All posts by shannon@kdinteractive.com

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

9 Amazing Wedding Themes You’ll Love

Planning a wedding reception requires a good wedding planning guide and, in some cases, a wedding theme list. The latter is incredibly helpful if you’re a couple who wants to use a theme to start creating an atmosphere with details that are completely and entirely you.

Jazzy

We’d be remiss as Chicago wedding professionals if we didn’t include this nod to Chicago’s heritage on our wedding theme list. A jazz wedding theme can be as modern or as vintage as wanted. A more modern take may include record accents, unique lighting, and a jazzy playlist. For a more vintage wedding, consider reproducing the atmosphere of an old jazz club—even going as far as to recreate a speakeasy with card and poker tables.

Nautical

A nautical or lakefront wedding theme is the perfect opportunity to enjoy all the perks of being on the lakefront. Picture a wedding at a popular lakefront venue, marina, or yacht club filled with an atmosphere in line with a day on the water. A nautical wedding theme is an opportunity plan the ultimate menu filled with your favorite local tastes and seafood dishes.

Retro/Vintage

A retro or vintage wedding theme is a throwback event, complete with touches and a playlist reminiscent of a different era or time. This is a theme that can be as unique as the era you choose—especially when choosing your favorite touches from that period. Best yet, this wedding theme lends itself to a wedding dance filled with your favorite songs from that era. (Hire a wedding DJ or band that can make that happen.)

Romantic

This is the perfect wedding theme for a Valentine’s Day wedding or for an intimate wedding reception. A romantic wedding theme can be as unique as the couple planning it: a neutral affair with upscale floral bouquets or late-night reception filled with roses and candles.

Fairy Tale

A fairy tale wedding brings the wonder of your fairy tale to life. This is your chance to make guests feel like they stepped into a vintage story book or a more modern version. In addition to wonderful décor, this is also a chance to incorporate the theme into the wedding dance with a royal wedding entrance and a fairy tale first wedding dance. (Your wedding DJ may have ideas as well, just ask.)

Rustic

A rustic wedding can be as modern or as country, and as formal or casual, as you prefer. This wedding theme is filled with natural elements that exemplify the rustic atmosphere: wood, greenery, floral accents, and atmospheric lighting.

Urban

An urban wedding deserves a modern wedding venue with a completely urban feel. The planning should continue with every detail that lends to a feel of the wonder of the urban landscape.

Winter

A winter wedding includes the wonders of the season—what those wonders are is different for every couple. This is your chance to select your favorite parts of the season and incorporate it into a beautiful wedding atmosphere. The result can be a neutral affair that exudes a winter wonderland or a cozy setting with tones of the season.

Spring/Summer

A spring or summer wedding is an atmosphere with fresh details: floral, greenery, seasonal menu dishes, and all the beauty of the season. This is an occasion where fresh blooms and ingredients are expected and celebrated.

How long is a wedding reception?

“How long is a wedding reception?” is one of the most common wedding planning questions couples ask. Typically, a wedding reception (with meal included) lasts between 4-6 hours. The length of your wedding reception is an important part of setting a wedding reception timeline and coordinating key wedding vendors.

This guide to planning a wedding reception can help you plan an awesome 4-6 hour reception. (Plus, use our wedding reception planning checklist to organize all those details.)

Wedding Reception Timeline

Cocktail hour

Dinner (Requires serving and background music)

Wedding Cake and Cutting

Reception Dance

  • Bridal party announcement
  • First dance
  • Song for any reception surprises
  • Bouquet and garter toss
  • Mother-son dance
  • Father-daughter dance

Wedding Reception Planning Tips

Band versus DJ: What’s right for your wedding?

“Should get a band or a DJ for my wedding?” may be one of the most common wedding planning questions, but it doesn’t always come with a clear-cut answer. (And the answer can be different for every couple!)

Some couples prefer the live performance of a favorite dance band while others love the energy of a professional wedding DJ. Either way, you should always make sure to do your due diligence when researching both options; there are a lot of amateur DJs and bands that can don’t deliver what they promise (a personalized play list that keeps guests on the dance floor) OR can leave couples stuck without wedding reception entertainment in case of an emergency.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of wedding DJ questions that weeds out the amateurs and warning signs to watch for that indicate your wedding DJ is way less than professional. However, if you’re still grappling with the choice between a band a DJ, this table breaks down the question quickly and easily.

