How Does a DJ Select Music?

How Does a DJ Select Music?

There are two things that guests will remember most about a wedding: the food and the dancing. You want your loved ones to dance the night away so you hire a DJ with a playlist full of the perfect songs. But how does a DJ select music that will keep the party going?

It’s a unique balance between decisions made ahead of time and reading the room.

How a DJ selects music for a wedding requires information from the newlyweds-to-be plus professional experience.

A DJ turntable with an empty dance floor in the background

Does a DJ Select music before the wedding?

A DJ will be in discussion with a betrothed couple several months before the big day to get a sense of what kind of music they would like. The wedding couple should let the DJ know what type of music or specific songs they desire during the cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing.

The DJ might ask the couple to provide a list of 10-20 songs they absolutely want to be played at their wedding, along with other songs they wouldn’t mind hearing. This helps the DJ select music based on taste, era, or genre.

Sometimes couples will ask their guests for song requests on their RSVP cards, and they can give that list of songs to their DJ as suggestions.

Of course, let your DJ know what songs you would like for a first dance, father-daughter dance, etc.

Conversely, the DJ will also want to know of any songs a couple absolutely does not want to hear. This is called the “No Play List”. If a bride says, “No Cotton-Eyed Joe” then no Cotton-Eyed Joe it shall be!

Let a DJ know if you would or wouldn’t like line dances, or if you leave it up to them to try it out on the crowd. Songs like “The Cupid Shuffle” and “Cha Cha Slide” are popular, but not for everyone.

In general, New Englanders tend to know what they do and don’t want to be played at their wedding, and they are not afraid to let the DJ know. Occasionally folks will even present an already-made playlist to their DJ, but this doesn’t allow for artistry or flexibility.

The Top 200

However, if you don’t know exactly what music you want on your wedding day, fear not! You spent money on a DJ for your wedding, so you can rely on their professional experience and knowledge.

Your wedding DJ will come prepared with a playlist of about 200 songs. This playlist is a culmination of the most popular wedding songs of the year. Mobile Beat Magazine, the primary DJ publication, will poll DJs from around the country to compile a “best of” list for the year. 

So not only will a DJ take into account what the wedding couple wants, but will also take into account what the general population enjoys.

A groom dances with a disco pose in front of a group of female wedding guests

How does a DJ pick music during a wedding?

You know that moment during a wedding reception when a song comes on and everyone drops what they are doing and runs yelling to the dance floor? How does a DJ pick music that will get guests to dance?

Being a DJ requires the ability to read a room. A good DJ will read the crowd by age and energy level. From there, they will pick music based on reactions from the guests.

Are there quite a few older folks at the gathering? A DJ might try more Frank Sinatra than if the crowd was predominantly college students.

Your wedding DJ will cycle through a few different genres to see what works for that particular group of people. If something isn’t working, a DJ will switch things up until they can see the crowd is enjoying themselves.

During an event, a DJ will be working to create the right ratio of energetic songs, slow dances, and in-between songs that let people rest or eat.

What about requests?

Some clients prefer their DJ not to take requests, while others don’t mind. Sometimes guests will request fun songs or ideas, while others may suggest something inappropriate. In that case, you can trust your DJ to use their discretion.

Make sure to communicate your preference for taking song requests with your DJ before the big day.

(There is always a chance someone’s request is already on the list!)

The main way that a DJ selects music for a wedding is through communication and observation. You can help your DJ by letting them know your personal preferences, but on the day of, you can enjoy yourself and leave the music to the professional.