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Top Wedding Traditions: Explained

Photo by Kayla Herlihy

Wedding Traditions, Old and New, and Pro Tips

written by Nick McPherson & Wyatt Roberts

As a Wedding DJ based out of Upstate NY near Albany, I have seen all kinds of traditions, and formalities come and go. If you’ve only been to weddings in the Capital Region, its likely you havent seen all the cool ways you can make your wedding unique. Because of this I have put together a list of tips and tricks outlining the most common traditions we see at weddings, “old school” and new.

Wedding Traditions, Old and New, and Pro Tips

As a Wedding DJ based out of Upstate NY near Albany, I have seen all kinds of traditions, and formalities come and go. I also understand that while I have personally DJed countless weddings in the capital region, you may be limited to what you have seen at other weddings, or don’t even know to begin. Because of this I have put together a list of tips and tricks outlining the most common traditions we see at weddings, “old school” and new.


This one most of you will know about. The time where the two of you will get married. Some people still do this offsite, but more and more in the Saratoga/Albany area, and throughout New York in general we see this shift to “on-site”, at the banquet hall, barn, country club, or wherever your reception is being held. This especially becomes beautiful at the many venues I have played at in Lake George in the fall, outside. However, make sure you have a backup plan if it will rain. When it comes to on-site ceremonies, most times your DJ will provide the audio for it. We recommend it, since often, your DJ will have higher quality gear than the venue will. Make sure you keep on time with the start of this. Very often when doing a “first look” this can run late. Starting your ceremony late can push the whole timeline late. Music wise, you will have to pick out music for a few categories, that being Guest Arrival, Processionals, and Recessional. Make sure to pick these songs carefully, ones that match the moment and that you love, and be sure to take advantage of cover artists to make your favorites “ceremony appropriate”. For your Guest Arrival, we typically recommend piano covers. This will keep your guests listening and trying to figure out what it is a cover of, making it fun while they wait for it to start. For processional music (for your wedding party, and/or just for the bride’s entrance) this could be a super traditional song like “here comes the bride” or something more modern like a love song that you like. For a recessional song (as you exit down the aisle) pick something fun, upbeat, and happy. Most often we see “This Will Be (an Everlasting Love)”, and “Signed Sealed Delivered”.

Cocktail Hour

This is where in my opinion the party officially starts. One tip is at some point during the time, find five minutes where the two of you can take a breath and share a moment alone. We get that this is an overwhelming day. Additionally, if you are not participating, don’t spend a ton of time planning the perfect cocktail hour. When thinking about music, try and pick songs that you love that are non-danceable or not as well known. Be sure to ask your DJ for advice. We can take your playlist for the night and divide it up into Dancing and Non-Dancing and put together the perfect cocktail hour playlist.


Now it’s time to party and enjoy the night with your guests. Here are some of the many traditions we see in our couples timelines

Grand Entrances

This is where the DJ will introduce your Wedding Party. Be sure to tell your Wedding Party to have fun and spice it up. We have seen it all, from crazy to funny to cool. I have seen champaign popped by the best man, even heard of by other DJs having the groomsmen come in and play flip cup in the middle of the dance floor. Your guests will feed off the energy they bring! There are many ways you can be introduced

Ways to Introduced

·        Traditional: Groomsman escorting Bridesmaid.

·        From Seat: Introduce someone from the seat at their table. Great for Grandparents! 

·        Posse Style: All Groomsmen together at once, then all Bridesmaids at once. Ex) “Introducing the Groomsmen…John, Toby, Sam, & the Best Man Paul!”

·        One at a Time: One person being introduced at a time, in any order. This makes the most sense for extensive personalized entrances. 

·        Posse Style combined w/ One at a Time: Introduce all Groomsmen into the room, then line them up in a row. One will step forward, their personalized entrance will be given, then the next one will step forward, etc. Same process for Bridesmaids.

Formality Dances

Typically, you will have the classic three dances, that being the first dance, and the two parent dances (father/daughter, mother/son). These can be typically placed in your timeline in two spots, right after introductions or after/during dinner. Some people even do their first dance after intros and parent dances after dinner. We typically recommend doing all three of these dances right after introductions as the room is already “alive” after your grand entrance.

Options to Personalize Parent Dances:

Parent Backstory: Get the story of the day you born (where was Dad, how did mom feel when she first held you, etc), or a special memory you have of your parent, etc. The story will be read before inviting your parent to the dance floor.

