Wedding Dance Party Playlist: Soul, Classics, & Hip-Hop

Maddie and I talk a lot about our generational divide. I can’t decide if it’s weird that we rather clearly have one, given that she’s twenty-six and I’m thirty-three, but it sometimes feels like a chasm (girlfriend was like six when Kurt Cobain died, WHAT?) She sent me a link to the mini-documentary Dirty Girls that’s gone viral (watch it if you haven’t), so I could see “overly articulate teenagers talking about feminism, how strange!” So I watched it. To oddly no tension. It was filmed in 1996 in Southern California, and those girls were basically my social circle. Maddie’s mind, blown.

So it was hilarious that later the same day she posted highlights of her wedding playlist. My immediate text to her: “Generational divide in action.” I mean, Kelly Osbourne? God knows I love her on Fashion Police, but I’m not even sure I knew she put out an album. Turns out, much like Maddie’s wedding playlist, mine telegraphs where David and I grew up, and exactly how old we are. I find it fascinating that our playlists are so revealing. Here’s my question to you: What’s the song on your wedding playlist that gives away your history in one stroke? (Ours is probably House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”) If we get a good list, we’ll give you Playlist: Generations. Without further ado, my wedding dancefloor playlist in its entirety, less the personal first dance song kind of stuff. It starts with soulful classics (catering to the older generation, who we knew would definitely still be in attendance), turns into a throwdown dance party (note: I firmly believe that if you want people to dance, you need to play songs they know like the back of their hand) with ebbs and flows of energy, and then ends sweet. Every single part of it was designed to have people moving their ass on the dance floor in the middle of the afternoon (which they damn well did). I’ll add that one of the joys of self-DJing your wedding, is that we often listen to our playlist on our anniversary. Enjoy.

Meg & David’s Soul, Classics, & Hip-Hop Playlist


  1. Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups
  2. Twistin’ the Night Away” by Sam Cooke from Live At The Harlem Square Club
  3. Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
  4. What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
  5. New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
  6. Georgia on My Mind” Ray Charles
  7. Can’t Take my Eyes Off of You” by Frankie Valli, covered by Lauren Hill
  8. Let’s Get It Started (radio remix)” by Black Eyed Peas
  9. Independent Women Part I” by Destiny’s Child
  10. Proud Mary” by Tina Turner & Ike Turner (Important note: this song needs to be clipped. You only want to use the second half for a dance party)
  11. Jump Around” by House of Pain (Jump Around and 9 to 5 is only the best cross fade ever, listen to it in action here, thanks to The Flashdance)
  12. 9 to 5” by Dolly Parton (for the purpose of doing the electric slide, which I don’t think you can have a dance party without)
  13. I Loves You, Porgy” by Nina Simone
  14. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder
  15. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson
  16. ABC” by The Jackson 5
  17. Kiss” by Prince
  18. Hey Ya” by Outcast
  19. Medley: It’s All Right—For Sentimental Reasons” by Sam Cooke from Live At The Harlem Square Club
** If you want to submit your own wedding playlist, or playlist highlights, head over to our submissions page and drop us a line with the following: your name and your partner’s name, three to five photos of your wedding, eight to twelve songs featured at your wedding (or your whole playlist, if you self-DJed and want to share) and what they were used for, one sentence sum up of your wedding’s vibe. **

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  • Jaya

    Ours would be “El Scorcho” by Weezer. First album I ever gave him when we were still teenagers flirting with each other, and then he played it the night he proposed.

    • ItsyBitsy

      This makes me so happy! I freaking love that song.

    • Brianne

      That’s my favorite song ever! I’ve seen Weezer a dozen times in concert and they hardly ever play it.

  • No idea what song from our wedding gives away our age, but I love pulling our playlist out again and listening to it from start to finish. We did it just this weekend for a small road trip and it was fun (a lot of “this song was there because of you” and “remember the funny story that made us put this one in” and even more “remember that one song that would’ve been totally inappropriate but would’ve been absolutely hilarious!”). And of course we dance to it again for our anniversaries as well.

