Hey, Mr. DJ


The “must play” and “do not play” lists are due to the DJ tomorrow. I’m slightly panicked about them.

I care a lot about the music at our wedding, but I don’t really know how to articulate what I want other than “people dancing and me not being embarrassed.” There is no blank for that on the worksheet I am supposed to turn in to our DJ.

This puts so much weight on the Must and Mustn’t lists. But do the poles of my musical taste1 meaningfully articulate the creamy center that represents an ideal reception playlist? If I write in “For every Katy Perry song you play you lose 10% of your tip” will he avoid other female pop singers, thereby skipping over 80% of my favorite music? Am I effectively counterbalancing that by putting Ke$ha on the must play list?

I listen to this song more often than I brush my teeth.

Another issue is that the Do Not Play list makes me feel mean. I want to put “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey on there, because it is neither 1981 nor 2009, and moreover, I hate that song. But do people ever love them some “Don’t Stop Believing.” Who am I to deny them?? And there are certain genres I kind of want to X out entirely, like country or disco or anything that involves line dancing that is not the “Cupid Shuffle”, but I am haunted by an anecdote from a friend wherein she requested “Push It” by Salt N Pepa at a wedding and was told by the DJ, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to play anything ‘urban.’” A) Racist B) Lame C) I don’t want to be that asshole.

But the “Must Play” list also makes me feel uncomfortably controlling. Because really, MUST I hear “I’m In Love With a Girl” by Big Star? No. I mustn’t. I just want to. There really isn’t anything I MUST hear at my wedding other than the songs we picked for the ceremony and our first dance. Maybe I should just scratch it out and write in “Suggested songs” or even simply “Songs I like.”

Someone who is not me should use this song for their first dance.

But that brings me back around to the trouble of my tastes not being universal. Guys, this is why I can’t have an iPod wedding, or even really DJ my own “beer was on sale, come over” party. There are songs that I think are fucking amazing and should bring down the house that the actual inhabitants of the house don’t know or don’t like and can’t get into. My friend Abby describes this as “Brazilian music” even though I often point out to her there are really only a couple of Brazilian artists in my collection. But yeah, Os Mutantes are exactly the kind of music I expect everyone to want to boogie to as much as I do (ugh, I swear I’m not a music snob.)

I probably should have done that thing where I ask for song requests on the RSVP cards, but I can’t turn back time. And no one is really visiting our wedding website, so I can’t use that either. But hey, you can all take this opportunity to suggest songs you love hearing at weddings and hate hearing at weddings. Some of you will even be at my wedding! So let’s just pretend I did this right the first time around.

1What about Collin’s musical tastes, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you: if there is anyone in the world worse at articulating their taste in music than me, it is Collin. All I really know about his taste in music is that he likes hip hop songs about being happy with your life. Pandora gets Collin’s taste in music, but I do not. Maybe we should just give the DJ our Pandora logins.


  1. aah! this is fun. far in advance of the wedding I had pretty strong feelings about some songs on the do-not-play side, like the chicken dance. under no circumstances did I want that played at our wedding. then one day one of my friends talked about how much fun she has dancing to that song at weddings, and I started to feel bad about keeping people from having as much fun as they could possibly have. I mean I could just step outside during that song if it came on, right? In the end I think I left it off the list entirely and just hoped nobody would request it. and nobody did.

    For me, it’s not a wedding if there’s no “Shout” (the version from Animal House is best, according to meee), can’t remember the artist at the moment… Right now that’s literally the only song I can think of that’s on my required list for weddings.

    So the general guidelines we gave our DJ were: “really good old stuff” (Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Armstrong, etc(haha WHAT is the name of this genre?)) during dinner, and then for the dancing time start with motown, work up through the decades with the kind of pop dancy type stuff, and then go wild with the modern stuff as the night progresses (also, more slow songs early evening, fewer as the night progresses). This worked out really really well. I think you should definitely be able to just give suggestions and guidelines and then just tell them to go with their DJ instincts (IF you generally trust that they know how to read a crowd).

    sorry this was really long!

