Making the Wedding Playlist

Dancing our way from wedding planning to marriage

Vivian Chen

With our September 24th wedding date staring me in the face, there were certain tasks I could no longer avoid. Music was one of those projects, pushed back until it couldn’t be delayed anymore. Jared and I decided from the beginning that we’d do the iPod thing, even though I had my doubts about the logistics—does that literally mean an iPod? Because mine has a glitch and randomly skips songs and his is so small I don’t know how to work it. I could take my temperamental laptop, but it’s four years old, which is like one hundred in human years. The thought of lugging it on what is supposed to be a technology-light holiday bummed me out.

Then there was the question of the music itself. When I was nineteen, my roommate Bridget and I spent hours crafting the perfect party playlist. Except that playlists weren’t a thing back then, so we had to burn the songs onto a series of eight CDs and label them precisely, because every single song belonged in a specific order. “Pony” was a little slow, so it had to be followed by “Push It” to keep the crowd interested. My approach to our wedding playlist was similar: the sequence could be as important as the songs themselves, and this task could not be taken lightly.

Every time the subject of The Wedding Playlist came up, I groaned. “I don’t know what the big deal is,” said Jared. “I’ll do it on my next day off.” I cautiously agreed, knowing that this was what I was afraid of. In a Venn Diagram of music, the songs we mutually enjoy are slimmer than what is needed to fill five hours of air time. He leans toward Empire of the Sun while I’m more John Mellencamp; cocktail hour and dinner would be easy enough, but it was the two-hour dance playlist where we would have to get diplomatic.

I sat down one afternoon to do some work, opened up iTunes, and hit play on Jared’s dance mix. The third song was “Superstylin” by Groove Armada. It was six minutes long and made me feel like I was at a rave. Maybe our music tastes were even more different than I’d feared. “Jared,” I asked, “Are you fully committed to having this song on the dance playlist?”

“It’s a good tune,” he said.

“It’s six minutes long!”

“Well, at least add some songs, before you go cutting all of mine,” he said.

Although it didn’t convert me into a fan, “Superstylin” did spur me into action; I needed to quit avoiding it and do my part. I made a list of the songs I thought were crowd pleasers, the ones that I knew would get my friends, at least, on the dance floor.  We sat down together to go over the list, and every few minutes I found myself raising my voice in disbelief when he didn’t recognize one of my suggested songs: “What do you mean you don’t know ‘Motownphilly’?” Jared sighed at “Bye Bye Bye,” grudgingly accepted “Ice Ice Baby,” but drew the line at “I Wish” by Skee-lo (in retrospect, maybe a good call). I argued that although he may have enjoyed “Lights and Music” live, it didn’t really translate to a wedding dance floor mix. He refused to budge, possibly on account of me slashing Groove Armada.

“Fine,” I said. “But when that song comes on, I’d better see you tearing it up on the dance floor.”

We managed to come together on old favorites like Green Day’s “Basket Case,” and I realized I’d gone six years without knowing that he, like me, still can’t resist the catchy beat of “Crazy in Love.” After a handful of compromises on both sides, we came up with a dance playlist that we both mostly agreed upon. I came home from work the next day and Jared was packing his lunch, getting ready for a night shift. “I listened to our dance mix today,” he said. “It’s actually pretty good.”

After he left, I turned it on to listen objectively. Yeah, it was a good playlist, but did it make me want to dance? I toyed with the idea of going upstairs to get my wedding dress, so I could stage a practice round in the living room. That would be ridiculous, I thought. Then “Crazy in Love” blared through the speakers. I pressed pause and ran upstairs. What was ridiculous was that the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever purchased had been living in a closet for nine months. I stepped into the dress, zipped it up, and hit play.

I danced in the living room, then moved to the bathroom, where our only mirror in the house is. I climbed onto the bed to get a full-length view of the dress through the open door, then jumped down to make my way back to the kitchen. Dancing in the dress wasn’t exactly what you’d call comfortable, but it was doable. And the real surprise was, I wanted to do it. It was a pretty good playlist after all, and I’m not a dancing-in-public kind of girl. The process hadn’t been as painful as I’d thought, once we just sat down and got it over with. Nothing in the wedding planning had been, really, which I can only say now that I’m through it.

Early on in the planning process, I latched on to this theory that the hidden reason we have weddings is to really fine-tune a couple’s ability to make decisions together. We’ve been confronted with unexpected differences of opinions on things like cake, save-the-dates, and logistics, but we worked it out. The things we already knew about each other (my tendency to procrastinate, his need to tick items off the list) were put under the microscope, but we managed. I wouldn’t call it fun, but we seem to have planned a wedding without losing our enthusiasm for the whole marriage thing. And, finally, we’ve got a soundtrack to get us started.

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