My wedding was 11 years ago and I am still amazed at how often I hear from my friends and relatives what a great party it was! I started asking myself what it was that made it so memorable, that a decade later, people are still commenting about it. Was it the wedding food? Nope, don’t think so, no one has mentioned the wedding food a decade later (although everyone absolutely raved that night, thanks D’Amico!) Was it the Lake Calhoun venue? (PS it was Lake Calhoun then and it is still the Calhoun Beach Club, so don’t get mad at me, Bde Maka Ska fans...long story...) Although everything was beautiful, I am probably the only one who noticed the detailed, art deco architecture and lake view. Flowers then? Cake? Beautiful autumn weather? My gown? The witty speeches? Open bar? (arguably that should actually make it less memorable…) Color scheme? Centerpieces? Wedding party garb? No, no, no, no and no. None of the above.
I was a psychology major in college so I did a little research because I keep coming back to the fact that music memories are unique because they are created in the emotional center of the brain (thanks to the cooperation that happens in our limbic system when we hear a song). They are different than other memories. Making memories, well, memorable, including our wedding reception then is actually all about the MUSIC!
Allow me a moment to nerd out here. I looked up some studies on autobiographical memory and music and it’s been proven that they are intrinsically related and this fact makes music completely unique where memory is concerned. Here is an excerpt from an article from the NCBI Music and Memory by J. Lutz
Another recent study examined the memories and emotions that are often evoked when hearing musical pieces from one's past. In this experiment, subjects were presented with a large set of short musical excerpts of past popular songs. The authors found that, on average, 30% of the presented songs evoked autobiographical memories. In addition, most of the songs also evoked various strong emotions, which were mainly positive ones such as nostalgia. These results are consistent with the broader literature... Thus, positive emotions and high arousal levels that are associated with specific events act as a memory enhancer for these particular events. In the context of associative memory models, this memory-enhancing effect of emotions and arousal can be explained as a strengthening of the associations between the memories due to strong emotions and to the [limbic system] arousal.
Just in case you skimmed the nerdy excerpt, here is the take away: songs evoke strong, positive emotions (we all know that, right? Everyone experiences this,) and intrinsic links are created with autobiographical memories hence the feeling of ‘nostalgia’. The emotional arousal of the limbic system in the brain that comes from music actually strengthens the associations between memories and events making them easier to recall than just factual memories.
So, there you have it! The reason, after all these years that people are still commenting on how great our wedding was, is undoubtedly because of the music. It was the one piece about which we had taken the most care: choosing our DJ company! I interviewed several and the one I landed on was GenerationNOW. I chose them because they listened to me and what we wanted (and even more importantly, what we did not want! No ‘group dance’ songs - Macarena or Electric Slide due to my abject lack of coordination during such numbers; NO chicken dance or dollar dance). We wanted a mix of nostalgic oldies so all generations would get on the dance floor and some new songs to give it a club/party vibe. And they delivered on all fronts!
One thing that I dislike at so many weddings I have attended are DJs that want to BE the show. Almost like having a morning shock jock with a microphone doing commentary. Or one who thinks they are a sports announcer when they introduce the bridal party and it seems like the Golden State Warriors just took the court against the Toronto Raptors. That takes away from the moment and memories on a day where you want your guests to be the focus, not a punchline.
I’ve been at weddings with live bands too and although many of them are talented, it doesn’t evoke the same emotion as hearing a song the way you know it and love it. Also, they take set breaks which ruins the flow, allows people to wander off, get tired or over served so I knew I didn’t want that to happen either.
And, last but not least, the biggest mistake a bride can make on her wedding music? Hiring a one man show or family member. What happens if he/she gets sick or worse yet ends up in the hospital a few days before your wedding? They don’t have a back-up whereas GenNOW will never book out their entire team just for peace of mind in case something happens out of the control of the hired DJ. I spoke to Tim Miller, V.P. of Marketing & Events, and he told me that in 11 years of business (hundreds of receptions) it’s happened twice where the scheduled DJ could not perform due to hospitalization. It was unfortunate but Tim contacted an equally qualified DJ on their team to step in and connect with the clients right away. Both weddings went off beautifully and they saved what could have been a very stressful time for couples.
To all the brides out there, take it from me...if you want to make your wedding memorable for you, your man and even be reminded of it years later; make sure you have an excellent DJ who takes the time to understand what you want and facilitates the creation of the exact vibe you want as you celebrate with your friends and family!