True story…My name is Craig, and I have been in the DJ side of the event business for three decades. Years ago, when I was first starting out, I was apprenticing with a “more experienced” Wedding DJ.
One day, during this apprentice period, we were out working a wedding with about 200 guests at an upscale Country Club when one of the guests approached us during dinner and asked us to play something by Marvin Gaye. The mentor DJ, who I was supposed to be learning from, turned to me and said “Play ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’, the Marvin Gaye version”.
I was familiar with the song, but as it played I gave a good listen to the lyrics and thought to myself… wow, this really is an awful song to play at a wedding!
Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:
“You could have told me yourself that you love someone else…
Instead I heard it through the grapevine”
When I got home that evening, I couldn’t get the whole incident out of my mind, so I sat and listened to song after song by Marvin Gaye, and what I found was mind boggling. There are countless amazingly romantic love songs. From “It Takes Two” to “Pride and Joy”, there was no shortage of great love songs by Mr. Gaye. So why then did the more experienced DJ suggest “Heard It Through The Grapevine”?
Twenty some years later, I have a few zero-tolerance answers to that very question at Cutting Edge Entertainment.
He was either lazy, or unqualified. “Heard It Through The Grapevine” is unquestionably one of the most popular Marvin Gaye songs, so perhaps he was just going with the first one that popped in his head, which is a lazy move in any decision making. Or perhaps he wasn’t familiar enough with the music of Marvin Gaye, in which case, he was unqualified.
Then again, one might argue that neither the bride and groom nor any of the guests noticed so, no harm, no foul right? Wrong again. Just because no one said anything doesn’t mean that no one noticed, and besides, I noticed. I felt like a contractor who left something unfinished that the customer would never notice. Of course it matters. When the DJ is given the opportunity to choose, he or she need choose wisely, with thought and experience.
When possible, opt for a love song.
Of course, there are unavoidable exceptions to this rule. Take “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. This is one of the most requested wedding songs, and it’s about a breakup where she is telling her man she never wants him to come back!! Not unlike the more current “We Are Never Ever (Ever) Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. At the end of the reception, it all comes down to the Wedding DJ making it fun, so naturally if these selections pack the folks on the dance floor so be it… right?
But that was the bride’s choice, not the DJs. When the Wedding DJ is given license to play what they will, they must treat that responsibility with great care. If a guest asks for an Elton John song to be played at a wedding, “Your Song” would be a much better selection than “The Bitch Is Back”. You get my drift.
When interviewing a Wedding DJ, be sure to get a feel for what they really know about music, and how much experience they have choosing the right songs for a wedding. A Wedding DJ knowing the correct song is like the contractor knowing the correct screw.
Guessing is for amateurs.
Here is a link to some bad song choices (Worst First Dance Songs), particularly for a first dance at a wedding, but overall it might give a good understanding as to how to listen to lyrics before choosing, or at least have your non-amateur DJ walk you through song selection.