What songs do you need for a wedding reception?

Quick Answers

A wedding reception has many key moments that require the right music to set the mood. Here are quick answers to some common questions about choosing songs for a wedding reception:

  • Processional song for the wedding party entrance
  • Bridal processional for the bride’s entrance
  • Recessional song for the newlywed’s exit
  • First dance song for the couple’s first dance
  • Father-daughter dance song for their special dance
  • Mother-son dance song if applicable
  • Cake cutting song for when the couple cuts the cake
  • Anniversary dance song for married guests to share a dance
  • Bouquet toss song for the bouquet throw
  • Garter toss song for the garter throw
  • Last dance song for the couple’s final dance
  • Uplifting reception playlist for background music throughout

Carefully selecting meaningful, well-paced songs for these wedding moments will help create an unforgettable reception.

Music sets the tone for every part of a wedding day, but it’s especially important at the reception. The right songs can help create a joyful, romantic, and meaningful atmosphere as you celebrate with loved ones. But with so many special dances, cake cutting, bouquet tosses, and more to consider, how do you choose the perfect soundtrack?

This guide will walk you through the key songs you need for an amazing wedding reception. We’ll cover all the important musical moments, from the processionals to the last dance, and provide tips on finding tunes that reflect your style as a couple. Follow this advice, and you’ll have the dance floor full all night long!

Processional Songs

The processional songs accompany the wedding party as they walk down the aisle at the start of the ceremony. These tunes set the tone for the event, so choose wisely! Here are some tips:

  • Pick 1-2 uplifting, celebratory songs that reflect your personalities.
  • Popular processional songs include “Canon in D” by Pachelbel, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, and “Marry Me” by Train.
  • Time the songs so they play long enough for the entire bridal party to walk down the aisle.
  • The bride’s processional song should be especially meaningful as all eyes are on her.

Keep in mind any religious or cultural wedding traditions that may affect your processional song choices. You want the music to complement the ceremony seamlessly.

Bridal Processional

The bridal processional accompanies that most anticipate wedding moment – the bride’s walk down the aisle. This is one of the most important musical selections you’ll make, so consider the following:

  • Choose a song that suits the bride’s personality and your relationship.
  • Classic bridal processional songs include “Canon in D” and “Trumpet Voluntary.”
  • More modern options are “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri or “Marry Me” by Train.
  • If having a religious ceremony, select hymns or sacred instrumental music.
  • Time the song so it lasts the bride’s entire walk at her chosen pace.

Ideally, the bridal processional song will bring tears of joy and make the moment magical and unforgettable.


The recessional plays as the newlyweds joyfully make their way back down the aisle together. This exit song should express the excitement and celebration of the union.

  • Pick an upbeat, cheerful song that encourages guests to clap along.
  • Popular recessional picks include “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder, “You Make My Dreams” by Daryl Hall & John Oates, or “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers.
  • A unique choice is using an orchestral version of a popular party anthem.
  • Time the recessional to last about 30-90 seconds as the couple walks down the aisle.

Choose a song with a great beat and triumphant lyrics to continue the joyful mood as you make your grand exit!

First Dance

The newlyweds’ first dance as husband and wife is hugely symbolic and sets the tone for marriage ahead. Pick a romantic, slow-tempo love song with meaningful lyrics.

  • Classic first dance choices include “At Last” by Etta James, “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, or “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran.
  • Consider songs from favorite movies like “Can’t Help Falling In Love” from Crazy Rich Asians.
  • Another option is having a live band perform your first dance song.
  • Song length should be 3-4 minutes so don’t pick an overly long ballad.

This is one of the most intimate moments of the reception, so finding the perfect romantic ballad is key.

Father-Daughter Dance

The father-daughter dance is a touching opportunity to honor the bride’s relationship with her dad. When choosing this song, consider the following tips:

  • “My Girl” by The Temptations and “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder are popular choices.
  • “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle or “I Loved Her First” by Heartland are sentimental country options.
  • Try finding a special song with nostalgic ties to the bride’s childhood.
  • Another option is inviting other important father figures in the bride’s life to join the dance.
  • Song length should be about 2-3 minutes.

Pick a heartfelt ballad that honors the lifelong bond between father and daughter.

Mother-Son Dance

If the groom wishes to dedicate a special dance to his mom, here are some great mother-son dance songs to consider:

  • “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men is a popular choice.
  • “Mama” by the Spice Girls is a fun, upbeat option.
  • “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd captures the bittersweet feeling of letting go.
  • Choose a nostalgic song like “In My Life” by The Beatles.
  • Song length should be 2-3 minutes like the father-daughter dance.