Wedding band versus DJ

  DJ Band
Keeps guests
on the dance
floor
Yes-if you choose an experienced pro! Yes-if you choose experienced musicians!
Cost Yes-Typically lower than a band No-Typically highest cost wedding entertainment
Emcee for
reception
Yes-Can make announcements and add personal touch Yes-Can make announcements and add personal touch
Play list Endless Limited
State-of-the-art equipment Yes-ask to see the DJ’s equipment (and be concerned if they can’t or won’t show it to you) Yes-usually
Dinner music Yes-ask to make sure it is included, along with these other wedding DJ questions No-not usually but some groups can customize their act so a few musicians can provide soft dinner music and a full dance band later
Lighting Yes-high-quality wedding DJs offer this (usually as part of a package) Sometimes
Back-up plan (in case of illness or emergency) Yes-ask DJs before hiring to make sure they have back-up DJs and equipment (amateurs don’t) Yes-ask bands before hiring because some won’t

Tips for choosing the best wedding entertainer

  • Always research DJs and bands before hiring (i.e. on social media, YouTube, The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc.)
  • Don’t hire a wedding DJ or band without asking important questions (i.e. amount of time included in contract, overtime fees, amount of musicians included in band, etc.)
  • Be careful about hiring entertainers that raise any of these red flags.
  • If you want a particular musician or DJ, make sure you request that individual right away. Some bands or businesses have a list of musicians and pros that alternate performances.
  • Take note of reviews, but be extremely cautious about hiring a friend of a friend that performs at weddings as a side job.
wedding dance

How to Choose the Best Songs to Play at a Wedding

The energy of a packed dance floor can feel electric—especially when the best songs are played at a wedding. While creating that energy might seem as easy as putting together a list of your favorite songs, the right wedding playlist is crafted from using a combination of do’s and don’ts that get guests out on the floor.

Don’t make your guests blush (with your music choice).

Even if you are hosting an adults-only wedding reception, be aware that you may still have to “PG-down” your wedding playlist. This doesn’t mean you have to play kiddy songs, but it does mean that may have to take those risqué songs off the wedding playlist. The good news is that you don’t have to cross those songs permanently off your playlist. Save them for your post-reception party with your close friends!

Do include your guests’ favorites.

It’s okay to hate the chicken dance or ban a song or two that you absolutely can’t stand. When compiling a do not play list, make sure you keep it short. You don’t want your guests to wander away because they are not playing any songs they like! (Put the bar or a water cooler near the dance floor too, so guests don’t need to go too far to stay hydrated.)

Don’t leave your reception leaderless.

As tempting as it might be to just let wedding songs play, the best wedding dances are full of energy—usually from the DJ or band. In addition to entertaining guests and uping the fun factor, a DJ or band leader can make announcements (like for your first dance and introducing your bridal party!) and steer guests to key moments.

Do take requests.

Your wedding reception is all about entertaining your guests. Taking requests is a great way to do so! Obviously, there is a risk in taking live requests. You may have to take part in the YMCA (or watch everyone else do so!) If you want to make sure those annoying songs aren’t played, you can take requests on your wedding website or via your reply cards. This approach gives you the chance to veto any wedding songs that you truly hate.

Don’t forget to connect your vendors.

If you want to make sure that everything goes smoothly and all those important moments are recorded, connect your venue staff contact with your DJ and your DJ with your photographer and…so on and so on. (A really good DJ already knows to connect with them. Make sure you ask the DJ about this with this list of wedding DJ questions.) This important step ensures that your DJ can set up on time and your photographer (and videographer) is in the right place to get the best shots at the right time.

Do hire a really, really good DJ.

An experienced wedding DJ is experienced for a reason. Take advantage of it! If you want to host a memorable wedding reception, use this list of questions to interview wedding wedding Djs and hiring tips to choose the best pro for your wedding day. You and your guests are sure to enjoy the result (and the memories!)

disco balls from a wedding dance

Wedding DJ Checklist

There’s one thing that’s remained true in all the years we’ve been wedding DJs in the Chicago area: every couple is incredibly different. Some couples come to us with absolutely no ideas for wedding reception songs and others have definite ideas for their wedding playlist.

