ‘Bad Romance,’ by Lady Gaga.”
“The older generations will dance to Lynyrd Skynyrd's ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ ”
“Everyone loves ‘Don't Stop Believin',’ by Journey.”
“Anything that's not instantly recognizable.”
“All indie rock, techno, hard rock, deep hip-hop. Even if it's great, it won't be appreciated by the masses.”
“Mash-ups. It's one thing to play remixes at a party. At a wedding, people want to hear the majority of the song. Otherwise it interrupts the flow.”