    • You do not need to apologize for it being long.

      I went to a wedding that had the journey through the decades thing going on and I loved it.

      I think Jazz is the best genre to describe Fitzgerald, Sinatra, and Armstrong.

      Agreed on all counts about Shout.

      I didn’t put the chicken dance on my do not play list because I felt it went without saying. I guess I should revise that.

  2. haha… this is a predicament! You don’t want to seem tacky or bitchy. Just don’t limit too much. The last wedding I was at, the DJ wasn’t allowed to play ANYTHING. We heard Jimmy Buffet the whole time (nothing wrong with him, but a WHOLE wedding?). And don’t forget, if your wedding has an open bar, everyone will be dancing :)

    • Emily, I have been to weddings where people did not dance despite the bar being open and busy! They drank and sat around and talked. Which… is fun and everything, I do it all the time, actually! But in my book, weddings are the best opportunity I get to dance, so I kind of hate being alone on the floor.

      [Speaking of drinking and sitting around and talking, we should get heavenly margs sometime next week.]

      • I found that is WE were dancing, people eventually joined us. Yes, I had an amazing DJ. But after cake, there was a complete dancing lag. Do I just went wild with a few girlfriends (I mean wild-fun-boogieing) and people got excited and joined us again.

        Also, start chill for cocktail hour, so some “jazz” dancing classics, and lead into the crazy fun. Don’t underestimate the power of diva anthems (Kelly Clarkson, Beyonce, etc) and make sure to have a Journey song/other 80s drunken sing along stuff for late night messiness.

      • Yes! I can go on Tuesday.. or Friday! Tuesday is probably better. If you need to get wedding stuff done, I can always just bring a bottle of Skinny Girl (http://www.skinnygirlcocktails.com/home.php) over and help! And you’re right, sometimes people just sit around and drink… boo. I love dancing!

        Also, this is a comment for your thank you notes… And you probably know this already but thank you notes have a formula. They all have the same format and then you just tweak them to each individual. Turn on some music and zone out… Good luck writing them!

  3. What a dilemma! How long did you have to prepare your lists, out of interest? We’ve just booked our DJ and are at the beginning of the music-list-making. I’m wondering how much attention we need to give it over the coming months!!

    • So this is one month before our wedding, which is where I think the deadline comes from. We got the worksheets after we booked the DJ, oh, so long ago I don’t even remember. I started to really think about it about a month ago. I started to OBSESS about it during my 10 hour drive to St. Louis two weeks ago. I’d say, think about it early, and often.

  4. having been to weddings where the dj played tainted love, I say be specific.

    I have a spreadsheet I did for our DJ, who specifically asked for a list, loved it and laughed at our do not play list (which included reasons–because though I may love Alison, by Elvis Costello, the lyrics are not appropriate as it’s bitter breakup song. and Love the One You’re With, is one of my favorites, but not at a wedding. )

    but then I didn’t care if the DJ thought I was a controlling bitch (she didn’t–at least she told me she didn’t think that). There were a few songs that I absolutely had to hear, and many I absolutely didn’t want to hear, and she did right by all of em.

    and thanked me later for giving her the heads up that my mom would end up requesting the chicken dance, and that we trumped my mom. To be fair, I told my mom the same thing.

  5. You’re not the only one who likes that Os Mutantes song, I’ve thought of it as awesome since I first heard it.

  6. I think the do-not-play list is one of the best wedding planning tools ever. Like a lot of things, it’s easier to say what you don’t want for wedding music than what you do. If there are songs that always make you roll your eyes or vacate the dance floor, by all means put them on there. For me it was stuff like ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Like a Prayer’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ (people down here yell “ROLL TIDE ROLL” in the rest after the first line of the chorus — BLECH. I HATE that.). I generally enjoy a good disco tune, love me some Madonna and know there is a time and a place for Skynyrd, but they’re not what I’d pick for my wedding trip to boogietown, so they got axed. (Same with Lady Gaga — I am just not up with the kids these days ;) ) The good news is, there are so many kickass awesome party tunes out there that people probably won’t even notice Katy Perry is missing. No one will be robbed of a fun evening if Journey isn’t there, and the DJ won’t think you’re a control freak unless you make the whole couple-hours-long playlist yourself.