Voice Over: Record a sound bite of yourself talking about your parent. It is then edited into your parent dance song, so that your voice plays through the speakers while you’re both dancing.

Backspin: Backspin out of your parent dance song, into an upbeat dance song with your parent.

Toasts & Prayer/Blessing

Usually, we see this happen right after the formalities before dinner. More often then not the people who will give these will be the maid of honor and the best man (which are always filled with inside jokes). However, you can invite up any other key family members to give toasts. We occasionally even have (if you are a good public speaker) a bride and groom toast thanking all guests for being there for their once in a lifetime celebration. My number one tip for toasts is to keep them between two and three minutes each because by human nature our attention spans are short. If you are religious it is not a bad idea to have your prayer/blessing right after while guests attention is focused towards those speaking.

Other Traditions

The traditions above are the most common ones that are at most of our weddings, however the ones bellow we see at some but not all of our weddings

Anniversary Dance

This is a good way to start of a dance set for the night. Basically the DJ calls all the couples out to the dance floor and then progressively calls out years, and asks people married for less than that to leave the dance floor (ex. “If you have been married for less than ten years please leave the dance floor), until one couple remains. We then ask them to give the newlyweds some advice on how they have remained together for that long. Another spin on this is we can do this in reverse so that we end up with a packed dance floor at the end and transition right into a dance set.

Bouquet/Garter Toss

This tradition we have seen phase out but it still happens at some weddings. Sometimes we’ve only seen a bouquet toss in replacement of the “pairing” to give out the bouquet to a guest. Here is the traditional way of doing the Bouquet and Garter

Garter Removal

During the reception, the bride sits in a chair while her groom removes a garter from around her leg. He uses his hands (or in some cases, teeth).

Garter Toss

Now the DJ will call out all the single men to the dance floor and the groom tosses the garter out to the crowd. This is the male equivalent of the bouquet toss.

Boquet Toss

Then next up the bride does the equivalent and we call up the single ladies to the dance floor and she throws out her bouquet.

Garter Replacement

In tradition the symbolism is that the winner of the garter and bouquet toss will be the “next couple to get married”. Sometimes even the winner of the garter toss will put the garter on the winner of the bouquet toss. It is said that the higher up the garter is “the longer they will be together for”.

While this tradition is seemed to be lighthearted and funny, some think it’s awkward or raunchy, so feel free to omit or change up any of this tradition, or skip it entirely if you want

Cake Cutting

There are two main ways you can do this, by calling attention to it (typical way) and cutting it in front of the guests at the sweetheart table, or do it just for photos with your photographer (this way the party doesn’t stop, and people may watch if they desire to.) Just remember, if you are going to smash cake in your spouses’ face, please be gentle. Don’t end up in bathroom for 30 minutes cleaning cake out of your nose! For background music if calling attention to it you may want to use a song you considered using for another formality (such as your 1st dance), but you went with something else, a nice couples song, or something else (bonus points if you can relate it to cake such as “Cake by the Ocean” or “How Sweet It Is”)

Dollar Dance

This one can be very engaging and funny, and can even be used as a centerpiece giveaway. Each table volunteers a one dollar bill. Guests pass the dollar bill to the person at the table that best represents the category I give (ex. Biggest Drinker, Best Dancer, etc). There is music accompanying each category. Example: The category is “Biggest Drinker”. Whoever has the dollar bill, passes it to the person they think is the Biggest Drinker. The Biggest Drinker is asked to stand up, and to chug a glass of water (to keep them hydrated). The song Shots by LMFAO plays while chugging. The Biggest Drinker keeps the dollar bill to tip the bartender, and another category will win the centerpiece or other prize.


At the end of the night occasionally we have a cool send off as the couple leaves the venue, after the last song. However, some photographers suggest doing a “staged” for photos send off. We don’t recommend this since it creates an awkward hault to the dancing and often guests will be confused and leave right after this regardless of it being “for photos”. Another piece of advice if you are planning on doing a sparkler send off is check with your venue if they allow it. One venue in Albany told one of our couples they didn’t and this was saddening to the bride and groom. However, if they don’t allow it, a good alternative is with bubbles, confetti, balloons, glowsticks, champaign, and more!

Private Last Dance

This is a new trend that has been popping up, and I just recently did my first wedding where they asked about this. After all the guests have left and the venue is empty, we invite the newlyweds back in to share their last dance with just them. This is a very cute and amazing photo opportunity. Just don’t forget to ask your venue and other vendors if this is okay, since often it will cut into overtime

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