The Playlist that ruined a reception.

Imagine you enter a fine restaurant. It is an establishment with an impeccable reputation for superior food and even better customer service. The chef has been trained by leaders in the industry and is sought after all of the country for his culinary skills. The waiter places the plate in front of you and you see the delicious creation he has made. He made that creation simply based off of what you ordered from the menu, filet, rare, with garnish. What lies before you is something you could not have created in a month of Sundays on your own. You take your first bite and quickly realize, this could possibly be the greatest food to ever grace you palate.

“Send it back!” The shocking words are heard from an adjoining table. Glancing at his plate, you notice he has ordered the same meal that sits before you. “Send it back! I ordered filet, rare, with garnish.” The customer seems angrier than before. He goes on to explain he does not want the little curly fry looking things. He does not want that green goo to the side of the steak and he certainly never ordered butter with his steak. He simply wants a filet, nothing more.

As a DJ, I experienced something similar a while back. Before I continue, I will say, no names I use are the real names. As I am setting up story parameters, please note, this will be a long entry; the story and lesson are too valuable to not be explained in detail.

On Friday, I went to the rehearsal to verify the set up for the ceremony and work with the venue on the timing for when I could set up. The reception was in the same room as the ceremony so I could not set my equipment until after the ceremony. Generally I do not like these situations, as I like to have at least an hour after I set up before the reception for testing and such. Regardless, this situation is not too uncommon, and we work with what we are given. While I was there, I went to the bride, Kay, to ask if it would be okay if I brought some free up-lighting, as we had just purchased it and I want some photographs of it at different venues for advertising purposes. She seemed excited about the idea and quickly agreed. She also confirmed I had the list of songs she emailed me, which I confirmed I did.

We now fast forward to the dinner after the wedding. So far, everything is as planned. No issues in set up, lights are up, music is playing. I might point out; Kay had chosen 5 songs for dinner, three by Harry Connick Jr., a Norah Jones selection, and one by Frank Sinatra. Obviously, I will play many more than 5 songs, but this is not a problem. Her selections were the perfect guide to help me choose songs that would compliment her selections and keep the “feel” she wanted for dinner. During dinner, I had a minor issue which caused me to use a piece of back up equipment. Something to keep in mind when interviewing potential vendors, do they have back up plans/equipment?

After dinner the “planner” (relative) came to me and said they were ready for the dance with the parents. As I announced this, I was horrified to learn “they are ready” meant Kay and the planner were ready. For the record, to say “they” are ready for a dance, generally infers all the participants were ready. I despise this, as the guests were subjected to an avoidable delay and uncomfortable moments as I tried to locate the father of the bride and groom live on the microphone.

After this, it was time for the dancing. Using the provided list, I chose a couple of great songs to kick it off, and everyone seemed to be having a great time with the 70s/80’s selections Kay had chosen. I had a request for “Brickhouse” by the Commodores. A song not on the list but fit very well with the other selections. I played it, and even more people joined in the dancing. Kay came to me and asked if this song was on her list. I said “No,” and explained it was requested and fit well with her selections. She seemed happy and went back to the dance floor.

About 30 minutes later, as I was playing “Love Shack” by the B-52’s, Kay returned to ask if this was on her list. It was not, but again, fit well with her selections and was obviously a crowd favorite. Kay then asked if I had the list. I showed it to her and said, “Yes, right here.” She said I needed to stick to the list. I was quite taken aback, and asked, “Are you saying you want me to play ONLY the songs on the list?” “Yes,” she replied. I explained how this was not a good idea, as her list contained a lot of great songs, and nearly everything I played was from the list, it would not suffice to keep the party going all night. I explained how, a list made weeks ago will not work for tonight. I will get requests, I will read the crowd. Tonight’s guest may not be in the mood for alternative 80’s all night. They may want more or less slow songs. Finally, and frankly, I have been doing this a very long time; I know how to keep both her, and her guests happy. Her list did not contain a single rap song; therefore, there was not a chance I would play a rap song, no matter what the guests wanted. However, based on her list, I knew the types of music she liked, from that; I could derive the perfect set of music for her day.

None of that mattered. The instruction was clear, only the list, nothing more. Now, keep in mind, had she given me this instruction 90 minutes earlier, dinner would have been silent, or repetitive, as she only chose 5 songs for a period of time that required at least a dozen.