  • alyssa

    Ha! I love this generational divide thing. I mean, I’m 24, but we FOR SURE played Miley Cyrus’ Party in the U.S.A. I’m sure this will embarrass my future children, but it was a GREAT party!

    • We made our trolley driver take a lap around the block when he pulled up to our reception venue after taking photos because Party in the USA came on, and we needed to jam to it. Obviously.

  • Mer

    I love this because my guy and I have that generational divide in our relationship. He’s 10 years older than I am (I adore watching him when I remind him how old I was when he got his driver’s license, graduated from HS, got his first job, etc…) and music has played a big part in both our lives. We are just beginning to make our playlists for the reception and I can already see it is going to be an interesting mix of both our backgrounds and the music we have shared. Think Muppets, movie soundtracks, show tunes, The Islands, Radiohead, and The National. All divergent but I know it will work because they are songs that we love and mean a lot to us.

  • Cass

    We walked into the reception to Wake Up by Arcade Fire. Why yes were we mid-20’s living Brooklyn.

  • Our house is a bit of a house divided, I’m 31, he’s 39. He’s also partial to old country (architect now, worked on a cattle ranch after college because he wanted to). I was 10 when he graduated high school, so we lack common references sometimes. Personal history though, The Littlest Birds by The Be Good Tanyas. He taught me to dance to that song, in the first home we chose together, long before we were married. Was our first dance.

  • So I’m 29, and I know most of the songs on your playlist, and almost none on Maddie’s. What generation does that put me into?

    Also, we had MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This on our dance list. And even though it got vetoed, I REALLY wanted to put Sir Mixalot’s “I like big butts” :) It was deemed inappropriate for our mixed age audience unfortunately.

    • So I’m 22, and I know most of the songs on Megs playlist, and almost none on Maddie’s. What generation does that put ME into?

      • meg

        Well, our playlist is designed so that you WILL know every song. We wanted people to dance, and that’s how you do it.

      • Jenn's Mom

        And I’m 55 and I know most of the songs on Meg’s playlist – guess it was just a cross generational dance able playlist!

  • KB

    I think the generational break for the “30-ish” people is even closer – my fiance and I are separated by a scant 5 years, it boggles my mind sometimes how different our pop culture experiences have been. For example, I was too young for Fraggle Rock, but Muppet Babies? Totally in my wheelhouse. He’s astounded (and somewhat frightened) that “Wonderwall” was THE song of my middle school years. He didn’t join Facebook until a couple years ago whereas everyone I knew was on that thing during college. And the piece de resistance – he actually remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was probably watching Muppet Babies at the time…

    • Samantha

      Oh you must not have had your Fraggle Rock radar on! I loved Fraggle Rock AND I remember the dawn of Facebook, which happened while I was in college. I think maybe I fall between you two. I don’t know but it is interesting how things define our childhoods.

      • I definitely think it’s a matter of what happens to hit your radar. In my case, I’m the youngest person I know of who remembers Round House and thought it was WAY better than All-That.

        It’s even more interesting to take a few people who are very close in age, and see what they grew up reading. In our friend group, at least, it varies really widely.

    • meg

      I vividly remember the day the Berlin Wall fell. So. There is…. that.

      • Kat

        same and I’m in my early 30s.

      • H

        I don’t remember it falling, but I do remember having a globe that had the USSR on it, and me really not understanding that it wasn’t called the USSR anymore, but rather Russia. Because the globe said it was the USSR – and boundaries of countries don’t change when you’re little…

      • Rebecca

        Not only do I remember the day the Berlin Wall fell, but I remember the Alvin and the Chipmunks special that took place in Berlin BEFORE the wall fell.

    • In my marriage we primarily notice our age difference in the cultural references. The joke is that we grew up in different countries because so many of our cultural references are different.

      But he got to see Star Wars in theatres the first time. I’m still jealous of that one.

    • Tina

      I’m super late to this party, but I was re-listening to playlists from APW. (Need a ton of music to clean to). Was Fraggle Rock on cable? Because that was definitely not something I watched and Muppet Babies sure was, but I have friends my same age that totally remember Fraggle Rock. Certain circumstances might be more than just generational.

