Shake A Tail Feather, Baby: Trending Towards the Turntable at Wedding Receptions

No, I’ve never been married. Nor am I a wedding coordinator. But at the elderly age of 39, I’ve Second Lined, Harlem Shuffled, and Elaine-d my way through countless reception venues, hotels, and country clubs across the Greater New Orleans area. I’ve dutifully attended my friend’s and family’s wedding receptions and lived to tell myriad tales of dance floor mayhem – from wipe-outs to forced bridal party “dancing” with (read, illegal use of hands) your cousin Boudreaux. In my vast and varied experience, I’ve learned one thing is certain – be it a live band or DJ, music at a wedding reception is THE crucial element driving you and your guests level of party satisfaction (well that, and cocktails).  

I once watched a Barbara Walters interview with Matthew McConaughey in which he stated that the only detail he would care about in planning the wedding when he married would be the music. True to his word, McConaughey hired Mellencamp, his favorite musician and close friend, to play during his wedding to Camila Alves in June of 2012.  While we can’t all have The Coug serenade us down the aisle, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy “A little ditty, about Jack and Diane,” if you JUST HAVE TO HEAR IT.  

With the average cost of live bands being three times as much as hiring a DJ, it’s easy to see why wedding entertainment is trending in favor of the spin masters. * That, and the visions of Skrillex dancing in our heads. While most DJ’s won’t provide the type of shows offered at Buku and Voodoo, DJ’s for-hire have definitely stepped up their game over the past several years.


Most reception-style DJ’s, like the house DJ’s at The Balcony Ballroom, are versatile and willing to develop a playlist reflecting the tastes of the marrying couple and their guests. Within those confines, it’s a challenge selecting a mix that will appeal to both the flower girl and to grandpa. It undoubtedly takes some modicum of skill to seamlessly (and shamelessly) transition from Calling Baton Rouge to Hey Ya (the top-rated song to get your guests’ toes a tappin’, according to pop culture pollster Walt Hickey). *


A reception set list is not something that should consume much of the bride and grooms time. Any DJ worth their pay check should be able to comprise a tailored block of tunes based on a handful of suggestions from the happy couple, no matter the variation of the requests.  The couple should also feel comfortable enough to veto any music styles or songs they find distasteful.  A good DJ will have an extensive knowledge of music, from contemporary to classical. They should be armed with a potential list of songs in advance of the event, and be willing to alter that list and play music off-the-cuff in response to the natural flow of each unique reception.

A great DJ is able to develop a play list based on suggestions from the bride and groom and from being able to read the crowd. They keep the party going by taking cues from who is and isn’t dancing. They have to play to the masses. I generally like to play 3 – 4 up-tempo numbers, then a line dance, followed by a ballad. Line dances tend to get everyone out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Slow dances are a great way to get the older generation involved, as well as that groomsman who may be trying to hit it off with one of the bridesmaids. It also gives the bride and groom a chance to reconnect, which they often haven’t done since their first dance of the reception. I think a lot of DJ’s forget the importance of slow songs. They try to keep matching the tempo of the previous song to keep the party going, thinking that a slow song will be a buzz-kill. In my experience, everyone loves slow dancing at a wedding. If not, it’s the perfect opportunity to hit the bar.” – Jay VanVrancken, Co-Owner, The Balcony Ballroom

The following is a sample set list for a wedding reception provided by The Balcony Ballroom:

Song Name    Artist
Never Been to Spain                       3 Dog Night
Use Me                                             Bill Withers
Everyday People                             Sly & The Family Stone
Take Our Momma                            Scissors Sisters
Tell Me Something Good                 Rufus & Chaka Khan
Superstition                                     Stevie Wonder
Into the Mystic                                Van Morrison
Groove Me                                       King Floyd
Higher Ground                                Stevie Wonder
September                                      Earth Wind & Fire
Living for the City                           Stevie Wonder
Wanna Be Starting Something       Michael Jackson
Get Up Offa That Thing                  James brown
Jive Talking                                      The BG's
Footloose                                        Kenny Loggins
Sing a Song                                     Earth Wind & Fire
Para Donde Vas                               The Iguanans
You Are the Sunshine of My Life     Stevie Wonder

Second Line
The Second Line                             Stop, Inc - Ultimate Mardi Gars
Got to Give It Up (Part 1)                Marvin Gaye                   

You Should Be Dancing                   The BG's
Blurred Lines                                    Robin Thicke                                                                                                                                                      The Way You Make Me Feel             Michael Jackson
Roxanne                                           The Police
Good to be Alive Hallelujah             Andy Grammar
Happy                                               Pharrell
Uptown Funk                                    Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars
Proud Mary                                       Tina Turner
Suavermente - Meregue Version      Elvis Crespo
PYT                                                   Michael Jackson
Soha Mil Pasos - Kizomba Remix     Isabelle, Kizomba, Felicien Pachmama Tarifa                                                                                                   You Can Leave Your Hat On            Joe Cocker


So whether you like country, crooners, ’80 hair metal, or have a burning desire to mash the 3, know that hiring a DJ is more affordable and the song selections far more extensive than when hiring live musicians. At some venues, like The Balcony Ballroom, the DJ is included in the cost of your reception. If a DJ is not included, I highly recommend the article 22 Questions to Ask Your Band or DJ, published by

Join me next week for what is certain to be an interesting discussion on: Reception Drinking.  Until then…

Somewhat Tastefully,




Julia Louis-Dreyfus -

Matthew McConaughey -

Ainslie Blanke has over 6 years of bridal service experience, including management at both Friend and Company & Adler's. She's also a seasoned social media media marketer and retailer, with her last position being the Director of Marketing, Promotion, and Special Events for OffBeat Magazine.