Best Wedding Songs 2020: A Complete Guide to Wedding Music
You’re not here for the “most average” wedding songs 2020 has to offer. You’re not looking for the typical, tired tunes. You want the best wedding songs—full stop.
But as too many couples have discovered, when you search “wedding songs 2020” you get list after list of like… the same 12 jams. C’mon! That’s one less jam than LeBron had in his rookie season. You are not a rookie couple, and damnit, you deserve more jams to choose from. That’s why we created this monster (yet manageable) guide to wedding music.
Whether you’re into soda-pop ’50s nostalgia or sticky ’70s funk, you can load up your playlist a la carte or go straight to the hits list. If you want to set the right tone and put guests in a celebratory mood, you’ve got to choose the right ceremony and wedding reception music. You’ve got this. Let’s boogie.
tl;dr: Hits List
Fair warning: There’s a lot of wedding music below. If your time is precious—let’s say you’re planning a wedding—we put together this mix of everything on our lists, just for you. Share it with your DJ, or scroll on to customize your own list of the best wedding songs.
Table of Contents
Best Wedding Ceremony Music
Best Wedding Reception Music
Bonus: Wedding Music Quick Lists
Live Band vs. DJ (vs. Self-DJ / Playlist)
Before you load your playlist with the best wedding songs, you’ve got to choose how to deliver your hits. Which approach better suits your taste, desired party vibe, and those killer dance moves you’ve been waiting to bust out? Which options ensure your favorite music can RSVP “yes?” Here’s the breakdown.
In the “unforgettable experiences” department, physical instruments and musicians trump a guy with a laptop any day. On the other hand, booking live talent is more expensive. If you want a live show in your honor, you’ll have to pay for it. And if we’re being honest, bands are like restaurant menus—if they’re offering 50 pages worth of options, chances are all of it will be mediocre and may even make you sick. Make sure the band can actually play the songs that are most important to you.
DJs have all the greats right at their fingertips. Hiring a DJ is also cheaper, especially if you hire your friend (and we all have a friend who’s a DJ… or at least a “DJ”). And it’s less complicated: A string quartet or a Jimi Hendrix cover band probably needs more space and power supply than a DJ, so hiring a DJ may open up your venue options. The downside? As we mentioned, everyone knows a DJ… or 10. The title’s thrown around pretty loosely these days, which means there’s a higher risk of accidentally hiring a total vibe-killer. Screen potential talent very carefully.
SELF-DJ / PLAYLIST
When you hire a DJ, you’re (hopefully) hiring experience. They can feel the crowd and give the party CPR when necessary—something you can’t do when you self-DJ through a playlist. Sure, you can stack the thing with all your favorite songs, but keeping your wedding party (and presumably a lot of people over the age of 50) on the dance floor requires some sacrifice. Can you sacrifice “Barbie Girl” by AQUA for the good of the party?
Best Wedding Ceremony Music
As traditional officiants tend to mention, your wedding ceremony is the reason friends, relatives, and many a study chair or pew have “gathered here today.” This is the heart of your wedding day, and the wedding music you choose for your ceremony should be an honest reflection of you and your partner.
Best Wedding Songs for Processionals
This might be the one time in your life you can demand to be treated like royalty, so if that’s you, get your Pachelbel on. (Teach your ring bearer to yell “Kneel ye peasants!” at the guests—so cute.) At the same time, a processional doesn’t always require trumpets.
Best Wedding Songs for the Ceremony
The meaningful symbolic act (or M.S.A.), holds so much… meaning. Especially if your cousin once-removed, who sang backup for Nelly Furtado, is belting some super romantic music (in exchange for a mid-tier bottle of wine and a TY-card) while you light that candle / pour that sand / drink that wine.
Best Wedding Songs for Recessionals
The recessional music should capture the excitement and optimism of the promise you’ve just made to your partner, yet not affect your guests enough to make them leave their seats before they’ve been dismissed by an usher. Wait your turn, guy.
Best Wedding Reception Music
You’re so excited to swap rings with your best friend, but you probably didn’t think about how many people you’d be obligated to talk to post-nup. Unless.Unless your reception is a 2-3 hour dance party that does. not. quit. By choosing the best wedding songs possible (and having an open bar), you can make this dream a reality.
Best Wedding Songs for the First Dance
If you and bae already have “your song,” by all means, kick off married life with that. But if you’re still in the market for a unique J-FAT (jam for all time), we have some humble suggestions.
Best Wedding Songs for Parent Dances
The goal here is to get them to cry, agree? Then choose a song that makes them think of you as a newborn baby.
Best Wedding Songs for Body-Moving
We can pick our wedding party, but not everyone is a dance robot sent back from the future to get the party started. Jump-start their human boogie bones with this party fuel.
