After the wedding: A Study in Playsets

Whenever I work a wedding reception, I have to do something that doesn't seem like the easiest thing in the world.

I have to come up with a list of songs to play that people will dance to.

This isn't like working as a DJ at a club. I don't get to plan what I'm going to play ahead of time, because the crowd that will be in attendance isn't what you would find at a club. I'm not expecting a group of people between 21 and 35 who are all there to dance. The dancing isn't the sole purpose of the evening, and I don't have a target demographic.

Would you believe this dance floor isn't even full?
My demographic is everyone.

That's right. Young, old, teenage, geriatric, handicapped or not . . . if you're there, I want you to dance, and I do everything I can to make it as easy as possible for those that want to dance to be able to get on the floor and feel comfortable about it. I've got some tricks up my sleeve that can help people break the ice with each other very easily, and that can get the dance floor full within the first 4 minutes.

I'm not kidding.

So for the first time, I've decided to let people into the glamorous world of the wedding DJ and reveal the setlist of one particular evening earlier this summer. Once the dance floor opened, I decided to keep track of the songs I played, in order, throughout the entire night.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, maybe it will help give my future clients an idea of what works for some crowds. But I will warn you -- this was what was requested by ONE CLIENT. Not every client is the same, and each client's music tastes are as varied as they come. There were some songs the client gave me that were Must Play songs, but also some Do Not Play songs were on the list as well. So just because you're wondering why one of your favorite dance songs isn't on this list, that doesn't mean that I wouldn't play it for you if you were my client. I cater everything to what my client wants, and mix that with what's going to work for their crowd.

For this specific event, I had a crowd that REALLY wanted to dance, and I was asked to keep the slow songs to a minimum. So here it is, after the Spotlight Dances were over.

1. I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas.
2. Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.
3. Timber - Pitbull ft. Ke$ha.
4. Ain't Too Proud to Beg - The Temptations.
5. The Twist - Chubby Checker.
6. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry.
7. September - Earth, Wind, & Fire.
8. At Last - Etta James.

At this point, we paused to do the bouquet toss and garter toss. I would rather break the monotony of the dance floor being open in order to shake things up a bit and hold the tosses after about 30 minutes of dancing so that people have something to hang around for if they're not in the mood for dancing.

Okay, back to it.

9. Honey, I’m Good - Andy Grammer.
10. The Hustle - Van McCoy. Okay, a word about this one. This song was requested specifically by the bride's aunt, who insisted on dancing the Hustle, but when she got people on the dance floor with her, she realized she didn't remember The Hustle and began dancing the Electric Slide. Some Must Play songs end up like that.
11. Cupid Shuffle - Cupid. Line dance.
12. Tootsie Roll - 69 Boyz.
13. Shake It Off - Taylor Swift. I was limited to one Taylor Swift song, as the groom didn't care for T.S. Knowing this, several of the groomsmen insisted on playing this song, and the bride said it was all right.
14. Party in the U.S.A. - Miley Cyrus
15. Shut Up and Dance - Walk The Moon.
16. Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield.
17. Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner.
18. I Want You Back - The Jackson 5.
19. My Girl - The Temptations.
20. Forever Young - Alphaville. This is the one from Napoleon Dynamite. Yeah, that one.
21. Crank That - Soulja Boy Tell 'Em. And yes, that is the artist's actual name.
22. Bootylicious - Destiny's Child.
23. Watch Me (Whip, Nae Nae) - Silento.
24. Wannabe - Spice Girls.
25. Low - Flo Rida.
26. Thriller - Michael Jackson.
27. Family Tradition - Hank Williams, Jr.
28. Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks.
29. Wobble - V.I.C.
30. Shake Ya Tailfeather - Nelly ft. P. Diddy & Murphy Lee.
31. All I Do is Win - DJ Khaled.
32. I Want it That Way - Backstreet Boys.
33. Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton
34. Lean On Me - Club Noveaux. I started working as a DJ in 1995, and since then, I can count on one FINGER the number of times I've been asked to play this version of this song. That time was this evening.
35. Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen.
36. Shout - Otis Day & the Knights.

A few things to note about this playlist.

First of all, nearly 100% of the songs I played this night were requested by the bride & groom, the wedding party, or another guest at the reception. Seriously. Fewer than 5 songs on this playlist were selected by me.

Secondly, the dance floor never emptied out. Not one time.

Third, you'll note that there are fewer than 40 songs on this list.
On occasion, I'll get HUGE lists of requests from my clients, which is never a bad thing -- this gives me a lot of information to work with. But one thing I think a lot of people don't think about is the time constraint that DJs have. We can play about 10-14 songs in an hour, depending on how long each song is. So my recommendation to all who are planning their wedding is to select about 5-10 songs that are what you consider Must Play songs, and allow your DJ to supplement that with requests from your guests or with his own expert music knowledge. Even if your DJ has a list of songs so large that he can't play all of them throughout the course of the evening, he will at least have to put together a set for the dance floor that flows well with the tone of your event and the pulse of your crowd. So while a really large request list can help, don't expect every song on that list to be played.

I hope this sheds some light on the process of creating a great night for your guests.
Also, check out the IAmA I'm running on Reddit about planning for your wedding reception . . . you can find it here.

There Is No Box.