      I also wanted to add that I’ve seen a few episodes of Amy Schumer’s new show on comedy central. It was entertaining in part because she has mentioned Duck Tales, Dunkaroos (oh those cookies) and Animaniacs on her show. That just speaks to me!

  • Brenda

    Boyz II Men, Motown Philly.

    Motown Philly’s back again……

    Also, is there really only time for 20 songs at your average wedding? I’ve got some cutting to do!

    • We have just over 2 hours of dancing for our wedding reception, and we will have about 29 songs on our wedding-day playlist. It’s surprising but most albums are about an hour, at 11-12 songs, so I am planning for 2 albums worth of music.

      • Brenda

        That’s true, I think I don’t really think about how quickly four- and five-minute songs add up. Thanks!

    • Brenda

      Also, since I am in the midst of doing this right now, how many songs should I realistically have for a 6 to 11:30 pm wedding, and how do I go about cutting down songs that are too long? We’re planning a three part playlist (background stuff for eating, dancing things that people of all generations will enjoy, and more modern dancing music after the grandparents and children have retired).

      • CPM

        You can use a program like Audacity ( to edit songs down with a fade so it sounds intentional. This is what I plan to do with “Pump Up the Jam,” which is over 5 minutes long!

        • Lauren

          Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love Audacity but I am just discovering some of its charms!

      • What we did, was to timeline out the reception and then start working on playlists. While I cannot help with cutting down songs (we are still figuring that out), I can tell you what we have done so far for the playlists:

        We are opening the buffet at 6:15, and opening the dance floor between 7:10 and 7:20. We will cut the cake at 8, so that is a 40-minute playlist (about 8 songs). We’ll reopen the dance floor at 8:10/8:15, and have our last call at 9:40, our last dance by 9:50, which is about 90-100 minutes of songs (about 12-15, depending on song length).

        Our reception is going to go from 5:20-10, and we are planning for about 50 songs, if that helps. Lots of classlical and slow stuff for dinner :-)

        • Brenda

          Thanks both, this is super helpful. Deva, that sounds very similar to what we’re doing, just moved up by an hour (we’re starting the ceremony at 6:15, dinner at 7:15, close at 11:30). We’ve got the timeline but it hadn’t really occurred to me to time the playlists to it (which is totally the obvious thing to do!)

          I will check out Audacity too.

          • you’re welcome! I’ll have to check out Audacity, too :-). I am hoping that with the playlists semi-timed about right, we can use songs as time markers instead of having to be clock-watchers. So I can know that if we’re dancing to At Last by Etta James that we cut the cake next to a different song or two that start the next playlist set. We have elves, but we want to be sure we’re good on everything just in case :-)

    • Laurel

      We had something like 85 songs, plus two entirely unnecessary Girl Talk albums to fall back on. The ramp-up was a little too slow so we ended up skipping some of the less crowd-pleasing stuff, but I bet we played 60 songs. But also everyone was staying on site and we didn’t have to clean up that night and so on.

    • meg

      This is ONLY the dance party, less all of our personal songs. We had 23, but some might have gotten skipped. We had a morning wedding, so we danced.. two hours or so? Your milage may vary, but yes, it’s always fewer songs than you think. Check the timing.

  • That list isn’t that different than ours (I am now 26 so on the Maddie side of the generation gap). I wonder if it’s more to do with culture, friends, the music your parents and siblings expose you to… For us, my brother’s band covering Decatur by Sufjan felt very heavily of a high school in the very early 2000s and college in the middle of the decade. Our first dance (This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads) and our last (All for Mari[HANNAH]’s Wedding, a Scottish folk song) spoke much more of where we came from (parents with rad music tastes and one very Scottish mama).

  • CPM

    We definitely want our wedding playlist to be packed with crowdpleasers, but since we’re both former college radio DJs, we’re both tempted to introduce some lesser-known jams into the equation. For instance, we’re dead-set on playing Frank Wilson’s “Do I Love You? Indeed I Do” (look it up if you want something super sweet, high-energy and Motown-esque).

