A couple of weekends ago, I had a guest approach me and ask if I take song requests. I found this an odd question, because its always been my assumption that wedding DJs do – and should! – take requests. Unlike the bar and club scene where either the venue and/or myself dictates the music programming, I’ve always encouraged them during the cocktail and dinner hours as a way for me to understand what this particular group – on this particular night – wants to hear.
Well, it turns out this guest was a serial song requester and bombarded me during the Open Dancing period of the evening with song requests. Fortunately, I’m able to have a sense of humor about it and take it in good stride, but it did inspire me to come up with a “how-to” guide on making song requests at a wedding.
So without further ado, what to do and what not to do when making a song request at a wedding. DON’T ask to see what songs I have.
This might come as a startling revelation, but I don’t carry 10,000 plus songs in my library. At last check, I have four thousand songs, and for the most part, they are all possible songs that will get played at a wedding. Break-up songs like “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette are of no use to me, nor is track number 4 on Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. While I keep a pretty tight library, there probably are some holes. If I don’t have the song, I can get it, but song requests work so much better when you have a specific song in mind as it tells me the requester really wants to dance to this song!
DO make requests earlier in the evening.
At the weddings I perform at, I encourage guests to make requests during the cocktail and dinner periods for two reasons: one, it allows me to understand what genres guests want to dance to on that particular evening and two, it gives me time to figure out how I want to incorporate the requested songs into my mix. Alternatively, some song requests are better suited during dinner and that gives me a chance to work it in where appropriate.
DON’T expect the DJ to play your song request immediately.
A great DJ is an artistic performer who plays music the dance floor wants to hear while mixing songs in a creative manner. We are not jukeboxes. I’d love to play “Wobble” for you, but unfortunately, it doesn’t mix well when I’m playing uptempo songs like “Uptown Funk” or “Old Time Rock & Roll”. Just because I won’t play it next, or even within the next few minutes, doesn’t mean I’m not going to play it.
If the song request is a good one, I’ll get there eventually on this musical journey I’m taking you on. I promise.
DO know the name of the song you are requesting. And preferably, the artist as well.
When I perform at a wedding, I’m making some pretty quick transitions sometimes – it’s rare for me to play a song in its entirety. While one song is playing, I need to figure out the next song I want to mix in, how I want to mix it in, plus line up its tempo and speed to the current song playing (this is called “beatmatching”). While I love to play “Name That Tune” during the cocktail and dinner hour, time is of the essence and the dance floor mix takes precedence.
DON’T be vague when making a request.
“Play something from the 80s” narrows it down, but it doesn’t tell me if you mean Rock, Dance Pop, Hip-Hop, or New Wave. At least give me that and/or an artist or band to work with.
DO make unusual requests.
Often times, I can predict most of the requests I will get. Last year, every request card included “Turn Down For What”, this year it’s “Uptown Funk”. However, I do like to throw a song out of left field into my mix, if I feel confident I can make it work. The reward is well worth the risk.
This past weekend, by request I played “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. It crushed the dance floor and inspired an 90s set of boy bands, Will Smith records, and 90s hip-hop. One unusual request was very beneficial to me and allowed me to take the musical journey on a detour.
Plus, I don’t like to be the DJ that is going to play “We Are Family” and “Celebration” – mixed together – for the billionth time in a row. Some weddings require that mix, others do not. Most of my wedding performance fall under the latter.
Unless that beverage is for me, please DON’T bring your beverage near the booth.
There’s a ton of fancy, and expensive, equipment up there. One accidental spill could put an end to the night, real quick.
And if you are wondering, I’ll take a water or Diet Coke on the rocks. Thank you!
Also, DON’T touch the equipment.
If you want to learn how everything works, I’d love to tell you! But if you playfully do that DJ scratch motion to one of my turntables – and you accidentally scratched the record that is currently being played on the sound system – you just committed a serious party foul. Even worse, since DJing requires a sensitive touch, you could break one of my needles and that’s no fun.
When making a song request at a wedding, please DO await for me to acknowledge you.
My peripheral vision is really good and I’m aware you are there – I typically give a non-verbal acknowledgment of your presence – I just may have two songs being mixed at the same time and as soon as I finish the transition to the new song, I will say hello to you. The first priority is the dance floor mix, always.
Also, the best way to make a song request is from the side, not from the front of the booth. Because I place the speakers in line with my booth, I can hear you much better from behind the speakers, a la from the side, then I can when you approach in front of my booth. My lip reading is getting much better, though!
Please DON’T yell your song request.
I only added this one because I find it hysterical when people think I can’t hear them. Again, I’ve set my booth up in a way that behind it, I can have a normal conversation with vendors and guests. In front – yep, it’s loud. Between the speakers and open bar, just be aware that your sense of hearing as been temporarily altered and you don’t need an adjustment in your vocal modulation.
Plus, my ears thank you in advance.
DO dance to your request. And thank the DJ for playing the request.
It’s a great way to have more of your song requests played as the evening progresses. A good compliment on how I’m doing – and how you are enjoying the evening – is also appreciated, as well!
This post originally published on June 1, 2015 at www.TonySchwartzBlog.com