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Peter's Pointers: How to Build a Great Wedding Request List

Peter's Pointers for Wedding Planning: How to Build a Great Wedding Request List

Wedding planning involves lots of stressful, time-consuming decisions. But your wedding request song list shouldn't take a ton of your time. Here are some pointers from my experience as a wedding DJ since 2010.

Pointer 1: You don't need to max-out the list

Recognizing certain songs have a significant meaning, I allow my couples up to 10 "must play" requests that will definitely play. Couples can also list as many "nice to have" requests as they like, and I usually play most (if not all) of them.

But just because you can list 10 "must plays" doesn't mean you have to. If you can only think of 3 or 4 songs that deserve "must play" status, don't stress over adding more songs just to fill the list, especially if you've got dozens of other wedding-related details on your plate.

One of the main reasons to hire a professional wedding DJ is that DJ's ability to "read the room" and pick songs to maintain an active dance floor.

Sure, lock-in your biggest favorites and provide a general idea of what you like, but you don't need to spend countless hours trying to come up with enough songs to fill your entire reception -- that's part of the DJ's job.

Pointer 2: "Will we dance to this song?"

Anytime you add a song to your request list, ask yourselves, "Will we dance when this song plays?"

Over the years, I've had some "must plays" that cleared the dance floor -- even the newlyweds! Then, guests shoot me dirty looks, because they don't know it's a must-play -- especially when the newlyweds aren't dancing.

But when you are dancing, it's like an "endorsement" of the song. Rather than walking away, guests will dance with you. As the "stars" of the evening, you have a major influence on your guests. Your presence (or absence) on the dance floor helps establish the tone.

"Will we dance when this song plays?" If the answer isn't an absolute "yes," you may want to reconsider whether that song truly deserves "must play" status. On the fence? Put it on the "nice to have" list and leave it up to the DJ.

Pointer 3: Is this song really "danceable?"

There are lots of songs that are great to crank-up for a road trip, during a workout or to sing along in the shower. But doesn't mean they're great "wedding dance floor" songs.

Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" is one example. Everyone knows the song as soon as they hear it starting. But play it during a wedding reception... and it won't go over so well. It's just not a "dance floor" kind of song.

Again, see pointer 2: before you add a song to your list, think -- will YOU be dancing when it plays?

Pointer 4: Moderation is key

Sometimes, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. That also applies to wedding reception music.

I've found that country and classic rock, in particular, are most likely to "burn out" quickly: people are usually OK with 2 or 3 songs. Beyond that, there's the occasional crowd that loves country or classic rock to keep dancing to it for another hour... but at most weddings, everyone's ready for a change after that 2nd or 3rd song.

This is where a shorter and/or more-varied request list gives your DJ more flexibility to "read the room" and adjust things per the crowd's response.

Pointer 5: Don't ask for guest requests on your RSVPs

OK, maybe it's too harsh to say not to do this at all. Heck, when I first heard this idea, I thought it was pretty clever. After all, if you know exactly what guests want before you even walk in the door, you can't go wrong... right?

On paper, it's a great idea. In reality, it can backfire:

  • You might not like every song your guests request.
  • Many married couples will request their own first dance song, so you'll wind up with way too many slow dances.
  • Some guests will request a song only because they were asked, but have zero intention to dance when their request plays. (See pointer #2, above.)
  • It's yet one more list/spreadsheet for you to manage amidst all your other wedding planning stuff. At RSVP time, you're also going to be plotting your seating chart, updating meal counts, tracking down those who didn't reply before the deadline (there's some at every wedding) and who knows how many other "getting close to the big day" things are more deserving of your time and attention. You'll save yourself a lot of time and stress by simply not asking guests for song requests on their RSVPs.

To be fair, there can be some positives to this endeavor:

  • You might get some good ideas you hadn't considered on your own.
  • You might get some bad ideas you hadn't considered for your "Do Not Play" list. 😂
  • Because guests were asked to request songs, they might think it's a "jukebox" type of thing (but it isn't) and they might get disappointed if they don't hear their song.

So, if you do choose to do this, consider these pointers:

  • Frame it as asking them to "suggest your favorite song, and our DJ might play it during the reception!" By saying it might play, you're also nicely indicating it might not play, either -- so you're not obligated to send your DJ the entire list. Just save the good ones and toss the not-so-good ones.
  • If you get a ton of slow song requests, ask the DJ to play one or two on the dance floor, and the rest can be played during dinner. This will avoid the potential for "slow dance fatigue" on the dance floor, while still appeasing all the guests who requested those songs -- they'll definitely hear them during dinner.

Hope this helps! If you have other suggestions or ideas, put them in the comments below! Heck, even if you disagree with anything I suggested, I'm always open to different viewpoints.

Peter's Pointers for Wedding Planning

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Liz and Brian's wedding reception in the Grand Ballroom at Syracuse Marriott Downtown. Photo by DJ Peter Naughton peterthedj.com July 2019.
Peter was very professional, responsive and extremely organized! We would highly recommend him if you are music lovers and picky like us!
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