    Our dancefloor must-haves: Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody;” Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby,” Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe,” and Icona Pop, “I Love It,” which thankfully had a clean edit released recently!

    And our last song is definitely going to be Kenny & Dolly singing “Islands In the Stream.”

    • We both really like esoteric music, so we’re trying to remember that we need to keep music that everyone knows in the mix, too.

      • CPM

        Yes! I’m thinking of playing the lesser-known songs during “cocktail hour” before my fiance and I have our first dance, or maybe inserting them as take a breather/refresh your drink breaks, making them about every 5th song in the dancing playlist.

        • meg

          Cocktail hour is a good place for them. My experience is if people don’t know the song, they leave the dance floor to get a drink. AKA, lesser known songs can empty your dance floor stat. And we did not want that ;) If we’d had a longer dance party we might have felt we could afford that, but with a short morning dance party, we couldn’t afford to break the energy. So! Crowd pleasers!

  • Jessica

    My mind was blown when my partner & I were in Oregon and I made a reference to Oregon Trail, the famed computer game for early 80s children. He’s ten years older than me. And literally had no idea what I was talking about. After I recovered I explained the game, but he still doesn’t realize how popular it was with my generation.

    • I don’t trust people who didn’t kill their fictional families with dysentary for fun.

      • Brenda

        That was the best part! Competition to see who could kill everyone off fastest.

      • Laura

        …or changing the fictional family names to names of the boys you had crushes on? and then seeing who died first, and in what embarrassing way, obviously.

    • Samantha

      Ah LOVE.

    • meg


      • Did…did you just spell check someone’s comment?

        • Liz

          Nope, I think you just read the comment thread wrong.

        • Maddie

          Ha, that’s definitely not the case. Meg is the last person to correct someone’s spelling as she is very open about her dyslexia and has expressed her dislike of grammar police on the internet. I think she was just making an Oregon Trail joke.

  • Our last dance, & by far the biggest hit of the night, was “Livin on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. It’s a Jersey classic!

    • carrie

      I have the BEST pictures during this song. The ENTIRE room was singing.

      • Meghan

        Ahhh! Ours, too! Double-Jersey wedding and all, it was practically required. And the dance floor was amazing. So much fist pumping!

  • I am just realizing how many songs I’m going to have to cut from my “Epic Dance Party is Epic” playlist for the wedding! How am I going to narrow it down to just two R Kelly songs, y’all?

    • Brenda

      I think we’ve decided to just have everyone over to our flat for a dance party all night long afterwards to use up our epic dance party list. And also so we can play all the ridiculous hip hop that would offend the grandparents.

      • Yeah, my parents are learning ballroom dancing, and it is SUPER cute and also has been a boon to their relationship (they have been married for 36 years [as of yesterday!], and had very much settled into the habit of doing their own things and not pursuing co-interests together) so now, of course, I feel the need to play a lot more “couples dancing”-type of songs, when really I just want to be like, “here’s the history of hip hop, yo!”

        So I am a little sad that my dance party won’t be quite as epic as my friends and I prefer. (My fiance does not dance. At all.)

    • Only 2 R. Kelly songs?!? Nooooo! My votes are for Bump N Grind and Ignition Remix.

      • Ignition Remix is obvious, but we might go for Step In the Name of Love? It’s like one of the few “line” dances my friends will do. But it’s also really long.

  • Every time I hear “Jump Around” I start screaming “EIGHTH GRADE DANCE!!” and then start singing all the words. My 23 year old close friend hasn’t the foggiest idea what I’m talking about since she was about 2 at the time.

    Also, I sing (rap?) “Ice, Ice Baby” without a trace of irony. Cuz that’s how we rolled back then.

  • K

    Our recessional was nothing more than all our guests blowing those paper party horns that unroll, but we had joked about making it “Radar Love,” with “Don’t Fence Me In” a close contender.

    Re. generational gaps, it still blows *my* mind that people who were in fourth grade rather than a year or two out of college when Douglas Coupland’s Generation X was published are also considered to be Generation X. Wait, you’re the same generation as I am? How can that beeeeee?

