If you want to skip the expense of hiring a DJ or band to provide music for your reception, making your own playlist of songs is not only free but ensures that the music that is played has been approved by you. You can also make your own playlist even if a DJ will be working at the event. Ask him to play songs from the list depending on the mood of the crowd. Once you've chosen songs, either put them in a specific play order, or hook up your mp3 player at the reception and hit shuffle.
Consider your audience. If the majority of the crowd are fresh out of college, it may be more appropriate to include a lot of rap or dance music. However, if the crowd will be slightly older or more conservative, consider older music like jazz standards or even '80s pop, which is fun for dancing but tends to have less offensive language and dance moves.
Think about when your music will be played, since each phase of the reception has a different vibe. If you're creating a mix for cocktail hour, disc jockey Caroline D'Amore suggests using laid-back music. Think about the kinds of music you might hear in a swanky lounge. For the dinner hour, D'Amore suggests softer music, but when it's dance time you'll need to use upbeat tunes to let everyone know it's time to hit the floor.
Ask for input from friends and family. Send out a mass email asking what tunes your friends would like to hear at the reception, or ask a music-savvy friend for advice since he may be able to suggest artists that you haven't heard of before. You can also ask friends what songs they don't want to hear so you can be sure to avoid them.
Get the right balance between fast and slow songs for dancing. D'Amore suggests using one slow song for every seven fast songs. This ensures that the dance floor will be packed for the majority of your reception, but there will be enough slow songs for everyone to catch his breath. Slow songs also give the older guests a chance to dance.
Once you've decided on a list of songs, either download them to your computer from a CD or buy them from an online music store such as iTunes. Arrange them into a playlist. Label the playlist clearly, like "Wedding - Dance Music" and load it onto an mp3 player. You can also ask a member of the bridal party to take over this task if you're not skilled with technology.
Test your playlist by listening to the whole thing to make sure that each song plays correctly and that there aren't any dramatic jumps in sound levels from one song to another. You should also take the mp3 player to the venue to test it with the venue's sound system and make sure you have all the proper equipment so everything goes smoothly during the reception.
Make sure that you have more songs than you think you'll need. Party planner Elizabeth Allen suggests adding an extra half an hour of songs beyond the scheduled time for each phase of the reception. So even if the cocktail hour is only supposed to be an hour long, choose an hour and a half worth of songs. Guests may linger in the cocktail area longer than you anticipated, or there may be a delay with dinner and the cocktail hour may need to be extended.