Wedding Music Tips from A Professional DJ

Guest Post by DJ Kurtis Cross

You’ve done the tough part… venue, guest list, catering, florist, gown and decor.  But what about the party?!  Once you’ve hired the right professional DJ (See my article on how to choose the right DJ) , it’s time to think music.  While I may be biased as a professional DJ of 20+years, I believe MUSIC is the key to any great wedding celebration.  Think about it lame music = a wedding where no one dances & guests leave early.  On the other hand, great music from a great DJ = a celebration where the fun never stops.  If you’d like to experience the latter, consider this, your blueprint for the your wedding celebration’s soundtrack… complete with an energetic dance floor and the party of a lifetime.

So where do you find the right soundtrack?  I’d say the first rule is to keep in mind that this is YOUR day.  Your input is essential to the success of your reception.  While you’ve taken the time to find the right professional DJ, the work is not done just yet.  In fact, I would not leave it solely up to the DJ to create the reception you want.  So be sure to communicate your wants, ideas & vision with your DJ.  Do you picture a huge dance party where traditions and customs take a back seat?  Will it be tough to get your guests on the dance floor?  Providing this insight to your DJ is important so expectation are clear.  Your DJ should take the time to get to know you.

Here are additional ideas, suggestions & inspiration for creating your wedding soundtrack…

Wedding DJ + Song Tips -- The Overwhelmed Bride Wedding Blog

Where Do You Find Musical Inspiration?  - You know best, your musical likes/dislikes and what will likely get your guest dancing.  What’s on your iPod, Spotify or YouTube playlist?  Take a moment to jot down your faves so that your DJ will include these tracks into your music program.  If you are looking for a jump start, we’ll provide a goldmine of song suggestions in just a bit.

Let the DJ be a DJ - While your input is key, you’ll also want to remember that your DJ has the experience of weddings past, to draw on.  His/her experience will serve as an excellent source of suggestions and ideas for creating your wedding celebration.  Your DJ knows which song selections work well as well as those that can clear the dance floor.  Don’t be afraid to yield some control to the DJ.  

Requests via RSVP Card - One way to include your guests in on the fun is to invite a song request (notice “request is NOT plural) via your RSVP card.  You’ve invited your guests because you’d like to share this day and, of course, the FUN, with them.  Welcoming their request allows them to take part in building that fun.

# For Requests - Another great way to involve your guests is to create a unique hashtag for requests.  Share the hashtag on your wedding website and get the ideas going in advance of the big day.  

Aim To Include Everyone - You’ll likely have a core group of guests in your age range with guest ages ranging younger & older.  Don’t forget about the guests who may not want to sweat it out to today’s hit music.  Include some tunes from yesteryear for your older guests, along with something fun for your younger guests.

What Will People Dance To?  There are distinct differences between music people love to LISTEN to and music you’ll DANCE to.  Consider commuting some of your “must plays” that are not truly fun dance songs, to your cocktail or dinner hour.  You’ll still hear them, without risking an empty dance floor.  

Be Clear On Your “Must Plays” & “Do Not Plays” - A professional DJ will appreciate knowing your absolute favorite songs and those songs that you absolutely do not want to hear.  You may not want to make these lists super lengthy, but still present them to your DJ so that there are no surprises on your wedding day.

Do The Math - People generally begin to appreciate music in their teen years.  So, if you’re 32, go back 19 years and research music that was popular during that time.  It’s always fun to include a “Retro” set of music from your school days.

Don't Overdo It - Yes, you should submit requests to your DJ.  But, let's do more math here...

60 minutes in an hour

~ 3-4 minutes per song

~ 28 songs per hour

If you've set aside 2 hours for dancing, you'll get 30-36 songs for dancing.  No need to submit a request list of 100 songs, leaving the DJ with no wiggle room for requests or their own additions.  Be realistic about time and narrow your list to the absolute must plays, to allow requests and the DJ's intuition. 

Other Tips

•What song was popular when you first met?  Be sure to add that to your list.

•Parent Dances - It’s always a great idea to consider your parent’s input on the song that they’d like to share with you for the parent dances.