    • Re: regeration gap – YES! My sister is ten years younger than I am and the difference between getting a cellphone at 11 vs. 17 or getting facebook in ELEMENTARY school vs. college is huge. She is constantly telling me I’m too old to be the same generation as her. Who determines when these things start? People bornin in 1985 and those born in 1997 are both Millenial? What?

      • Ugh, I have such a problem with this, too. There seems to be a mini in-between generation: those of us born in the early-mid ’80s who are too young to be Gen X and really too old to be Millennials. I mean, I’ve even seen market research studies where Millennials are split into “older” and “younger” segments. Because as someone born in 1983, I do NOT have much in common with those born even five years later when it comes to our experiences with culture and especially technology.

      • K

        I vividly remember a TIME article from summer 1990, back when we were “baby busters” instead of Gen X, entitled “Twentysomething” all about what slackers and losers we all were. A sociologist was quoted complaining about how we hadn’t come up with an “identity as a generation,” and all I could think was “Why the hell would I want to do that? What good would that do me? And isn’t that your job anyway?”

        I don’t think that generations prior to the baby boomers actually felt any need to (were self-obsessed enough to?) name themselves.

        • meg

          Well, no generation names themselves, but they do all have names:

          Lost Generation
          Greatest Generation
          Silent Generation
          Baby Boomers
          Generation X

      • A huge part of the confusion is how quickly technology changed and developed for mass markets in the 90’s and 00’s. Those of us born in the 80’s had a lot less technological influence in our lives until much later and it can be hard to relate to people born 10-15 years later who grew up with way more access to electronic communications and entertainment from a young age. Which I think makes the leading end of the generation feel somewhat … cut off from the rest.

        Plus it’s still such a young generation, and at these ages a few years can feel like a bigger difference than it is. The difference between 16 and 26 feels pretty huge to anyone at either of those extremes. 26 and 36? At that point it’s more of a matter of different points of reference.

    • meg

      It’s because generations are 20 years long. But no, you’d have to have been in Middle School-ish when that was published to make the cut off, which is 1981 (technically). The late 70s/ early 80s was a low birth period, so we’re all tail end of one thing, but not close to being millennial. (No cell phone till after college? Yeah, not a millennial.)

      • K

        But Coupland’s book came out in 1991, so if you were born in 1981, you’d only have been ten. Isn’t that fourth grade? For most people anyway? It’s kind of like generations in families; you have these “half generations.” I’m the youngest in my generation in my family, and I definitely fall into that category — much closer in age to the oldest ones in the next generation than I am to most in my own. Since I’m halfway (more or less) between many of my cousins and their kids in age, I kind of cross over between the two. People born at the tail end/very beginning of these broadly defined social media defined generations probably share a lot of those crossover traits. Kind of like the multiple identity thread from yesterday.

  • Lindsay

    “Everybody Dance Now” by C+C Music Factory….our “you all can FINALLY get out on the dance floor with us!!!”…..brings back such sweet memories of the skating rink :)

  • Samantha

    The generational gaps and crossovers Fascinate. Me. Always. So does nostalgia and I’m currently having a serious ’90s moment so, there ya go. I think it is so fun and interesting but I always wish I was about 5 years older during my highschool years.

  • Samantha

    The generational gaps and crossovers Fascinates. Me. Always. So does nostalgia and I’m currently having a serious ’90s moment so, there ya go. I think it is so fun and interesting but I always wish I was about 5 years older during my highschool years.

  • Moe

    I’m the youngest of nine siblings and I grew up with thier music. (I’m 40, by the way.) All of my selections were way old and reflected the Oakland/Bay Area flavor my brothers had. (I sometimes decribe refer to Oakland as the west coast Detroit)

    So when Tower of Power, War, Sly and the Family Stone met my husband’s selections of The Beatles, Paul McCartney, David Bowie it was a mash-up for sure.

    Plus, toss in a little Celia Cruz, Vincente Fernandez and Selena to reperesent my culture for added spice.

