In a move of audacious ego dressed up as a money-saving hack, my boyfriend and I have decided to DJ our own wedding. Why, goes the logic, would we pay a stranger several hundreds of pounds to play a setlist we have slavishly dictated to them – or, more likely, play a load of music we don’t like?
Our friends are concerned. “You need a DJ to judge the mood of the room!” they insist, as though we’ve proposed doing our own appendectomies. To which we say: surely the mood of the room will be “it’s our wedding and these are the songs we want to dance to?” Anyway, isn’t it curious how many wedding DJs judge the mood of the room to be universally gagging for 'Don’t Stop Me Now'?
But whether you’re putting your dance floor in the hands of Spotify Premium or just choosing the key tracks for the rest of the day, it turns out planning your wedding music is an unofficial marriage preparation course. Besides the surprisingly extensive back catalogue of Hall & Oates, here’s what we’ve discovered so far.
No amount of singing the lyrics into your beloved’s face and yelling “you know, this one! We heard it once? At that thing??” will make it a special song for the two of you. At some point you have to accept that the anvil of emotional significance falls at random, and usually not on the piece of culture you deem most chic.
Which is to say: am I thrilled that 'Respectable' by Mel & Kim has more meaning for us as a couple than, say, 'Waterloo Sunset'? No. But have I made my peace with it? Ish.
No matter how dazzlingly original your choices are, someone will come along and ruin them. They’ll ‘stumble across’ the same niche track for their own wedding, or tell you the artist was briefly problematic in 1992. Imagine my dismay when the government decided to use a soft jazz cover of our first dance song – 'This Will Be Our Year' by The Zombies – on the 2021 Census adverts. Nothing says romance like the looming threat of a £1000 fine.
You think you know someone, you pledge to spend the rest of your lives together – and then one day, out of nowhere, they reveal themselves to be a secret Genesis fan. Phil Collins era. It isn’t a case for annulment, I’ve checked.
Did you know how many seemingly romantic songs are actually about heartbreak, death or deviant sex acts? Loads, it turns out! Loads. So, it pays to give the lyrics a read beforehand. Choosing something for my professional opera singer friend to perform in the ceremony has been a minefield strewn with surprises. You can see how people end up with Ed Sheeran, is what I’m saying.
It’s only natural, and especially if you’re of an age where house parties were a distant memory even before Covid, to feel drunk on power at the prospect of getting behind the ‘decks’ (laptop) and spending the day educating everyone with your ‘impeccable taste’. But look, nobody wants that. Your wedding is not the 1am slot on 6 Music. Auntie Sandra is not going to leave your nuptials with a list of The Fall B-sides in her iPhone Notes. Give it a rest.
Still, catering for the masses doesn’t mean it’s Motown Gold or nothing. My friend Daisy and her husband walked back down the aisle to Def Leppard’s 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', which was delicious. Meanwhile my friend Amy, whose Spotified wedding I look to as evidence that the DIY approach can be a winner, soundtracked their meal with film scores, TV themes and surprising instrumental covers. “It was really fun seeing people suddenly look up and mouth ‘Is this 'Chandelier' by Sia played on a harp?’,” she says.
You can do your best, you can issue an injunction, you can chalk the legend ‘NO MR BRIGHTSIDE’ on a load of tiny blackboards and put one on every table – but resistance is futile. Cut to 11pm and there you’ll be, barefoot and bellowing, choking on your alibis like a million once-discerning brides before you. Even if nobody actually plays it, somehow, it will play.
We all know a wedding of any significant number is going to be about more than just you two, so giving friends and family a few shoutouts on the playlist is a nice (free) way to make them feel included. Because we’re adorable, we’ve decided to include one special song from every other wedding we’ve been to at some point during the day – plus my personal friendship anthems: 'Wannabe', 'You Can Call Me Al' and 'Elephant Love Medley' from Moulin Rouge. While his gang get down to a blistering 10-minute Faithless remix, I will be canoodling with a cheese plate.
But as in all areas of the wedding-planning process, and indeed life, you can’t please everyone. “We asked people to RSVP with the songs they’d want on the playlist,” says Amy, whose mum requested 'Slipping Through My Fingers' by ABBA. “But that doesn’t mean we listened.”