•Entrance Songs - When your bridal party is introduced, an energetic song (that everyone knows) is one way to set the tone for the remainder of your reception.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten some great ideas and a starting point for finding the perfect soundtrack to your wedding day.  Now, I promised a “cheat” sheet of song ideas so here goes… 

Find The Most Requested Songs From The 2017 Wedding Season (Including First Dance Songs, Parent Dances, Ceremony Songs, Bouquet/Garter Songs & Hitlists From The 60’s - 10”s) On My Website.

The type of wedding DJ you really want!

After interning for one of the most amazing wedding coordinators (Simply Sweet Weddings) for three years through college, I landed a fantastic position as the Catering Director for a wedding venue, where it was my job to tour potential couples, book them, and coordinate their wedding day. And we were a wedding factory...130+ events a year...I'm talking Wednesday wedding, Thursday wedding, Friday wedding, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. There were weeks when I was doing as many as 6 weddings plus other events.

Christopher Todd Studios

Christopher Todd Studios

So with that, I definitely saw a whole lot - I saw ups, downs, bad vendors, great vendors, and everything in between!

Every vendor plays a very important role in magically turning your wedding dreams into perfection, but many of us are very behind-the-scenes. Your guests don't see your photos until months later, as a coordinator I really try to be a fly on the wall, and no guest sees the amazing baker who crafted your cake...but your DJ is right there in front of everyone.

Everyone watches your DJ from start to finish and in my eyes, a DJ can truly make or break a wedding. They are "running the show" in the guests' eyes and they are the ones who are controlling the dancing, the events, and whether your guests have a good time or a great time.

And in my seven years of planning and hundreds of weddings later, I've seen my fair share of great DJs and terrible ones. Without naming names, I am going to tell you about two weddings I did years and years ago, and two specific DJs that I will never forget working with:

(In both of these scenarios, the DJ was also the MC)


DJ/MC #1:

The music was just as the couple had asked for and the guests were having a lovely evening and then it came time for the first shuttle to leave. I went up to the DJ, told him to announce that the first shuttle would be leaving in 5 minutes and he made the announcement after first asking me what he should say. I gave him a word by word announcement and he quietly spit-fired through it and got back to the music.

And no one heard it. I could barely hear it and I was standing right there.

While this simple scenario does not make him a bad DJ, an MC should be comfortable with speaking and know how to command the attention of the guests. He was running the show and there were plenty of guests who were antsy to leave and were eagerly awaiting his announcement, and yet they didn't hear it.

A great DJ commands your attention (in a good way), is comfortable with speaking in front of crowds, and gets the job done.

Now onto the second scenario...


DJ/MC #2

Now this DJ couldn't have been more different than DJ the definition of "opposite." This DJ never stopped talking...and everyone heard him. He talked all through dinner on the microphone (seriously, I don't think there was a peaceful moment the entire hour of dinner), told his own personal stories before every single announcement, and pretty much stole the show all night long.

Now it was great that he was able to command the attention of guests and he was comfortable speaking in front of everyone, but I was almost embarrassed for the couple who hired him...he made it HIS day rather than theirs. This DJ definitely loved the attention.


The Happy Medium

Personally, I like a DJ/MC who is somewhere in between. He can command your attention, can get the party started, knows what songs to play if the dance floor is looking a bit sparse, but knows that this is someone's wedding day and that they should have the wedding that they want, and they should be the center of attention...he/she just helps to direct that attention.

Kurtis Cross

Kurtis Cross

The Perfect DJ

Ultimately, every couple is unique and that is what makes weddings so beautiful. Some couples want a DJ who makes simple announcements and that's all. And some couples want to find a DJ who is really going to get their guests up and dancing - neither is right and neither is wrong.

"A professional DJ will know exactly how to be in tune with each couple and their guests. By planning with a couple in advance and then pairing that with the day-of energy, an experienced DJ can let the music lead your celebration!" (The Bride List preferred vendor, DJ Kurtis Cross)

It is totally a personal preference on how you envision your wedding day, but make sure your DJ's style does, in fact, fit what you are looking for.