  • I very much agree with the comment that is has a lot to do with your culture/friends/family/other things that expose you to music. I will be 30 later this month, and was 26 at my wedding. We had lots of what we call “Harry’s music”, which is the oldest/most storied bar at our college – it included things like Journey, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, and Billy Joel – so I would say that’s sort of a “culture” thing. But we also had the hip hop/top 40 songs of the day, like Chris Brown’s Forever, Lady Gaga, JT, and Black Eye Peas; some country, to account for the half of the family that likes it; plus a blues-heavy cocktail hour for my husband’s tastes and some reception party classics (like Shout, Love Shack, Mustang Sally).

    HOWEVER, it does fascinate me when my fours-year-older husband and I talk about music, and realize songs that are the soundtrack to, say, my freshman year of high school remind him of his time in the Navy.

    • K

      Hah, my husband and I are only two years apart, but I was so totally the 80s punk/new wave/dance music kid and he was so NOT that we might as well be totally different generations.

    • This sounds exactly like our reception. We had “Backer music” because that was our college bar. Lots of Journey, Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton (don’t judge; “How Can We Be Lovers if We Can’t Be Friends” is a JAM) plus modern stuff like Ke$ha and Britney Spears.

  • Liz B.

    I don’t feel like we had some sort of dead giveaway for our generation on our playlist- we crafted it with favorites of ours that would be appreciated by almost everybody. Maybe if someone tallied up the number of songs from the 80s and early 90s? Even then I’m not sure since we were only in pre-school when the 80s ended… Regardless of the generation we belong to, the music we picked reflected us and the lives we have lived. The people in attendance enjoyed and appreciated this, especially since in so many ways, we are reflections of the community of friends and family that loves us. Fun fact: we were told that without special lighting or a DJ and because of the average age of our guests and the brightness of summer evenings, we shouldn’t expect much dancing. That could not have been further from reality- the dance floor was packed with the first song, and remained so until we were abruptly forced to open our gifts (while drunk, mind you) in front of our guests.

  • One More Sara

    BSB- I Want it That Way. <3 <3 <3

  • Laura

    this song totally dates me.

    • God damn, I love that song. “The party’s here on the west side!”

  • K

    How about Usher’s Nice and Slow?

    26 and 27 and we’re absolutely requiring it at our reception. I didn’t practice the part where he spells out U-S-H-E-R-R-A-Y-M-O-N-D for hours for nothing!

    • I definitely could not resist singing that just now, and yes, that totally was the best part. My husband and I are watching The Voice (against our better judgment), and he doesn’t know who Usher is. I plan to educate him using that song first!

  • Fun thread! “Accidentally in Love…” Counting Crows. We actually had it as our recessional!

  • Blimunda

    I think Twist and Shout is one of the sexiest songs ever written. Put it in my imaginary playlist for my imaginary wedding, which, very inappropriately, includes the Time Warp, El Tango de Roxanne, and Somewhere over the rainbow by IZ Kamakawiwoʻole. I’m 32, I don’t know if it means something :)

  • Our DJ played an entire set of 90’s Teen Pop. Think Nsync, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, etc. Pretty sure Ginuwine’s “Pony” was in there somewhere. So. Much. Fun.

  • I actually find it really amusing that while our tastes in *current* music are not really very different (we have a five year age gap), it’s the music we grew up on that really defines us and is such a contrast between us. I’m the youngest child of parents who had children relatively late, and he’s the eldest child of parents who had kids quite young. As a result, I’m a girl who’s sweet on Elvis, The Beatles, Queen, The Mamas and Papas, Roy Orbison and plenty of other good’uns from the 50s/60s. Whereas he holds groups like Dire Straights, REM and Crowded House close to his heart. With only 5 years between us. Weird.

  • Meghan

    How has no one mentioned Ace of Base? From the set of weddings we’ve been to, “The Sign” is a clear line of demarcation. I still remember the reactions of horror in the office when my peer coworkers and I realized that our interns had never heard of Ace of Base (and, increasingly, were born AFTER “The Sign” was released. Shudder.)

    I also totally agree with the comments about sometimes being defined by parents’ musical taste. I’m a mid-80s baby (and also argue that we’re really in between Gen X and Millenials) but Bon Jovi, Journey, Bruce, and Billy Joel will always be at the top of my list.