On Saturday night I had the pleasure of playing the role of DJ at the wedding reception of some good friends of mine. To be honest, the technical side is pretty simple with an iPad and a clever DJ app (I used iDJ, which cost me the princely sum of £1.49). But what you actually play is less straightforward. So, should you find yourself called upon to do something similar, here are my top tips…
You can’t please everyone, so please yourself.
This is the key principle to bear in mind. Whatever you play, someone will love it, someone else will hate it. So the person who’s enjoying it may as well be you. Try to include something for everyone – for example, I generously included Killers AND Arctic Monkeys. But as you’ll be the only one on the dance floor all night, you might as well make sure you’re having a good time. Then try to make sure the Bride and Groom are enjoying themselves. Everything else is a bonus.
At a normal disco, people take time to warm up to the idea of dancing. At a wedding, everyone dives in after the Bride and Groom have their first dance. So a strong start is imperative. Here’s how I started:
1. “Wouldn’t it be nice” – Beach Boys (the first dance, so I didn’t really have a choice, but it went down well)
2. “I wanna dance with somebody” – Whitney Houston
3. “Blame it on the boogie” – The Jackson 5
4. “Brown-eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
This is an ideal starting line-up. It treads the delicate line between cheese and cool that will stop people from sitting down because they think it’s going to be too cool/cheesy
Don’t worry, you won’t need to give this line a second thought once people trust your musical genius. The next two songs will seal the deal. So I went with:
5. “The Shoop Shoop Song” – Cher
6. “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes.
Enough said. Follow this up with something like “I don’t feel like dancing” and you won’t go far wrong.
People don’t really know what they want to dance to.
People will make all kinds of requests of you throughout the night, giving the impression that they know what you should be playing. (The downside to living in the iTunes generation is that everyone thinks they’re a DJ). But the secret of a memorable disco is to play the tunes people aren’t expecting. Essentially there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like dancing to ABBA. Actually, there’s only one kind of person in the world. But some people feel the need to lie about it most of the time, such that the wedding reception is the only place they can comfortably express how they really feel. They’ll keep requesting things like Daft Punk and Killers to demonstrate they’re into ‘decent’ music, but they really want you to play some ABBA (or S Club).
Similarly, think of the kids. I said no to Gangnam Style three or four times, mainly because I didn’t own it. You have a responsibility to educate these young minds (and the older ones too). Where else will they learn all the moves to YMCA, or the genius of Black Lace?
Remember, people might think they know what they want, but you know what they need.
Which leads me on to my next tip…
Don’t give in.
As the night goes on, people’s feedback will become increasingly robust. Only your strength of conviction will see you through. “Last Dance” by Donna Summer is objectively the greatest possible closing number for a wedding disco (assuming you’ve already been told by the Bride or Groom that the national anthem isn’t appropriate). But it takes about 55 seconds to kick in. Hold. Your. Nerve.
Similarly, when a slightly worse-for-wear party guest hands you an iPhone which is slowly loading a Youtube video of the Tom Jones song you don’t have, this will almost certainly be a disaster. Don’t do it.
Timing is Everything
For example, the Black Eyed Peas hit “I gotta feeling” has very different connotations when played at the start of a wedding reception than if you play it at the end. Enough said.
With great power comes great responsibility
There are few sights more rewarding than a dancefloor full of sweaty party guests of all ages and backgrounds united in a common purpose, namely, the Macarena. But use it wisely.
Anyone got any other helpful tips?