Every wedding evening party that I am asked to provide the music for contains at least one essential request, for that all-important first dance. However, I recommend that couples request as few songs as possible for their play list, as it’s best to leave it to the DJ to do what he does best, so that the list doesn’t control the night rather than the DJ’s skill and experience. However, it’s great if a couple make a personal list of say up to 20 songs that they would like played at some point through the night, then the DJ can programme them in at the appropriate time to enhance the flow of the music and to keep the dance floor as full as possible.
Most importantly for me, the Number 1 priority is the bride and groom, so ultimately whatever they want, they can have, it's all fine for me. As long as they are happy. This blog is just based on my own personal experiences as a wedding DJ for over 35years and I know what works best, but every wedding is different and every couple have their own ideas, so I always advise to 'listen to advice and tips from the wedding professionals, take out the bits you like, and go with what suits you best.'
Some brides have announced to me just a few weeks before their wedding and usually if we haven’t had much pre-wedding consultation because the preference has been to do everything by email and therefore we have lost that personal touch and the opportunity to offer good pre planning advice, that they have sent out a music request form with their wedding invitations asking for a personal choice of song for the DJ to play at the night party.
Now, when I am told this and to be fair, when I chat with brides 1 year or 18 months before their wedding, I actually warn them against this idea. I always stress though that I am happy to work with them and do whatever they want, no problem, but I always advise them what works best and then leave it with them to consider. The reasons are simple, let’s say, for example, there are 120 guests invited and every guest has the option to choose a song for the DJ to play at the evening party. Now, let’s call the average length of a song 4 minutes, obviously give or take. That equates to 480 minutes or 8 hours’ worth of music. Now, consider the average evening party is over 5 hours, from, say, 7.30pm until 12.30am. Take out the first 90 minutes, or even 2 hours because the first hour is usually background music whilst the evening guests are greeted on their arrival, so, DJ start time is 7.30, evening food/buffet at 8.15, first dance at 9pm, then that leaves 3.5-4 hours of quality dancing and party time. This 4 hours equates to the time to play approximately 60 songs at 4 minutes long.
Therefore, straight away, half of the wedding guests will not hear their request played simply because the time is not available. Let me tell you, if Uncle Fred has requested The Wurzels – ‘Combine Harvester’ and his song is then not played, he will be rather disgruntled. Trust me, I have seen it and some guests can be pretty awkward if they have had the opportunity to choose a song for the evening party via their invitation and the DJ doesn’t play it. Whose fault is it? The poor old DJ gets the blame and is then unfairly branded as being ‘crap’
The other issue is that if Auntie Fanny has requested, say, The Smiths, ‘Heaven Knows I am Miserable Now’, apart from the fact that it is going to positively kill the atmosphere and clear the dancefloor, except for, maybe, Auntie Fanny and Uncle Reg who she’s dragged onto the floor, the lyrics are totally depressing, even though the song may be an all-time Rock classic. It is totally unsuitable for your wedding party. Likewise Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is an all-time Rock classic that Uncle Angus has requested. Is it an awesome song? Yes. Is it going to fill your dancefloor and generate a party atmosphere? No. It could be argued that when played at the right time for the right audience, this tune will go down a storm and indeed I have played it many a time. But, as a rule of thumb, for your wedding evening party? No chance. So now Uncle Angus is not happy too. On top of this, I say that if a playlist is lengthy and pre-prepared, then the bride and groom don’t really need me there and may as well just put all their guests’ requests onto an ipod or MP3 player, hire a PA system and just press play!
Invariably, on the night, if your guests really want to hear a song, then they will just go up to the DJ and ask for it and most of the time this request is inspired by what the DJ is currently playing and therefore it usually will work and keep the dance floor full and therefore no problem to play it and keep your guests happy.
If I am playing at a wedding party or, to be honest, any event or function, I always welcome requests, but too many will bog me down and the night will then be dictated by a ‘playlist’, rather than by my skill, expertise and musical knowledge as a DJ in having the experience to know the right song to play at the right time of the night to enhance the enjoyment of the wedding party for everyone. The flip side is that I can sometimes be inspired by a request which will then take me into a totally different direction, much to the delight of my audience, but it is then my decision, based on what I know and my inspiration from the song, on whether it will enhance or kill your party atmosphere.
I am confident in the services that I provide and I am often asked in early negotiations, ‘what type of music do you play?’ My response is always’ I haven’t got a clue’ Then I explain that if I turned up to DJ at their wedding evening party with a pre-prepared play list, then that would make me ’plastic and false’. I say that any idiot can stand there and press play and indeed many DJ’s who do not have the confidence in their ability as a DJ, or have a limited musical knowledge, will invite a playlist to make their job easier as they otherwise wouldn’t have a clue what to play and if the party then falls flat because the playlist didn’t suit the mood or vibes of the guests, then that playlist is a brilliant ‘get out of jail’ card for the inexperienced DJ who can then blame the failure of the night on ‘the bride and groom’s playlist’. My night is always a blank canvas as far as musical choice is concerned and every party is different and the night for me, is always guided by the mood, atmosphere and responses of the guests throughout the night, as the party evolves and therefore the mood of the guests and the genres and tempo of the musical requirements changes and progresses.
I once had a playlist from a bride and groom that was full of obvious party floor fillers that every inexperienced DJ will rely upon, like ‘Y.M.C.A’, ‘Come on Eileen’, ‘Don’t Stop me Now’ etc. I politely asked the groom, after the bride had distanced herself from the playlist, if he had any reasons for choosing the songs on his extensive playlist? His reply was that he had Googled ‘Songs to get the party going’ and had therefore compiled his list based on this and not even considered that the DJ would probably know all this and what to play anyway. On top of this, on that particular night, the guests were not a cheesy party dance crowd at all and had I stuck to the playlist without first discussing it with the happy couple, the night would have been a disaster because my dilemma would be, ‘well the bride and groom want this or that song, but it is just going to kill the dancefloor and atmosphere and it will not work with this audience, so what do I do?’
Therefore, for me, I ask the bride and groom to please, as I said in the first paragraph, leave it to the professional if you have engaged one. If not, then you may need to give him a playlist. On a personal level, I know that I cannot please everyone all the time, but I always try to please the majority all the time and my remit is to always strive to give the bride and groom and their guests the best night possible.
Before I finish this blog, here’s a couple of ‘WTF?’ requests that I have had at weddings:
‘Have you got a book’ What? I have 40,000 songs in my library, Karaoke this is not!!
‘What songs do you play?’ I am speechless and usually cannot be bothered to respond to this question. But I am always polite, so it’s usually, ‘what would you like’ to which the answer has been, ‘I don’t know. Anything, but this’ So, the guest would like a song played, but they don’t know what song! So, ‘why come up to me when they don’t know what they want?’, is what I am usually thinking.
Here’s my craziest request yet and bear in mind when I get this request, I have just got the party going at around 9.15pm ish and the dance floor is rammed:: ‘Peter over there has just had a heart attack, so can you play him a slow song?’ Not even please!! Another WTF? moment methinks!!