Mexican rap and line dancing: how to rock offbeat wedding music without alienating your guests

Guest post by Staci Nichols

At our wedding, I wanted country and my groom wanted Mexican rap. Obviously, we had to make some compromises as neither are big crowd-pleasers. As a wedding DJ myself, I work with many brides who want me to quickly throw out their labor-of-love offbeat playlists when they see their dance floor is empty or their guests are leaving early.

But if you're not about to force tofu on your Texas relatives, and you're not insisting that no one drinks because you don't drink, consider the same line of thinking when it comes to your wedding music. Decide now what things are going to be about you on the big day (dress? vows?) and what is going to be about your guests (food? music?).

There are plenty of places in your wedding music line-up to express your personal style without scaring off your guests:

  1. Ceremony prelude music (what the DJ plays before the ceremony as guests are being seated)
  2. Your big entrance song — anything goes
  3. The last dance — fast or slow, it'll get the guests out of their seats
  4. Dinner and the cocktail hour are great opportunities for offbeat, non-danceable stuff
  5. Ask your DJ to use indie tunes for the slow dances
  6. Lots of indie bands remake popular tunes — ask your DJ for the Afghan Wigs version of “Creep” instead of the original by TLC.
  7. Lots of songs have dance remix versions… or ask your DJ if s/he can custom remix three or four of your fave jams especially for the occasion
  8. When I give context for an offbeat song guests are a lot more motivated to dance to it… ask your DJ to explain the cute story behind the Bikini Kill song before hitting “play.”
  9. Research popular wedding tunes and make a list of the songs you can't stand: “Brick House,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Shout,” “Gangnam Style,” “Cha Cha Slide,” “YMCA.” Pass the list along to your DJ so s/he can include “everybody favorites” at the reception, minus the ones that'll have you hurling.
  10. If the bride and groom are not dancing, the guests will dance a lot less
  11. Consider having a no-dance reception — your non-offensive indie jams can be played at a lower volume while you serve rockin' coffee or wine with some romantic lighting and an after-dinner lounge set up

I've seen a lot of discussion about avoiding cheesy DJs and not wanting to give up control of the reception to a DJ. (Sometimes I feel like wedding DJs are wedding community pariahs — I don't have cheesy cooties, I swear!) I was a bride too — I get it. I had to “give up control” of my reception, which was even harder as a fellow wedding DJ.

Having said that, remember one thing. Cheesy DJs persist because, for the most part, wedding guests eat up the cheese. I'm a Seattle-native with a nose ring and feminist tattoos who has had green, blue, and pink hair and been a strict vegetarian for 20 years — I do have some offbeat street cred. Yet I still lead line dancing lessons during weddings I DJ because I keep hearing how much fun they are.

Just keep an open mind. If you take the time and effort to plan properly, you can both entertain your guests and enjoy yourself.

Comments on Mexican rap and line dancing: how to rock offbeat wedding music without alienating your guests

  1. Great post! I knew some people who were into goth and industrial, but figured they’d choose something neutral for their reception music and played swing, jazz, and big band. Except, no one wanted to dance to it! Not their friends, not their family. I think it’s important to accommodate as wide a range of preferences as possible.

    • We’re also into goth and industrial music and were thinking of toning it down and going neutral for our reception. I’m glad you said this didn’t work, because now I don’t feel bad about wanting to squeeze some of our favorites in with the other stuff family wants to hear – country, a couple tejano songs, some pop – this is gonna be one crazy playlist!

  2. I think this post really touches at the heart of a lot of my early planning musings. My fiance and I are very interested in having an authentic celebration of our love/commitment, but we also don’t subscribe to the idea that the wedding is ONLY about us and no one else. It’s also a way to celebrate our community, and I would have a hard time feeling like I was truly celebrating our specific community if we only played punk rock, David Bowie, indie pop and house music at our wedding, as much as it is probably a truer reflection of our tastes (and even, in a lot of ways, our relationship). No one – give or take one or two people – would actually ENJOY it. But at the same time, if our families had their way, our music would be nothing but Billy Joel and reggaeton (which, for us, would be a special kind of hell – no offense to anyone who loves both or either!).

    What I love about OBB is how they offer practical ideas for how to fully embrace your own weirdness but still truly celebrate (and yes, compromise to a certain extent) for the sake of your beloved community. I really loved the idea of choosing which things are just for you and which you can soften, as well a specific ideas for where you can play meaningful music.

    So yeah, we’ll probably have some Billy Joel and reggaeton. And we’ll definitely rock out to some of the Labyrinth soundtrack too. It’s all about balance, balance, balance. It’s a great metaphor for the whole!

  3. “If the bride and groom are not dancing, the guests will dance a lot less.”

