The Dos and Don’ts of Song Requests at Weddings

A couple of weekends ago, a guest approached me at my DJ booth to inquire if I take song requests. I found this an odd question because it’s always been my assumption that wedding DJs do – and should! – take requests. Unlike the bar and club scene where the establishment and/or myself dictate the music programming, I’ve always encouraged song requests to be made during the wedding’s cocktail and dinner hours. It’s a great way for me to gain insight and understand what this particular group – on this particular night, at this particular reception – wants to hear and dance to.

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Well, it turns out this guest was a serial song requester and bombarded me during the Open Dancing period of the evening with song request after song request. Fortunately, I have a good sense of humor about scenarios like this and took it in great stride. However, it did inspire me to write up this fun little “how-to” guide. So without further ado, here is what to do and what not to do when making a song request at a wedding reception.

DON’T ask to see what songs I have.
This might come as a startling revelation, but I don’t carry 30,000 songs on my computer. At last check, I have 5,467 songs in my DJ software, and for the most part, they are all songs that could possibly get played at a wedding reception. Break-up songs like “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette are of no use to me, nor is track number 13 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 usually obtain it quickly at the event. But song requests work so much better when you approach me with a specific song in mind, as that 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 guest requests into my mix. Alternatively, some song requests are better suited for play during dinner and that allows me a chance to work them in a more appropriate fashion.

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, does not mean I’m not going to play it.

I’m taking you, and everyone else, on a musical journey. Trust me, if the song request is a good one, I’ll mix it in eventually. I promise.

DO know the name of the song you are requesting. And preferably, the artist as well.
When I perform at a wedding, there are times when I’m making some pretty quick transitions, as 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’ll gladly play “Name That Tune” with you during the cocktail and dinner hours, time is of the essence when I’m in the mix and the dance floor will always take precedence.

DON’T be vague when making a request.
“Play something from the 80s” kind of narrows it down, but it doesn’t tell me if you mean 80s Rock, 80s Dance Pop, 80s Hip-Hop, or 80s New Wave. At least give me the genre and an artist or band to work with.

DO make unusual requests.
Oftentimes, I can predict most of the requests I will get. In 2014, it was “Turn Down For What”, 2015 it was “Uptown Funk”, 2016 it was “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”, 2017 it was “Despacito (Remix)”, 2018 it was “In My Feelings”… I think you get the point. However, I do like to mix in a song out of leftfield into my mix, if I feel confident I can make it work. The reward is always well worth the risk.

At a recent wedding, I played “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys by request. It wasn’t on my radar at the moment, but it CRUSHED the dance floor and inspired me to mix a 90s set of boy bands, Will Smith records, and golden era hip-hop jams. That out-of-nowhere request was very beneficial to me and I appreciate it.

Look, 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. While some weddings require that mix, others do not. Forunately, most of my wedding performances fall under the latter. So bring on the unusual requests – I welcome them.

Unless that beverage is for me, please DON’T bring your beverage near the booth.
There’s a ton of fancy, and very expensive, equipment in my booth. One accidental spill could put an end to the night, 100 to 0, real quick.

And if you are wondering, I’ll take a water or Diet Coke on the rocks. Thank you kindly, as small gifts always bump your request up in priority.

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 on one of my turntables – and you accidentally scratch the record that is currently being played live – you just committed a serious party foul. Even worse, since vinyl records and turntables require a touch of finesse, 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 will typically give you a non-verbal acknowledgment of your presence – but I just might have two songs being mixed at the same time and as soon as I finish the transition, 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. I can’t really hear you that well when you approach from the front of my booth. While my lip-reading is getting better, do help me out and come to the side of the booth.

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 has been temporarily altered and you don’t need an adjustment in your vocal modulation.

My sensitive ears thank you in advance. 😉

DO dance to your song request. And thank the DJ for playing your request.
If you want a DJ to even consider playing any of your additional requests, you better dance to the ones you already requested when they play. A good compliment on how I’m doing – and how you are enjoying the evening – is also appreciated, as well!

DJs are humans, too. We like to be buttered up with Jackson’s, Grant’s, and Franklin’s, and have sweet nothings whispered in our ear, too. 😉

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Originally Published: August 1, 2017
Last Updated: November 30, 2021

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