Best Wedding Songs for Slow Dancing (well… Slow-ish)
You need to toss in a few slower songs to get stodgy weddings guests on the floor, but you also don’t want to turn it into a ghost town by going full-McLachlan. Here are best bets for slowish wedding reception music.
Best Wedding Songs for Sing-Alongs
Some people would argue every song is the best wedding song for a sing-along, and those people also do the sprinkler, probably. But there is something magical about all of your guests slurring their way through a well-known tune. Don’t miss that magic.
Best Wedding Songs for Line Dancing
The songs proven to get your grandma on the dance floor (or summon her spirit). You need those photos (or those orb photos), so you need at least a few of these songs.
Best Wedding Songs: Gay Anthems
While it is fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A., no man does it all by himself. Let your rainbow flag fly with these tunes.
Best Wedding Songs by Genre
Each genre brings its own vibe to your epic post-nuptial dance-a-thon. To get the best boogie for your buck, be sure you add the best tracks from each genre to your playlist.
COUNTRY / AMERICANA
Country is more than steel guitars and lonely cowboys (but it’s definitely also both of those things). George Strait and Shania Twain obviously made our playlist of Country and Americana wedding songs, but we had to give some love to modern country, too.
DANCE / ELECTRONIC
You’re probably not trying to pull too many sexagenarians onto the dance floor with these wedding songs, but you’ll make up for it in kiddos—children love neon glow sticks.
Unfortunately, we do not offer rental bell-bottom tux pants or platform patent leather shoes. Fortunately, we do offer this boogie-licious disco playlist full of wedding songs guaranteed to burn the mother down.
What would my wedding have been like without the sounds of the electric bass guitar? Let’s put it this way: it would have never happened. So yeah, add these funkified wedding songs to your list.
Swears, like the F-bomb, show passion. And passion is essential for a long, happy marriage. That’s why Ice Cube has been happily married for over 26 years. Fact.
Nobody is too good for Pop. The genre was sonically engineered to make every person—everyone—feel great. You need some feel-great wedding songs on your playlist, so you need Pop.
R&B / SOUL
This playlist pulls double duty: wedding reception music, sure—but also honeymoon music.
Come for the “Cheap Thrills,” stay for the “Funky Kingston.” This is highlydanceable wedding music.
You don’t need hard rock to rock hard. Exhibit A: this playlist of classic rock wedding songs will probably leave you sweaty, but will not diminish your or your guests’ auditory senses.
This shouldn’t have to be stated, but these are just dumb wedding songs that people love anyway. We are people! We love this stupid playlist!
Best Wedding Songs by Era
For best results, pick a handful of defining tracks from each era to bring balance to your dance floor. If you’re that couple whose inspiration board features a 45 lb disco ball, don’t worry—an all-’70s playlist is fine, too.
You’d think this would be the perfect playlist for your saddle shoes and soda pop doo-wop-fest, when in fact, it’s mostly Little Richard making you feel alive.
Honestly, not wildly different from the ’50s wedding music we recommended, but with slightly better sound quality.
The ’70s saw a little glam, a little more electronic influence, and more of The Isley Brothers.
MJ, Bowie, and Prince—who else belongs on this wedding music Mount Rushmore? Thank you, 1980’s.
We’re not making this a poll or anything, but maybe just glance in the mirror and ask yourself: Am I more “MMMBop” or more “Doo Wop?”
It’s Britney, bitch.
Maybe the most subjective decade listed, the 2010’s are still happening. But this is probably the one decade you’ll need the least coaching on—just turn on the radio. (What’s a radio?)
Bonus: Wedding Music Quick Lists
10 Wedding Songs You Must Play
Ignore the greatest dance songs of all time at your own peril. These are the best of the best wedding songs, and you’ve gotta have them on your playlist.
10 Wedding Songs to Retire
Sir Mix-A-Lot has professed his love for juicy doubles at every wedding reception since the early ’90s, but that doesn’t mean he has to land on your playlist. Neither do any of the other tracks we recommend putting to bed.
10 Go-To Artists for Wedding Songs
As long as you don’t dig down into the deep deep tracks, these artists have recorded some of the best wedding songs of all time. If you just need to give your DJ or wedding band a little inspiration, these are the names to drop.
BEYONCÉ (OR DESTINY’S CHILD)
10 Celebrity First Dances
Take inspiration from these glitter-covered humans’ first dances as married glitter-covered humans. Some are oldies, some are new tunes, and some songs were recorded by the couple (probably shy away from that last example).
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin
Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky
Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka
President Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson
Beyonce and Jay-Z
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi
Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell
Kate Middleton and Prince William
You should be proud of yourself—instead of setting-and-forgetting a streaming service all night (with ads), you created the greatest wedding music playlist of all time—the soundtrack to one of your biggest life events. And it’s going to be so worth it.