Views expressed are those of the author only and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
With around 2.1 million weddings a year in the U.S. (pre-pandemic), several trends are evolving in the industry as couples select music for their wedding ceremonies and receptions in 2021 and beyond. Of course, these trends depend on which part of the country you live in, but we know that many large cities are at the forefront of current music trends, while smaller cities tend to catch up with the times.
From my experience with DJs, following popular music streaming charts, and recent activity on my website with suggestions for wedding music, My Wedding Songs, I see several wedding music trends popping up.
Traditional reception events are out
When planning wedding celebrations, many couples forego more traditional events in order to have more time for fun. Throwing the bridal bouquet, removing and throwing the garter belt and the spotlight on cutting the wedding cake are left out more and more.
Many couples still incorporate traditional parent dances but choose shortened songs – with the help of their DJs – that last less than two minutes to allow for smooth transitions. While money dances are a great way to aid newlyweds in their new life together or honeymoon upgrades, the dance takes the party atmosphere away.
Line dances are back
Before you begin with the “YMCA”, “Chicken Dance” or “Achy Breaky Heart”, these are still taboo and are on “Do not play” lists on many wedding couples.
However, TikTok is a platform that attracts many short snippet dance enthusiasts. While many line dance songs are considered “cheesy” by today’s couples, the current dance phenomena on TikTok are all the rage. Just like the popularity of Drake’s “Toosie Slide” in 2018, the current viral dance hits are gaining popularity at weddings, such as “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes.
Not only are new songs returning, but also classics that would make younger couples just as happy as the couple’s parents, including hits like “How Bizarre” by OMC and “Vacation” by Dirty Heads.
Classical classical music is out
Couples opt for more modern music instead of the wedding standards of 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 the Brooklyn Duo, the Vitamin String Quartet, 2CELLOS, Daniel Jang and The Piano Guys.
Cover songs are popular
Many music artists have made a name for themselves by producing unique covers of hugely popular songs. Additionally, these cover songs may not even have the same musical style or genre as the original. For example, artists like Anthem Lights, Boyce Avenue, Teddy Swims, Charlotte Ave, and Music Travel Love have become popular alternatives. Taking it a 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
Wedding music entertainers don’t just play 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 the supergroup BTS and their hits “Butter” and “Dynamite” and Latin music like “Pepas” by Farruko and “Con Calma” by Daddy Yankee & Snow fill the dance floors.
Integrate 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 create a personalized cocktail hour or dinner playlist. Do you love boy bands, bossa nova music, yacht rock or grunge? Couples choose to add their personality to their individual reception playlists.
Bring guests to the dance floor
As a final thought, it is the job of the band or the DJ to get guests onto the dance floor and have fun. With their experience, they know which popular songs in a particular area make people dance. One piece of advice here is to give them a short “don’t play” list as a guide, and give them a short list of must-play songs.
However, based on the songs played during the cocktail hour and dinner and your suggestions, the DJ or band will have an idea of what style of music the guests are making their feet and heads shake. This can serve as a guide to what will get your guests on the dance floor.
Whether you’re part of a couple planning your wedding, a wedding DJ or band, or a wedding planner helping your couples, the wedding music trends above can help you personalize playlists for the wedding day. Regardless of your favorite genre, remember to incorporate romance and fun into your music choices.