Choosing the music to played at your reception

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As we all know, there are tens of thousands of songs to choose from that come from decades of music. Unfortunately, this means that your total number of selections for the night is a spec of sand on the beach in comparison. So how do you choose so few from so many without making it seem like an arduous task? Simple, focus on what you know and like and let your DJ worry about the rest! Keep it simple and don't lock your DJ into playing only your requests. Unless you have an incredibly expansive knowledge of music, this can have a less than ideal end result.

Your DJ is critical to the process! A stern DJ that is rigid is not a good choice, nor is a DJ that is too laid back and careless, I've seen plenty of both. A knowledgeable DJ that is "flexible" and understands your music priorities, while making sure all your guests have fun, is the key to your receptions overall success. This is why there is no replacement for experience, not just the companies experience but the individual DJs experience.

So here are my top 5 music planning tips for a successful reception:

1. Keep it simple
Follow the guidelines of your DJs music request program and focus on what songs you personally like, don't worry about the rest. You can fill in "up-to" whatever your DJs selection program allows for understanding that time may not allow them to all be played. Isolating your selections for dancing to about 20-30 would be an ideal number based on a 4-5 hour reception, of which about 2-3 hours or less will be dancing. This will make for roughly a 65-70% mix of your choices and a 30% mix of DJ and guest request choices.

2. Play the right songs at the right times
If you know some of your favorite songs are not danceable, then see if your DJ can maybe fit them into your cocktail or dinner hour (if appropriate) as background music. Keep in mind that you can add these type of selections over and above the recommended amount for dancing. Many of the DJ request list programs, like ours, will even allow you to attach a note to the requested song. So you might attach a note that says "Play For Dinner" or "Play For Cocktail Hour".

3. Select songs that will fill the dance floor
For dancing, choose as many widely familiar songs as possible. Receptions have a vast age range of guests. If you get too obscure with your choices, from any era, many of your guests will not recognize them. Generally, your guests will most likely dance to songs they are familiar with. Obviously, you should also choose some of your very current favorite dance songs too, even if they are not familiar to everyone, but try to make sure you have somewhat of a mix.

4. Don't lock your DJ into playing only your requests.
If you want him/her to play 80% or 50% or 20%, that's OK, but be sure to give the DJ a little room to move your crowd if and when he needs to. This also plays a significant role in helping to make your requests be even more successful on the dance floor. The more people start to dance, the more they become willing to dance to less familiar tracks. Just because a track is popular, does not mean that everyone at your reception is familiar with it.

5. Remember that you hired a professional DJ for a reason
If you only have a few requests, or none at all, this should never be a problem with any professional DJ service; if it is, look elsewhere. An experienced pro will have no issue with this whatsoever, and will in many cases end up creating exactly the atmosphere you are looking for anyway. Don't feel stressed about the music request list and most certainly don't choose random songs just so you fill the list, this can create negative results.

John Richard
Elite Pro DJ