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How to DJ: Foolproof songs or music for the opening dance at a wedding reception

Updated on December 1, 2012

What is the opening dance?

The opening dance for a wedding reception is, typically, the first song where all guests are welcomed on the dance floor. Customarily, this is the last song of the “traditional dances” which include the First Dance, Father-Daughter Dance, Mother-Son Dance and the Wedding Party Dance, making it the final dance the bride, groom and other members of the wedding party are required to dance to. Because of this, the opening dance often signals the transition between the formal reception and the party.

As the master of ceremonies for wedding receptions, it is the disc jockey’s responsibility to introduce and play the opening dance song. Thankfully, most bride and grooms will make the decision as to which song to play for this important part of their memorable day. There are many, though, that will leave the decision to the disc jockey. Any experienced disc jockey will have a repertoire of outstanding opening dance songs in their music collection, but even the most experienced disc jockey will go blank on occasion. So for the new djs or the experienced ones wanting to shake things up a bit, here is a list of foolproof songs that will have the guests up and “moving to the groove” during the all-important opening dance number.

"At Last" by Etta James
"At Last" by Etta James | Source

Classic Love Songs

Well-known love songs are the safest choice for the opening song at a wedding reception. These slow, sweet songs invite people of every age group to the dance floor. They touch all music genres and provide an ideal time for even bad dancers to enjoy dancing. Many people who would never dance to a fast tune will find themselves on the dance floor with their significant other swaying in tempo with the music. It must be said, though, do not use a slow song if numerous guests are requesting fast songs and the whole group is ready for a party.

A few favorite love songs….

  • “At Last” Etta James
  • “From this Moment” Shania Twain
  • “Power of Love” Celine Dion
  • “The Way You Look Tonight” Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Tony Bennett or Rod Stewart
  • “Three Times a Lady” The Commodores
  • “Truly, Madly, Deeply” Savage Garden
  • “Unchained Melody” The Righteous Brothers
  • “Unforgettable” Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole
  • “What a Wonderful World” Louis Armstrong
  • “When A Man Loves a Woman” Michael Bolton
  • “When You Say Nothing at All” Allison Krauss
  • “Wonderful Tonight” Eric Clapton

"Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson 'Off the Wall" album
"Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson 'Off the Wall" album | Source

Fabulous Dance Tunes

Most wedding receptions are ready for fast music once the formalities of the reception are over. This is the perfect time to bust loose and let the guests have their fun. For the opening song, it is best to choose a fun, familiar dance song that will reach people of all ages.

  • “Brickhouse” The Commodores
  • “Brown-Eyed Girl” Van Morrison
  • “Celebration” Kool and the Gang
  • “Don’t Stop ‘Til you Get Enough” Michael Jackson
  • “Love Shack” B-52’s
  • “Old Time Rock & Roll” Bob Segar
  • “Play that Funky Music” Wild Cherry
  • “Stayin’ Alive” Bee Gees
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Thriller” Michael Jackson
  • “Twist and Shout” The Beatles
  • “You Shook Me All Night” AC/DC

New Millennium and Beyond

Younger bride and grooms may want music that is centered on their generation so playing the latest and greatest hit, or even songs they grew up on, can really pack a dance floor. A good rule of thumb to opening a dance floor with a newer song is if the majority of the guests are close to the couple’s age and if the alcohol has been flowing, let the new music play. Another point to consider is whether or not the requests have been for newer or older songs. Below is a list of newer songs that are being requested for weddings. Some of these have even hit the Top Weddings Songs for 2012 list compiled by

  • “All Summer Long” Kid Rock
  • “Get the Party Started” Pink
  • “Just a Kiss” Lady Antebellum
  • “Just Dance” Lady Gaga
  • “Love You Like a Love Song” Selena Gomez
  • “Let’s Get it Started” Black Eyed Peas
  • “Marry Me” Train
  • “Marry You” Bruno Mars
  • “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” Big & Rich
  • “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” Beyonce
  • “We Found Love” Rihanna
  • "You and Me" Dave Matthew's Band
  • "Gangnam Style" PSY
  • "Then" Brad Paisley

Line & Group Dances Galore

Ahhh, the line and group dances. Most times these are guaranteed to pack the dance floor to capacity. Sometimes, though, they can have people running for the doors, so use the group and line dance songs with discretion. In fact, from the group songs listed below, two were on Gigmaster’s 2012 Top 5 Not to Play songs. They are worth mentioning, though, because they will still work at the majority of receptions.

  • “Apache (Jump on It)" Sugarhill Gang
  • “Boot Scottin’ Boogie” Brooks & Dunn
  • “Cha-Cha Slide” DJ Casper
  • “Chicken Dance” Sorta Crackers Band
  • “Cupid Shuffle” Cupid
  • “Electric Boogie (Electric Slide)” Marcia Griffiths
  • “Electric Slide (Shall We Dance '92)” Grandmaster Slice
  • “Hokey Pokey” Various Artists
  • “Macarena” Los Del Rio
  • “Shout” Isley Brothers
  • “Y.M.C.A.” Village People

In Summary

As mentioned in the article “How to DJ: Opening the dance floor with the perfect song or music at a wedding reception”, the wedding disc jockey must rely on his or her ability to “read the crowd”, along with their own personal style and experience. Although most of these songs will work at any and all receptions, it is the DJ’s own personality and music choice that will turn the reception from a formal affair to the party everyone will remember.


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    • djtohire profile image

      djtohire 5 years ago from Great Britain

      Great article, you make make some really good points. Look forward to reading some of your other articles.

      Scott Wilkinson