Pick a heartwarming song that celebrates the groom’s love and gratitude for his mom.

Cake Cutting

Cutting the wedding cake is one of the classic reception traditions. The cake cutting song should have a playful, lighthearted mood.

  • Popular picks include “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “Sugar” by Maroon 5, and “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE.
  • Disney songs like “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp are fun choices.
  • Jazz standards such as “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra also work well.
  • Have the DJ or band fade the song after 1-2 minutes so toasting and cake eating can begin.

Pick a cute, upbeat tune to capture the playfulness of the cake cutting moment.

Anniversary Dance

Also called the “Anniversary Waltz,” this is a special dance for married guests to celebrate their relationships.

  • The classic song is “Anniversary Waltz” by The Dave Franklin Quartet.
  • “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is also popular for its romantic lyrics.
  • “At Last” and other romantic standards are great picks as well.
  • Choose a 3-4 minute slow song guests can comfortably dance to.

This dance reminds guests that true love stands the test of time.

Bouquet Toss

The bouquet toss is a fun, upbeat wedding activity. Choose a lively song all the single ladies can dance to – and hopefully inspire them to dive for the bouquet!

  • Popular songs are “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyonce, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, and “Where My Girls At?” by 702.
  • Pull out a danceable diva classic like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
  • Have the DJ or band fade the song after 60-90 seconds when the bouquet is thrown.

Pick a fun “girl power” anthem to complement this lighthearted wedding ritual.

Garter Toss

The garter toss counterpart inspires the single gents to scramble for the bride’s garter. Choose a playful, upbeat tune.

  • “Tequila” by The Champs gets guests excited to catch the garter.
  • The retro “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin is perfect for the moment.
  • Consider “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls or “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool.
  • Keep it short and sweet – 30-60 seconds.

Pick a fun, fast-paced song to pump up the garter toss excitement.

Last Dance

The last dance allows the newlyweds to hit the dance floor one more time and say farewell to guests. Pick a poignant song that summarizes the love and joy of the day.

  • “At Last” is a popular last dance song choice.
  • Sentimental options include “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green and “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra.
  • Upbeat alternatives are “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey or “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.
  • Plan for this dance to be 3-5 minutes long as a reception finale.

Choose a meaningful tune to end your wedding day on a high note.

Reception Playlist

In addition to the key dances and moments, you need great background music for the reception. Work with your DJ or band to create fun playlists for various parts of the evening.

  • Cocktail hour: Upbeat jazz standards or motown hits
  • Dinner: Softer classic rock, soul, or love songs
  • Dancing: Top 40 hits, techno, disco, classic dance songs
  • Slow songs: Ballads and love songs to mix in

Having the right mix of music genres and eras will keep guests of all ages dancing all night long.

Tips for Choosing Wedding Reception Songs

Follow these tips as you select your dream wedding soundtrack:

  • Make song lists for each part of the reception so nothing is forgotten.
  • Choose songs that represent your personalities and relationship as a couple.
  • Select both lively and slow-tempo songs to vary the mood.
  • Remember religious/cultural traditions that may affect music choices.
  • Have backup song options in case any favorites are vetoed.
  • Share key songs with your wedding planner and band/DJ.
  • Use our wedding reception song charts below for popular recommendations.

With the right mix of meaningful, nostalgic, and fun dance songs, you’re sure to have an unforgettable night celebrating with loved ones.

Top Wedding Reception Songs

Here are recommended songs for the most important wedding reception moments:

Processional Songs

Song Artist
“A Thousand Years” Christina Perri
“Canon in D” Pachelbel
“Marry Me” Train

Bridal Processional Songs

Song Artist
“Canon in D” Pachelbel
“A Thousand Years” Christina Perri
“Trumpet Voluntary” Clarke

Recessional Songs

Song Artist
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” Stevie Wonder
“You Make My Dreams” Daryl Hall & John Oates
“Ho Hey” The Lumineers

First Dance Songs

Song Artist
“Thinking Out Loud” Ed Sheeran
“At Last” Etta James
“I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz


Music creates the soundtrack for your entire wedding day. Take the time to craft meaningful playlists for every part of your reception – from the processionals to the farewell dance, the options are endless. Choose a mix of upbeat and romantic songs that capture the joy and love you want guests to feel as you celebrate. With the perfect tunes, you’re guaranteed to have everyone dancing the night away in celebration of your marriage!

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