If you’re one of the latter, this checklist is the perfect way to get all those wedding music ideas down on paper. Once you’ve chosen the perfect wedding DJ, give them this list and prepare yourself for a night of fun!

Must-Play List

These are the songs you absolutely have to hear. Use these wedding playlist tips to come up with the right combination of tunes!

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Must-Not Play List

Make sure you don’t take your guests’ favorites off the list. These tips for crafting a must-not play list can be incredibly helpful.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Cocktail Music Ideas

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Wedding Party Entrance Music Ideas

Don’t hesitate to ask your bridal party and DJ for suggestions!

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

First Dance Ideas

If you don’t have a clear favorite, use these tips to narrow down your options to the perfect tune that fits you as a couple.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Father & Daughter Dance

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Mother & Son Dance

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Bouquet & Garter Toss Songs

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Surprise Dance Song

Want to surprise your guests? Use this list of wedding reception surprises for inspiration and don’t forget to include your DJ in on the fun!

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________



Wedding Dance Games

Use these ideas for wedding dance games that give your guests more than dancing to spice up the fun!

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________



collage of pictures from epic wedding dance

Quick Guide to Chicago Wedding DJ Prices

When you’re planning a wedding, you don’t have a lot of time—-especially not for contacting every wedding DJ in Chicago! That’s why we’ve put together some of favorite wedding reception planning tips that can help you make sense of those wedding DJ prices and quotes, so you and your guests enjoy a memorable night of dancing and fun.


photo booths for rent for events

Top Tips that Get You the Smoothest Photo Booth Rental

A photo booth rental can be the highlight of the party (yay!) or the source of many headaches. While you can’t always prevent the latter, you can take a few steps when renting a photo booth to ensure that your photo booth is the source of a LOT of fun.

Be clear about pricing and contract details.

Hidden costs are incredibly frustrating, especially when the final cost is significantly more than the up-front quote. To avoid the frustration, always ask for a full list of charges up front instead of just asking about the cost.

Ask about back-ups and troubleshooting problems.

Unfortunately, even the best-maintained photo booths do occasionally break down. To avoid a mid-event breakdown, always vet photo booth equipment to ensure that you are getting reliable equipment. Look for equipment with sturdy cabinets and without home printers, which are prone to problems. To make sure you can get a quick repair if there is an issue, ask the photo booth rental company if an attendant is included with the rental and who to contact in case of a problem. For added insurance, ask if the company has back-up units that are available when needed.

Research the photo booth rental company.

The best photo booth rental companies check off several boxes. They are reputable with a long history of satisfied customers and rentals. You can find those companies with some research; start by looking at their social media sites and online review sites for reviews by past customers.

Have fun with photo booth props.

A photo booth rental wouldn’t be complete without a whole host of props that make those memorable photos. Some companies include props in the photo booth rental. If you need props, include that question (“do you provide props as part of the photo booth rental?”) in your initial list of questions. For custom photos, purchase additional props (use this list of photo booth prop ideas) and customize the backdrop. If you have a social media hashtag, you can add the hashtag onto items or choose unique items that fit with the theme.

Make your photo booth rental a package deal.

Some photo booth rental companies offer the rental as part of a package (such as with lighting or DJ services). If you need other services, this is a great way to get a good deal and keep your vendor calls to a minimum.

shot of people dancing at epic wedding reception

Wedding Playlist: 5 Ways to Choose the Perfect Wedding Reception Songs

The perfect wedding playlist should more about quality instead of quantity. Instead of asking, “how many songs do DJs play at weddings?” (the answer is typically 15 per hour), think more about the wedding reception songs you want included in your playlist.

Make a list of “special” wedding songs.