    I found it helpful to think about what my friends and I like to dance to, and I checked with Jon’s and my immediate families as I was making my lists. Even at that, though, our preferences overrode our friends’ suggestions (see: Lady Gaga). Our DJ had a cool online system where you could make your lists for play, play if you can and do not play. I flagged a lot of songs with that middle tag because I didn’t want to take away his DJ freedom but thought the suggestions were nice. Maybe you can make a list like that to go with your must-play list? Also, if there are just whole categories you don’t want that’s an easy way to steer the DJ and saves you time.

    At our wedding, the DJ had not yet played one of my favorite party tunes (Hey Ya by ATL’s own Outkast) when he announced the next song was our final dance. I knew my wedding could not end without that song being played, so I ran over to beg the DJ to play it and he obliged. If there are songs that would make you run to the DJ table at the end of the night, put those on your must-play list! Otherwise give them guidelines and a big ol’blacklist of things to avoid :)

  7. I’m pretty sure that I have what most people would consider horrible taste in music, so I’m no help here, but I just had to speak up on behalf of the poor, maligned chicken dance. It’s always one of my favorites at weddings because in my family, EVERYONE dances to it (c’mon, Grandma doing the chicken dance is almost as awesome as Grandma doing the YMCA). For the record, I grew up in southeastern WI, and the Beer Barrel Polka is required at wedding dances too. But anyway, we had it on our “must play” list, and I finally went up to the DJ about an hour before the dance ended to ask why he hadn’t played it yet. He told me he decided not to play it because “it’s a kids song, and there weren’t many kids dancing so I just skipped it.” In retrospect, I should have said “Eff you, buddy, play the song,” but instead I just let it go. I actually kinda want to put my big white dress on and do the chicken dance alone in my living room now, but alas, my dress is at my parents’ house, so I guess I’ll just have to wait for someone else’s wedding to get my wing flapping on. :)

  8. Hello Robin… just to say , the Os Mutantes song reminded me of how I feel about these Manu Chao songs:



    They just make me happy and want to dance, but not everybody gets it…
    Anyway I think if there are specific songs that you really really like and want to dance to, by all means, let the DJ know.

  9. Our DJ played some things we didn’t want, and a couple things I thought were a little inappropriate, but he also played Sex Laws for us which we really wanted and was inappropriate so there you go. We may have confused him. And by god, did people dance! Which was really way more important to us.

    We did an upbeat song as the last song (Come On Eileen) and then a private slow dance as everyone got ready to toss things for our exit. It ended the day on a really high note, so I recommend it if that sounds appealing. Every single person danced to that last song.

  10. Ehhh. We are doing the same thing over here. Spreadsheets a go-go. I also feel that making a do not play list is potentially controlling and mean, but if I hear Eagle Rock at my wedding I think I might cry. So.

    Also, snap at the music taste that none of my friends share. J and I love music, see a lot of live music, and own a lot of music and it seems that our taste doesnt extend to our friends. Most haven’t heard of and wouldn’t dance to music that we consider essential playlist stuff. Sigh.

  11. I got married yesterday. We totally had a do not play list that sounds exactly like yours. The DJ snuck a few of those in and I honestly didn’t care! Seeing my drunk friends belting out “Sweet Caroline” while holding hands and giggling was too sweet of a memory for me to pass up. So I guess the do not play list because my “Fuck it” moment.

    He did not play any country music of any kind. If he had, I might have felt differently.

  12. Please put Big Star on your must play list. It’s a beautiful slow dance opportunity, or something for the cocktail hour.

    Come to think of it, the cocktail hour/dinner music might be a great time to get in all of your “must plays,” if you’re worried about them not being universal. You still get great music, but without any of the scary no dancing implications.

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