Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
With approximately 2.1 million weddings per year in the U.S. (pre-pandemic), several trends are developing in the industry as couples select music for their wedding ceremonies and receptions in 2021 and beyond. Of course, these trends depend on what part of the country you live in, but we do know that many big cities are at the forefront of current music trends while smaller cities tend to catch up in time.
In my experience speaking to DJs, following popular streaming music charts and seeing the recent activity on my wedding music suggestions website, My Wedding Songs, I’m seeing several wedding music trends emerging.
Traditional Reception Events Are Out
When planning wedding reception events, many couples are forgoing more traditional events to create more time for fun. The tossing of the bridal bouquet, the removal and tossing of garter and the spotlight on the cutting of the wedding cake are being skipped more and more.
Many couples are still incorporating traditional parent dances but are choosing shortened songs — with the help of their DJs — that are less than two minutes for smooth transitions. While money dances are a great way to assist newlyweds in their new life together or honeymoon upgrades, the dance takes away from the party atmosphere.
Line Dances Are Back
Now, before you start practicing the “Y.M.C.A.,” “Chicken Dance” or “Achy Breaky Heart,” these are still considered taboo and are on many wedding couples’ “do not play” lists.
However, TikTok is a platform that is giving rise to many short-snippet dance crazes. While many line dance songs are considered “cheesy” by today’s couples, the current dance phenoms on TikTok are all the rage. Just like the popularity of “Toosie Slide” by Drake in 2018, the current viral dance hits are gaining popularity in weddings, such as “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes.
Not only new songs but classic songs are making a return that would make younger couples happy, as well as the parents of the couple, including hits like “How Bizarre” by OMC and “Vacation” by Dirty Heads.
Original Classical Music Is Out
Couples are choosing to play more modern music instead of the wedding standards from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Even in the recent past, many modern classical artists have risen to the top of many wedding ceremony playlists with covers of original songs in piano, guitar, cello, violin and more. Modern classical music artists include Brooklyn Duo, Vitamin String Quartet, 2CELLOS, Daniel Jang and The Piano Guys.
Cover Songs Are Popular
Many music artists have gained fame from producing unique covers of wildly popular songs. What’s more, these cover songs may not even be in the same music style or genre as the original. For instance, artists like Anthem Lights, Boyce Avenue, Teddy Swims, Charlotte Ave, and Music Travel Love have become popular alternatives. Taking it one step further, you can find covers of popular songs in your preferred genre. For example, Sawyer Fredericks covered “What A Wonderful World” as a folk song, and Kygo and Whitney Houston covered “Higher Love” with their own flair.
Crossover Genres and Cultures Are Hot
Music entertainers at weddings are not playing strictly American pop, rock, R&B, and country. Many different styles from other cultures have now made their way into American pop culture. Music genres like K-pop (Korean pop) with supergroup BTS and their hits “Butter” and “Dynamite,” and Latin music like “Pepas” by Farruko and “Con Calma” by Daddy Yankee & Snow are filling dance floors.
Incorporating the Couple’s Favorite Genre
If wedding couples have a favorite style of music, the best way to incorporate their music into the reception is to have a personalized cocktail hour or dinner playlist. Love boy bands, bossa nova music, yacht rock, or grunge? Couples are choosing to bring their personalities into their customized reception playlists.
Getting Guests on the Dance Floor
As a final thought, it is the band’s or DJ’s job to get guests on the dance floor and have fun. With their experience, they know what the popular songs are in a given area that get people dancing. One piece of advice I’d like to offer here: Do give them a short “do not play” list as a guide and do give them a short list of must-play songs.
However, based on the songs played during the cocktail hour and dinner, along with your suggestions, the DJ or band will have an idea of the style of music that got guests tapping their feet and bobbing their heads. This can serve as a guide for what will get your guests onto the dance floor.
Whether you are part of a couple planning your wedding, a wedding DJ or band, or a wedding planner helping your couples, the above wedding music trends can help get you started with personalizing wedding day playlists. No matter your favorite genre, remember to incorporate romance and fun in your music selections.