Capitol Inspiration: The Ultimate Cocktail Hour Playlist (from a Groom/DJ)

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  • September 26, 2012

Remember these awesome, modern music-themed Washington, DC wedding invitations we shared last week?

Well it turns out that Amanda & Brad are super awesome (how could they not be with those invites?) and they both wanted to share some more details from their offbeat DC wedding; to which I gladly responded, “oh HECK yes”. Brad is a DJ in real life – so naturally music was a HUGE part of their wedding.

They had a TON of music-themed details that I will be sharing in the upcoming weeks. They made a rad photobooth backdrop from album covers (tutorial coming soon!) and they specifically chose each song at their wedding. Something I can relate to – as Andy and I did the SAME thing.

Amanda shares:

Since people joked for years that Brad would DJ his own wedding (and he kind of did) we thought it may be interesting to illustrate how we put this together, since we both love music. Brad always tells couples that cocktail music should feel like a party, and so many times people play generic music. We put a lot of thought (and negotiation!) into ours, and receive tons of compliments.

So ….

What Does a Wedding DJ Play During his own Wedding? 

…And advice on how to pick the songs for your own wedding cocktail hour playlist

From Brad:

After DJing weddings in the DC area for the past 12 years many people joked I was going to DJ my own wedding–well I did for half of it. I premixed continuous cocktail and dinner music portions of the wedding and the left the rest of the night up to the DJ we hired.

A good DJ should take into consideration what the bride and groom want but also be able to read the crowd and take requests so premixing a dance portion is not recommended, as a DJ I knew I had to hire a professional to work the dance portion, but I wanted to plan out the ultimate cocktail and dinner mix.

I think cocktail and dinner music can be just as important and add to the overall outcome of the reception and many times it’s an afterthought in the planning phase.  Anytime I help a couple plan their wedding and ask what they want for cocktail music many think of jazz or something they heard at someone else’s wedding, but I always say think of what your guests would enjoy and songs you want to hear but might not be the best for the dancing portion, I always like to make the cocktail segment upbeat and fun and little something for everyone.

A lot of thought went into my own mix and I blended all these songs in a 1 hour 15 minute mix. This is an example about making it your own. There were hundreds of others I wanted to include, but this is the breakdown of the final mix.

Click inside to see the extensive breakdown of Amanda & Brad’s awesome cocktail hour playlist!

Aw here it goes:

