Make Your Wedding Your Own Vol. 3: “Must Play” and “Do Not Play” Lists

In order to ensure that your Disc Jockey is on the same page music-wise as you and your fiancé, consider brainstorming with your DJ to create a “Must Play” list and a “Do Not Play” list for your wedding reception.  It’s always a great idea to enlist the expert help of your DJ, who should have quite a bit of experience managing these lists.  Your first scheduled planning consultation with your DJ is the best place to get the ball rolling, but here are a few tips for the beginnings of your brainstorming about which songs and artists might deserve a spot on your lists.  I guess this is kind of a “how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-list-and-your-DJ” article.

Priorities, priorities.  It’s extremely important to note that these lists are sort of like a VIP room — there’s limited space, and the more full it is, the less room there is for wiggle.  Keep in mind that the average reception is about 5 hours long and the average song is about 4 minutes long, so your DJ can play a maximum of about 75 songs during the course of your reception and about half of that will be cocktail, dinner, and special events music.

Flexibility (aka wiggle room) allows your DJ the best vantage to keep your crowd pleased (and dancing), even while still staying within reach of your most favorite sounds.  That way, your “Must Play” list can be reserved for songs that you absolutely will not feel like you’re married if you don’t hear that particular song, and your “Do Not Play” list can be reserved for specific songs/artists that will cause you or your guests to feel sad, angry, or offended.

For example — let’s say I don’t want to hear the song “Brown-Eyed Girl” because I have green eyes (true story) and it offends me (extreme exaggeration).  If I hear the song “Brown-Eyed Girl” on my wedding day, I will be crushed because I will feel so unattractive with my second-rate green eyes (again — |hypothetical situation — green eyes, and eyes of any color, for that matter, are great).

On the other hand, let’s say that I don’t want to hear “Cotton Eyed Joe” because I generally just don’t like line dances or country music.  If the DJ plays “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” I will probably use those 3 minutes to score another glass of champagne.  In this case, “Brown-Eyed Girl” has earned a place on my “Do Not Play” list, but “Cotton Eyed Joe” has not.

Why?  Because I know that if the “Do Not Play” list gets too long, it will be difficult for my DJ to manage it practically as the night progresses.  For efficiency’s sake — generalize anything you can into a group.   When at all possible, I recommend that you strike an entire artist or an entire genre or sub-genre rather than a list of 20 songs with very, very strong similarities.  This simple practice will turn a list of half a dozen or more specific songs that follow a pattern (“the Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, the Cha Cha Slide, the Cleveland Shuffle, the Cupid Shuffle, the Hokey Pokey, Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Hustle, YMCA,” etc.) into a single entry (“no line dances”).  Now, instead of sorting through a long list trying to make sure a track is not listed, your DJ will be better able to more effectively manage the evening knowing that you just don’t like line dances.

When choosing your “Must Play” songs, consider the same VIP concept, as well as dancability, variety, and crowd-appropriateness — if your wedding will be having a Michael Jackson theme and you have 25 particular Michael Jackson songs that you can’t make it through the evening without, then by all means, let us know what they are so we’ll be sure to have them available.  However, if Michael Jackson happens to be just one of the many artists you enjoy, or if you’re flexible about which song in particular is played, then he might not be listed on your “Must Play” list at all.  That doesn’t mean we won’t play any Michael Jackson, necessarily, it just opens up more latitude for your DJ to apply his or her knowledge and experience to choosing from within the realm of your music preference which tracks and artists might best suit your dance floor.

But, wait, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m on it: what if there’s an exception?  What if you have just one “Must Play” line dance?  Not a problem — obviously, specific entries on these lists kind of trump the generalizations.  For example — let’s say that you love Michael Jackson, but you would prefer not to hear the song “Thriller,” or that you hate line dances except for the “Cleveland Shuffle.”  That’s not a problem — it’s all a matter of noting these things in the most efficient way possible to ensure that your DJ’s focus is only minimally occupied by reading during your event.

Does this mean that if you bring me a list of 75 specific songs that you want played at your 5 hour reception that I will refuse you?  Absolutely not.  We have had very organized brides give us a spreadsheet of songs with the exact time and order in which they should be played, and if that’s what you’d like, we will absolutely do that for you.  Likewise, we have had couples who prefer for us to use our discretion alone to determine the musical selections for the evening, and we are happy to accommodate you through that approach, as well.

Only you know what’s best for your wedding, and it’s our job to assist you in executing your vision.  If your vision involves a lot of people dancing into the late evening (or even the wee hours of the morning), then your DJ may offer suggestions to help you achieve a blend of music with a wide-reaching appeal, however, the final decision always lies with you and your fiancé.

These choices are tough!  If you’re having trouble sorting out your “Must Play” and “Do Not Play” lists, please feel free to contact your DJ at any time during your planning process; this is exactly the reason why you get  the personal contact information for your wedding reception’s actual DJ/MC.  We’re here to help when you need us, and we’re happy to do it for you!

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