We’ve all been to weddings where the Chicken Dance, the Nutbush and bad 80s covers have been met with groans, eyerolls and some shuffling on the dancefloor.
“It’s really important to have good music at your wedding because it will be what people will remember long after it is all over,” explains Quinn McHugh, lead singer and guitarist of The Radio Club Band, which has been operating in Queensland for the past seven years. The band plays at more than 500 weddings a year, as well as festivals, corporate events and parties.
“If you get the wrong music, no-one will dance. It’ll just be really loud music and there will be no action. It’s just awkward.”
Quinn has been performing at weddings for about a decade and is an expert at creatively mixing up songs that all generations will love, from Beyonce and Gnarls Barkley to Marvin Gaye and Simply Red. Quinn specialises in playing rock music with the band, but his personal favourite artists are Vance Joy, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.
As he explains, a great wedding playlist is all about getting the right combination of sentimentality for the older crowd, putting a new twist on well-loved classics, mixing it in with newer tracks from the top 40 and keeping the energy levels up throughout the night.
Here are a few of Quinn’s all-time favourite songs that will get everyone’s tailfeather shakin’ on the wedding dancefloor, whether it’s your teenybopper niece or great aunt Maeve.
Shout, The Isley Brothers
This song is a great crowd-pleaser that’s guaranteed to get the party pumping – it’s safe to say that most people will know exactly when to jump up when it’s time to get “a little bit louder now” and jump back down “when it’s time to get a little bit softer now”.
“Everyone knows that one, young and old,” says Quinn.
You’re the Voice, John Farnham
Quinn is not afraid at all to admit that he loves a bit of Farnsy at a wedding to get the crowd in the mood for a singalong.
“I just love that song. I’m not ashamed of it at all. It’s for the dudes, but the ladies love it too. It’s just so Aussie and it pulls everyone together when they’re singing at the the top of their lungs. It’s awesome. I love the classic Aussie stuff,” he says.
Moon River, Henry Mancini
This classic 50s tune is from an era when elegance, class and grace were revered; Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a style icon and people loved listening to Ol’ Blue Eyes croon a love song on the record player.
It might not get the club kids raving on the dance floor, but it’s the perfect song for the start of the reception, perhaps over dinner. Plus, it’s a song that your older guests will appreciate.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand, The Beatles
The over-55s crew will love reliving their youth when the band plays this Beatles classic at your wedding, says Quinn.
“When you see them dance and they know all the words to the song by heart, it’s like they’re 18 again. They feel young again,” says Quinn. “It takes them right back to 1964 and that’s just golden. The youngies might roll their eyes, but they’ll bear with it. It’s the Beatles. Come on.”
Long Train Running/Moves Like Jagger/Sing medley
Quinn and his band love mixing things up and playing cool combinations of classic and modern songs to get both young and older guests onto the dancefloor.
“It just keeps everyone interested because the music changes quite quickly and there’s only a couple of minutes to wait til something flicks on that you might know,” says Quinn.
“It’s almost like the band has DJ mixtape vibe. We’ve found it’s better when the band’s almost acting like a DJ and threading songs together, so there’s more action and less silence.”
Uptown Funk/Ice Ice baby/Push It medley
For those guests who grew up in the 90s, this is a great medley to bring back some nostalgia, mixed in with Bruno Mars’ more recent Uptown Funk.
“Uptown Funk is a popular dance number, and when mixed with Ice Ice Baby and Push It, just for a short while, totally changes the feeling. Those who are a bit more experienced of years on the dancefloor will suddenly relive their glory days,” explains Quinn. “Then the action snaps back exactly where it left off, so this just keeps things interesting, while including all ages and adding a bit of magic from the musical eras gone by.”
They might be slightly cheesy and cliched, but a bit of George Michael and Kenny Loggins (especially when combined) always gets people on the dancefloor, says Quinn.
“The songs have both got the same beat – you just want to swing your knees, click your fingers and groove,” he says. “Faith is cool with a slight swagger to it and the medley goes straight into Footloose without missing a beat – it’s got that fun 80s vibe.”