Music Psychology 101: How To Ensure a Great Wedding Reception

Music Psychology 101: How To Ensure a Great Wedding Reception

In 20 years of entertainment performance, there’s been one incontrovertible fact: the psychology of music will make or break a wedding.

Depending on your viewpoint, your response to that statement is either “Brilliant!” or “Duh!” I’ll explain.

Brides want to have the best wedding ever! They want their day to be the most memorable and fun day of their lives, they want their food to taste the best, and they want the weather to be perfect. And they should! Every bride should feel that their wedding day is the best day ever. That’s the whole point of having an event designed to bring people together to celebrate your new life as a married couple.

Throughout the wedding planning process, the bride and groom choose their food, their colors, and their venue; they even choose who they want to invite and party with. Choosing the music is no different than choosing any other factor. The couple gives input on the songs that are significant to them for their first dance and their introduction. The bride and groom alone select the vibe for the party.

Where psychology comes into play is in the overall playlist for the event. The seemingly simple choice is to play music that the people want to hear. All the entertainment team has to do is play music to a mixed audience that considers all racial backgrounds, every age demographic from seven to seventy years old, and cultures from different parts of the country. Simple, right?

But how do you do that? How do you satisfy musical tastes that cross all backgrounds, spectrums, genres, ages to make everyone happy? The answer lies in music psychology.

Any artist or performer worth their salt knows how to read a room and find music that will appeal to the broadest audience. For instance, some DJs play certain sets, some play certain genres, and some play specific venues; these choices enable them to play what they know is going to work in a particular room with a particular audience.

Wedding entertainers are in a different lane altogether. Wedding guests are constantly changing from one event to the next. As I mentioned above, audience members all have different backgrounds and tastes, but they all come together to dance, laugh, and celebrate. They all have different needs and preferences, and while the bride and groom are certainly the guests of honor, your other guests want to participate in the fun too. Playing to those preferences all while making the event unique to the bride and groom is the balancing act that plays out every weekend.

What’s Your Vibe?

Every time I talk to my brides and grooms, I ask them for their vibe—how they get down. As an entertainer, I want the audience to leave the reception recognizing that while the party was for the bride and groom, the vibe was for everyone. A wedding reception should be an event where everyone can connect to each other and connect to the event itself.

It’s been said that “Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.” Music is our timeline through life. Every time we hear a song from our past, it takes us to a specific place; it’s a timestamp.

Concurrently, your sense of smell is tied to locations. My grandmother’s kitchen has a certain smell. The smell of a smoking pipe takes me to Louisville, Kentucky, because that’s where my pipe-smoking grandfather lived his whole life.

Music does the same thing with our individual timelines. In a 2008 study from the University of Leeds, memory researchers asserted that our memories are not all created equal. According to the study, “the ones we reserve from our formative teenage years, as well as those from our early twenties, are the ones we return to and cherish the most. This period is called the reminiscence bump when human beings retain more memories than they will during any other life phases.”

Music teems with nostalgia. Super Bowl LVI is the perfect example of that nostalgia. It boasted what was arguably one of the best Super Bowl performances we’ve seen in a long time, plus they played “old” tunes. The most recent track on the set list was from Kendrick Lamar, and that track is eight years old. Everyone watched, Tweeted, blogged, and talked about it. Sorry 50 Cent! When the audience is varied to that degree, nostalgia psychology has to be put into play to achieve an engaged vibe.

Bringing It Together

Older wedding guests want to be involved too. Motown, disco, funk, and 80s jams will all help them feel like they’re part of the party. 2022 is seeing those genres making a resurgence through the musical stylings of Dua Lipa, Silk Sonic, and The Weeknd. Artists like this are using disco beats and disco throwback vibes to create new albums for their young audiences while still giving their older audience something recognizable. That intentional effort to create new vibes, new energy, and new memories in 2022 will find its way to a dancefloor near you in 2052.

Obviously, your older guests are going to acquiesce to the music of the night and the tastes of the bride and groom, but at the same time, there is room to create unifying moments between generations that will give everyone new memories. It’s the least expensive and most impactful way to honor your guests.

Those vibes create a party where everyone can celebrate together, and no one remembers what was on the menu!

Keep It Simple

Music psychology also dictates motivation. The key to remember is this: if they can sing it, they’ll dance to it. When was the last time you danced to a song you didn’t know? I do it all the time because I just love a good beat, but I found out recently that I am clearly not normal.

Experienced performers know that your guests will know popular songs. It’s called pop music for a reason! It’s the nuance beyond the popular songs that really sets your reception apart from the rest.

You want your entertainers to possess a mentality that enables them to dig a little deeper to connect with the audience. This will ensure everyone from every part of the country and any part of the world can find their place within your reception.

Read the Room

There has to be a connection. We’ve already discussed music decades, genres, and musical and guest geography, but the pivotal element in music is connection.

When your audience can see and engage with a host or entertainer, they invest in the experience. They’ve been fully brought into the event and validated. That connection is a game changer! When your guests know that they’re seen, they stay in the moment, return the energy, and feel that attending the event was worthwhile.

They will engage in your party and participate. They’ll move when you move! They’ll catch garters and bouquets. They’ll give amazing toasts. And most importantly, they will dance!

And it’s the connection that makes this all happen. Your audience is connected to music in one way, shape, or form. Some ways you’ll understand and some you won’t. Either way, it’s important to let those connections happen organically within a party.

You can still orchestrate specific moments, of course. Families have specific songs that surround them, and they celebrate with those songs. Your squad may have songs that take them back to college or spring break. Put these songs in the mix! Work with your entertainment service to cultivate those moments; let your team engage your guests and help them feel seen. In return, they will give you the wedding day you’ve always dreamed of. They will have the best time at your party.

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Steve Lyles

DJ Scubasteve is a native of Myrtle Beach S.C. and has been an entertainer and DJ in the southeast since 2001. He currently performs over 200 shows every year between Charleston, Atlanta and Nashville. Based out of Chattanooga,TN, his style of DJing is completely unique and interactive. With a variety of off-the-cuff mixes and blends, DJ Scubasteve’s sounds are completely singular to his craft and rarely heard twice. Website:, Facebook: @thedjscubasteve, Instagram: @thedjscubasteve, Twitter: @thedjscubasteve.
March 24, 2022

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