One of the first pieces of wedding advice I received was that, of everything that goes into a wedding, it’s the music that can really make or break a good celebration. All of the planning books say it should be one of the first things you book, nine months to a year before the wedding, along with a venue and caterer.
Naturally, then, music was the piece of the planning puzzle that we put off for as long as possible.
Procrastinating, however, does not keep people from asking you about it. You get engaged, and people immediately have three questions: Can I see the ring? When’s the big day? Will you have a band or a DJ? A recent episode of the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” chronicled a recently engaged character’s deliberations over the same question. Not surprisingly, the show’s fictional characters came up with roughly the same pros and cons as we did. A band might be more personal, but it could also be just plain bad. A DJ might do a poor job of mixing, but the songs themselves are a known quantity.
We concluded pretty quickly that a DJ was a safer and –– at around $1,500 compared to $3,000 to $5,000 for a band –– cheaper bet. But let’s be clear about the timing here: we got engaged in March, 2012. Probably by May we had decided that we wanted a DJ. Fast forward to January, 2013, and we started to actually look for one. In the interest of full disclosure and preserving my future marriage, finding a DJ was a task assigned to me, by my fiance, sometime last summer. We even had a glowing recommendation in hand from a family friend. Come January, I had not done so much as google the company’s name. My fiance gave up, sent the E-mail himself, and within a few weeks had met our prospective DJ and signed on the dotted line.
What was so hard about that, you might ask. Well, nothing. Hiring a DJ was very easy, even for the person who did all the work. The tricky part is the music itself. In preparation for meeting with the DJ we had to put together a partial playlist to give him an idea of the types of songs we’d want to hear. Our first instinct, obviously, was to outsource this task to our friends and family by adding a song request function to our website. Eventually, we might collect some recommendations that way, but we needed a list for the next morning.
Our next step was to consult VH1’s list of the top 100 songs of the 2000s. For anyone who, wisely, inserted earplugs sometime around 2000 and has not yet removed them, the last decade has featured some remarkably bad music. My generation is used to it; my parents’ generation is incredibly grateful that they grew up with the Beatles instead. And that’s the hard part: weddings bring three or even four generations of divergent tastes in music together in front of the same set of speakers. To be fair to all of our guests –– who will range in age from newborn to 90 –– we immediately put Justin Bieber on the “do not play” list and asked my parents and grandparents for their favorites.
My mother came up with a short list of classics –– Johnnie B. Goode, Old Time Rock & Roll, and various Beatles songs –– and then forwarded a link to a list of the top dance songs of the ’80s, saying she’d probably recognize most of them. I listened to the first six or seven, recognized one or two, and concluded that I was just as happy to have missed this particular era of music as my parents are to have grown up in a world without Lady Gaga.
My grandparents, meanwhile, received my request for musical assistance while on a cruise somewhere near Puerto Rico. Perhaps influenced by the loud music emanating from speakers all over the ship, their list was largely mellow, quiet songs. At the top of the list: “Yesterday” by the Beatles and “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. They sound like good background music for dinner time until you stop to think. As unintelligible as they may be in some modern songs, the lyrics do matter. And the lyrics to those songs are in no way wedding appropriate. One describes once-distant troubles that are now “here to stay”; the other describes a whorehouse.
So this whole music thing requires a little bit of thought. We certainly don’t want to offend anyone, deafen anyone, or scare all of the guests away from the dance floor. We’re open to song suggestions, though we retain full veto power. But really, we’re not too worried. From the very beginning our plan has been to set up a small, indoor mini-golf course at our reception venue for guests who want a break, or an escape, from the dance floor. We’ve been putting off looking for a company that could provide such a set up, but our wedding is still six months away. We’ll get around to it eventually. We have plenty of time.