  1. Moondance-Michael Buble: I think big band and jazz standards work well for cocktails, they have an elegant feel, I like to blend originals and covers in the mix. I always liked this cover of Van Morrison’s Moondance, it’s a big band jazz version and I also knew there were several Buble fans in the crowd, I have played it at a lot of cocktail sessions over the years and someone will always come up and ask who did that or say they like that song.
  2. Come Rain or Come Shine-Natalie Cole: My wife originally wanted a different version of Come Rain or Come Shine for our first dance, we ended up settling on Lou Rawl’s “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” as a nod I added the new Natalie Cole cover of Come Rain or Come Shine, very upbeat big band style.
  3. Ain’t That a Kick in the Head-Dean Martin: When we sent out our invitations we put a line on the response cards for people to add song that they would promise to dance to so I took some of those into consideration for the cocktail mix. Someone put play any Dean Martin so “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” worked perfectly.
  4. Luck Be A Lady-Frank Sinatra: As far as Frank Sinatra goes anything will usually work, but I’m always partial to “Luck Be a Lady” There is a recent commercial for Ciroc vodka with a bunch of celebrities partying with Diddy in Vegas and the song is playing in the background, perfect song for a cocktail party, very cinematic.
  5. Our Day Will Come-Amy Winehouse: I saw the video for this song on VH1 last year and thought it was perfect for weddings. It’s a cover of a song from the 60s with kind of a reggae/ska band vibe.
  6. For Once in My Life-Stevie Wonder: This is another song I like to play at weddings, the lyrics are very fitting and Motown songs work for all ages.  This song was used in a scene in an episode of Entourage where Ari professes his love for his wife after getting pushed out of the agency. My wife and I watched this show when we first started dating and anytime I play this song I think of that scene.
  7. Hand Clapping Song-The Meters: Meters songs work great for cocktails, they have a lot of short funky instrumentals, gets people in the mood for party.
  8. Enjoy Yourself-The Jackson 5- this is a lesser known song by The Jacksons, but it’s very upbeat song just asking people to enjoy themselves.
  9. Rock Creek Park-The Blackbyrds: My wife and I live right off one of the exits of Rock Creek Park and just had to put this song in the mix, we love it. This has been sampled in a lot of hip-hop from the 80s and 90s.
  10. Move on Up-Curtis Mayfield: This was a song for my Dad, it’s one of his favorite songs and works very well during cocktails, nice horn section, very upbeat.
  11. Bustin’ Loose-Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers: I had to throw in an original funk track from DC native and Godfather of Go-Go for our out of town guests and some of the locals. Chuck Brown passed away earlier this year and my wife met him at a music industry event when we first started dating.  If you don’t know this song it was sampled by Nelly for “Hot in Herre”
  12. Make Out City aka the remix to Where It’s At-Beck: This is a funky old school hip hop sounding remix of Beck’s Where it’s At.  I have always been a big fan of Beck and this version is almost impossible to find, I had to rip it from a vinyl 12 inch single I have owned since I was in college. My sister that was a bridesmaid is also a Beck fan and I don’t think she had heard this before.
  13. More, More, More- Andrea True Connection- This is an obscure disco era track, many people don’t know it was made for a porn film in the late 70’s, but many people at our wedding probably recognized it from a Sex and the City tv promo spot, my wife and sister are big fans of the show. The best part of the song is the 20 second break that was sampled by the late 90’s one hit wonder group Len in their song Steal my Sunshine.
  14. Murder on the Dance Floor-Sofie Ellis Bextor: This was a song that one of my wife’s friends had put on their response card, I was not that familiar with it, but my wife loves it.  It has a retro disco feel with a modern club sound and worked well in the cocktail atmosphere.
  15. I Can’t Wait-Nu Shooz: This is one of my wife’s favorite songs of all time, it’s an 80’s R&B dance track, we chose to put it in the cocktail mix because we weren’t sure if the majority of the people at the wedding would dance to it, but this is where you can make cocktails fun and experiment a little.
  16. I Feel For You-Chaka Khan: This is another song my wife wanted played, she is a big Prince fan and Prince wrote this song and this worked in well after the Nu Shooz track.
  17. The Music-JK Soul: I only discovered this song last year through Spotify, I’m not all that familiar with the artist, but all of JK Soul’s stuff can be described as instrumental hip hop or funky grooves. This song in particular I always wanted to play in the mix at a cocktail party, it’s got an Earth Wind and Fire sample, the same one that was used in the Naughty By Nature Jamboree song.
  18. I Need the Dollar-Aloe Blacc: This is the theme song to the short lived HBO series “How to Make it in America” a show my wife and I watched.  Modern soul from California.
  19. Washington, DC-The Magnetic Fields: We had several friends at the wedding that were into the indie rock scene and I thought this track was fitting, and perfect to introduce the next segment.
  20. Money Grabber-Fitz and the Tantrums: One of our guests put this song on the response card and when it came on other people came up to me and said they loved the song.
  21. Tongue Tied-Grouplove : Another nod to a response from one of our guests, this is an upbeat fun song- kind of like Foster The People.
  22. Still Sound-Toro Y Moi: I always liked this group’s songs from their album”Underneath the Pine” they were dubbed “chillwave” for a minute. I work in music distribution for my day job and got to meet this band last year during a promotion I set up for the local organic salad and yogurt chain Sweetgreen.  The band performed for free at lunch to promote their new album and couldn’t have been any nicer to work with. Great chill vibe for cocktails.
  23. Such Great Heights-The Postal Service: I have played the Iron and Wine version of this at several weddings over the years and it so happened to be the first dance for one of my groomsmen at his wedding so I put this in the mix as a shoutout to him and his wife.
  24. Right Here (Human Nature Remix)-SWV: This was another selection from my wife, she is a big late 80’s and 90’s R&B fan and the Human Nature version of this song was one of her favorites from back in the day.
  25. Just Another Day-Too $hort: For as long as I can remember I always said I was going to play this song at my wedding.  It’s a just a real funky feel good song about living the life of a rapper in sunny California. The song had some explicit lyrics but luckily I found a used copy of the edited version of the album on amazon, I would have edited the track myself if it came to it as we didn’t want to offend people at the wedding.
  26. Electric Relaxation-A Tribe Called Quest: My wife and I are both fans of  A Tribe Called Quest and this song is great for the summertime or cocktails and it takes me back to high school and college. I started DJing at a bar in college one summer and one of the bartenders always asked me to play this song at the beginning of the night.
  27. Ghetto Jam-Domino: This was a song that showed up on one of the response cards and happened to be another favorite of my wife’s from her high school days so we had to put it in the mix.
  28. What a Job-Devin the Dude featuring Snoop and Andre 3000: I wanted to include this song for two reasons. I got to meet Devin the Dude several years ago when I was working for the label distributing his latest album, he was one of the nicest artists I had ever met and this song in particular is about the music biz and doing what you do for the love of music.
  29. It Was A Good Day-Ice Cube: Makes perfect sense to play at a wedding especially when several of my friends are fans of 90’s rap, even the older crowd was liking it. I put packs of Yo! MTV Raps trading cards in our hotel gift bags.
  30. Luchini(This is It)-Camp Lo: I wanted to put this in the mix, it is a relatively obscure semi hit rap song from the late 90s.  I have always wanted to play it during cocktails and as a wedding DJ I always want to honor the bride and grooms requests and the theme or vibe they want to create for their wedding and I have never had the chance to play it, but hey it’s my wedding now.
  31. Seven Minutes of Funk-The Whole Darn Family- this was more or less a bonus track in case the cocktails went over, I just randomly picked this obscure funk song that was sampled in a lot of late 80’s early 90’s hip hop.

Cannot thank Brad & Amanda enough for compiling not only their entire playlist – BUT breaking down each song with why they chose it! Certainly some great modern wedding music song suggestions here for all you wedding planning couples out there!

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