The most logical place to start crafting a wedding playlist is by choosing the wedding reception songs that are played during those special moments. After all, these are the memorable moments that you can look back on for years:

  • Wedding party entrance
  • Father and daughter dance
  • Mother and son dance
  • First dance
  • Bouquet toss
  • Garter toss

As you select these songs and the right wedding DJ to play them, be careful about hiring a DJ that doesn’t give you the option to customize your wedding playlist. You don’t want to get stuck with a wedding DJ who uses the same list over and over and doesn’t give you the chance to hear your favorite tunes.

Start listening to songs.

Some couples have a million songs they want played. Others have no clue! It’s okay to fall into either category. If you fall into the latter, the best way to decide on first dance songs and choose a few favorites is to start listening to songs. (If you’re planning a throwback wedding, make sure your ‘must play’ songs are from the right time period.)

Make a short list of favorite and not-so-favorite songs.

The best wedding DJs customize the wedding reception playlist to your special night. (If they don’t, be worried!) You should always choose your wedding DJ carefully (with this list of wedding DJ questions); the best DJs are the source of many memories and are well worth the funds.

Mix it up.

As you make a list of favorites, don’t forget that the wrong song at the wrong moment can really kill the mood—and clear the dance floor! A good wedding DJ can help with selecting the right song at the right time, but you can help them by not overloading your playlist with slow songs.

Don’t nix all your guests’ favorites.

Everyone has a few songs that sound like nails on a chalkboard. However, you should make sure your list of “most hated” songs doesn’t coincide with your guests’ favorites.

Lean on your DJ’s experience and expertise.

Remember that you hired your DJ for a reason. An experienced wedding DJ comes with a whole list of perks. At the top of that list is expertise! A good wedding DJ knows what songs to play at the right time. It’s okay to leave the wedding reception playlist up to them and enjoy an awesome night of wedding songs.

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

How do I start planning an awesome wedding reception?

The wedding reception is the kingpin of a beautiful wedding day, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, this step-by-step guide breaks it down into easy-to-plan tasks that create an incredibly fun wedding reception that everyone looks forward to and talks about for ages to come.

Decide on a budget and future planning.

If you haven’t already, make a few key decisions before you start wedding planning. You’ll find wedding planning really comes down to a series of wedding questions. Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves:

  • Where do we want to get married?
  • What is our style?
  • Do we want a big or a small wedding? How big is our guest list?
  • What is our budget? Who is paying for each wedding item?
  • Do we have time to plan the wedding? Or would we prefer to hire a wedding planner?
  • What is one thing we really want at our wedding venue?

Find the right reception venue.

This is one of the most important details of planning a wedding reception—after all, this is the backdrop of your big night! Choose a venue that fits with your wedding atmosphere and checks off all the practical boxes off the checklist.

If you want to host the ultimate dance party, make sure you ask about any limitations on volume and curfew times. Some venues need to shut down the party early because of local municipal and community regulations. Even outdoor venues need to abide by these restrictions. In addition, ask these questions:

  • Is the venue available on my wedding date?
  • How many guests does your venue accommodate?
  • Are other weddings or events held at the venue at the same time?
  • What is the cost of the venue? Are there any overtime fees or other costs?
  • Is alcohol allowed on site? Do I need to get the alcohol or is it provided by the venue?
  • What staffing is provided by the venue?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible? Is there parking nearby?
  • Are there local hotels my guests can stay at?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you offer equipment rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, tablecloths, décor)?
  • When can I tour the venue? (Tip: never book a venue without seeing it in person.)

Once you have the venue booked, it’s time to start thinking about equipment rentals and décor (and venue policies). Most venues only allow free-standing décor that won’t damage the walls and structure. If the venue offers equipment rentals, discuss the specifics of your event needs. For venues that don’t offer equipment rentals, ask for recommendations for the best event rental companies and décor services. Start brainstorming ideas for wedding favors that fit with the décor and atmosphere.

In addition to finalizing event rentals, work with the venue to set a tentative wedding reception layout and schedule. Don’t leave any meeting with venue staff without setting deadlines for finalizing details and understanding the next step.

Hire a caterer.