    I kind of hate this, because I know it’s probably true. I don’t really want to dance at my wedding. I’m sure i’ll be on the dance floor for a few choice songs, but otherwise I’d rather mingle on the outskirts and occassionally sneak out the back door for a moment to myself.

    • Can confirm it is true. Every wedding I’ve been to has had dancing, and the two where nobody wanted to dance had the same thing in common: bride and groom didn’t want to dance. Just putting the thought out there: if you don’t want to dance, why have dancing instead of some other activity that you like more? I understand wanting to accommodate guests who really like dancing, but most likely no one will miss it if you’re not doing it yourself. People will want to be wherever you and your partner are.

  4. I think it is entirely possible to have non-popular dance songs during your dance party. Depending on the environment, there are always cases where people dance to stuff they are not familiar with, especially if it is exemplary (see Todd Terje’s ‘Inspector Norse‘ or ‘House Of Jealous Lovers‘.) Not everyone has to dance to every song, unless that is what you want, of course. I personally like to add the weirder requests near the end of the dance party, as it is winding down. I also am totally in favor of adding some weird stuff in there because it is your wedding and gosh darn it, if you want to hear post-rock and EBM, you darn well should. But then again I did force obscure Italo Disco on all of my guests at my wedding. But I second what Staci says – for the most part, saving the more obscure stuff for the cocktail hour and dinner is a good idea.

    • Hi DJ Domenica…Agreed–weirder stuff at the end is also good and has worked for me as well. I did a wedding in June that was primarily Top 40 and Salsa/Cumbias….but they told me to throw in Flogging Molly. It fit perfectly about 45-30 minutes from the end when everyone was already pretty loosened up….turned out to be the highlight of the night, but it would’ve bombed the first 2 hours for sure.

  5. Hahaha I love reggaeton,Billy Joel, goth, industrial, 80s,90s pop, Latin pop, middle Eastern beats and everything in between….I love this article!! ( oh and our first dance is to Within You from Labyrinth)

  6. I was in charge of dance music (for my relatively small wedding, less that 40 people including the bride and groom), and I think my own personal preferences were last on my list of priorities for actually dancing (examples: December, 1963, because my high school friends remember line dancing to it in P.E., and U Can’t Touch This because my mother loves it, Soul Man for my dad, Ke$ha’s TiK ToK because my now-husband loves that Star Trek Tik Tok Youtube Video, er I should mention my wedding was “time travelling” so I gave myself a lot of leeway as to what was danceable music). But I was also totally willing to be the only girl on the dance floor (apparently my family/friends didn’t think ABC’s the The Look Of Love was an awesome dance song, which is weird because they were totally willing to do a spontaneous folk dance/circle skipping to The Safety Dance). Honestly the best part of the dance music for me was having people I knew would like the music say, spontaneously, “Oh man, I love this song!” while I thought “Yeah, I know, I chose it because I know you love it!”

    Although I admit I spent a fair amount of time assuring people we were slow-dancing to We’ve Only Just Begun because we liked the film 1408 (“no, really, it’s super scary if you’ve seen the film”, “No, no, this is ironic!”).

  7. awesome article! this is really huge. if you find a really good wedding DJ, it won’t be “cheesy” at all… we found an awesome DJ for ours who was young, cool, and able to blend our very specific music tastes with enough popular music that it made everyone happy. he had us give him a “if you play this, we’ll kill you” list (so goodbye, Y.M.C.A. and the Electric Slide) as well as the songs that we really really wanted. then at the beginning of dinner, he went around to all of our guests and introduced himself as our “entertainment director”. the guests loved him, and the music was so good no-one sat down all evening. more than a year later, people are still telling us is was the most fun they’ve ever had at a wedding, that it was more like being at a nightclub.

    on the other side — i went to a wedding once where the couple hired a band that played only the specific kind of music the couple liked… only maybe 10 of the guests knew how to dance to that kind of music, so everyone else sat for the entire reception. i felt bad for the couple that they paid so much for only a few people to dance, and felt bad for the guests that many of them had traveled a long way for the wedding and they had to just sit there.

    so yes, yes, yes to this article. there’s a way to have a balance, keep your style and musical tastes intact, and make sure your guests enjoy themselves as well!

  8. Wow! Such great feedback! I sincerely hope everyone has a fun and memorable wedding reception. I understand the “bad rap” wedding DJs have gotten…but there is someone out there perfect for your wedding…it’s just your job to find them! If anyone’s interested, I have a free eBook I offer prospective clients called “Wedding DJ 101.” Contact me and I’ll send you a copy. (I’d post the link but I’m on my phone…not sure how….)

  9. I love punk, my fiance likes prog metal, but we both like ska. We are possibly having a ska band there and then our DJ we’ll have play the most crowd friendly options from what we like, and anything crowd friendly that we can stand. There will probably be a lot of salsa since half of my family is Hispanic and seriously who doesn’t like salsa?

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