The meal is a big part of the wedding reception, which is why booking the caterer is the first steps of planning a wedding reception. Sometimes, the caterer is part of the wedding venue package; for others, the process involves online research and asking friends and family for recommendations. When selecting a caterer, interview each caterer and ask a few questions:

  • Is your company available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have a guest minimum?
  • What is the cost per guest? Are there any additional fees or costs?
  • Do you offer different dinner services (i.e. buffet, family style, sit-down)?
  • Is bartending and drinks offered as part of your services?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • Can I schedule a tasting? Is there a fee for the tasting?

If you want to keep your wedding reception dance party going well into the night, ask the caterer about a late-night course that fuels your guests. Another idea is to hire a food truck for a creative twist (with permission from your venue, of course).

Hire the best wedding reception entertainer.

You’ve got the place and the meal set, now it’s time for the fun: planning the wedding reception entertainment! Decide whether you want a band or wedding DJ (use this list of wedding entertainment pros and cons).

Wedding entertainment is one of three details that make the biggest impact on guests. The others are the venue and food. When setting the budget, allocate enough funds for a quality vendor that keeps guests on the dance floor.

There a lot of different ways to find the best wedding DJs in Chicago, including asking your friends and family or doing online research. Be careful about relying entirely on a “Chicago DJs near me” search, however; take your research a step further and check social media and popular websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire for other couples’ opinions of the DJ.

When you do narrow your options down, ask each DJ these questions:

  • Is there a wedding DJ available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have any experience with weddings?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is the total cost of the DJ service? Are there any package deals that you offer?
  • Do you overtime fees? Is there a travel charge?
  • What “extras” do you offer (i.e. lighting, photobooth, etc.)?
  • Does your service offer back-up DJs and equipment in case of an emergency?
  • Is dinner music service part of your services?
  • Do you customize your play list to our tastes? When do we need to get our ‘must play’ and ‘do not play’ lists to you?
  • Does your service carry insurance?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • When can we meet?

Make sure to ask about any special requests, such as a bilingual MC, before signing the contract. You’ll be glad you did when you’re celebrating on your special day.

wedding dance floor with deejay

Wedding DJ Services: Quick (and Complete) Guide

The right wedding DJs should be your go-to for the services that put your wedding reception over-the-top. The best DJs can provide all of that with customized service and the back-ups that ensure your dream wedding reception occurs without a hitch.

Finding the best wedding DJ for your big day does come with a few, “yes, but…” As tempting as it might be to choose the cheapest DJ for your wedding reception, the best Chicagoland wedding DJs come with guarantees that make it worth the time to find the right service.

What to Look for in a Wedding DJ Service

  • State-of-the-art equipment (be concerned if the DJ won’t show it)
  • Back-up staffing (in case of an emergency)
  • Experience at wedding venues and providing service to wedding DJs throughout Chicago
  • Excellent reviews on social media and review sites (i.e the Knot, Wedding Wire, etc.)
  • Contract fine print about the amount of time the DJ plays
  • “Extras” for easy wedding planning (i.e. lighting, photo booth, etc.)

Wedding DJ Red flags

  • No business address
  • Wedding DJ services that don’t communicate or return calls
  • Overtime fees that can add to the wedding DJ cost
  • Lack of back-up equipment or another experienced professional (in case of an emergency)

Questions to Ask a Wedding DJ Service

  • “Is there a DJ available on our wedding date?”
  • “Do your DJs have experience working at other weddings?”
  • “What is the total wedding DJ cost? What is included in the cost? Are there any overtime fees?”
  • “Is there a travel fee charged for coming to the venue?”
  • “Have you ever been to my venue?”
  • “Does your wedding DJ service have insurance? Can you provide proof of insurance?”
  • “What do your DJs do if they have an emergency or equipment breaks down?”
  • “Do you offer any other services?”
  • “Does the cost include dinner music? Can your DJ emcee the dinner (if needed) and reception?”
  • “Can we meet? What is the best way to contact you as we plan our wedding reception?”

What to Expect from a Quality Wedding DJ Service

  • Prompt communication
  • Long play list of music
  • Business address (be wary of amateur wedding DJs who don’t have a set business)
  • State-of-the-art equipment
  • Back-up wedding DJs (in case the DJ is sick, hurt, or has a family emergency)
  • Set fees (with no surprise additional fees)
  • Package deals with additional services
  • Packed dance floor