Entertainment Solutions has a strict policy regarding music. We want the bride to have the best time possible. We also do not want her uncomfortable. Therefore, if the bride does not want a particular song, or type of music, whether it be “The Cupid Shuffle” or country music, we will abide. Not only will we abide by her requests, we will never tell a guest, “Kay does not want that song.” Doing so will only create the uncomfortable situation (for her) of telling a guest no to his/her request to permit me to play something she did not want.

For those following closely, you now see my serious dilemma. I am stuck playing songs ONLY from this list of songs, while at the same time, not telling the guests I cannot fulfill their requests because Kay only wants me to play these 40 songs.

I told the venue manager to prepare for a short night. I predicted the reception would be over by 9:00 pm (2 hours prior to the scheduled time). I knew this because I knew I only had about 5 more good songs left to play. I also knew, based on the responses to the songs already played, and the requests I had received, the guests wanted something other than what this list of songs could provide. Keep in mind; I am not talking something radical, such as playing rap music where she wanted none. Her list was mostly 70’s and 80’s pop, I could have played another 6 hours sticking to that format.

Around 8:45, the planner said it was time to go. By 9:15, I was packing up. Guests were very upset with me, they had an awful time. I wish I could apologize to the guests. I truly regret it.

I do not like to complain unless I can offer a solution. Therefore, please continue reading to learn how you can avoid this catastrophe of a reception.

A great thing Kay did was provide a playlist to me. I have an online planning system that permits you to pick and choose songs, genres, even decades of your favorite music. You can be as general or as specific as you like. The more songs you choose, the better your reception will be. Truthfully, the number of songs Kay chose was perfect. It let me know exactly the type of reception she wanted and the types of music she liked. I could even tell her favorite type of music and I could guess some of her favorite artists.

Keep in mind how many times you have been a DJ at a wedding. Compare that to the person you have hired. While I have no idea how many wedding’s Kay has been the DJ, I would guess fewer than 2. For me, it is more than 200. Experience does matter. Just like the chef at a fine dining establishment, the professional knows more about the subject than most everyone else. Trust in his expertise. Frankly, if you are not going to trust the professional, why pay for him? Kay would have been better off to rent a system from me and simply connect her iPod.

Kay is not completely at fault here. I would bet she has been to a wedding where a less than professional DJ was hired. I bet he played what HE wanted to hear, not what the bride wanted. She has probably read about such horror stories and had in her mind, “I will simply pick the songs he can play.” Every industry has their bad apples. I often think the DJ industry has more than its fair share. This is where due diligence must be employed when hiring the DJ. Entertainment Solutions has been in business for nearly two decades. We have impeccable references from some of the most well respected wedding planners and venues in the area. We have been asked to perform at venues such as The Biltmore. We are not one of these bad apples.

I could have been more clear with Kay during the planning process, however, I did not press near as much as I ought have. This was in part to her busy schedule, and her telling me they are very laid back and just want to have a good time. I have been told this many times, and the receptions have been some of the best ever. Had she ever told me she only wanted me to play the songs from her list, I would have quickly explained how that would not work. If she was insistent on the idea, I would have refunded some of her money and simply sent one of my lesser trained DJ’s to play songs on the list.

We had other issues that I will not go into great detail, but I would be remiss if I did not point them out. The cake cutting was lacking all organization. The bouquet toss was a disaster and people started lighting sparklers 10 minutes before the appointed time. All of that was due to the planner’s, the relative, lack of wedding experience. This is no knock on her. Given the situation, she did the absolute best she could. She followed Kay’s directions to the letter. However, I again point out, Kay gave one of the most important roles in her reception, coordinator, to one of the least experienced people in the room. When you hire Entertainment Solutions, we coordinate those events. We have seen them 100’s of times. We know the mistakes that are made. We know if you give a bunch of drunk people sparklers 20 minutes before the time they are needed someone is going to light one, when someone 20 feet away sees a sparkler being lit, they assume it is time and they light theirs. Before it can be stopped, half of the sparklers are lit! We also know before you do a bouquet toss outside, you check with the photographer for the best place for lighting.

One final note, a little self-serving I will admit. After every wedding reception I have people telling me how great the reception was. I have people telling me it was the best time they ever had at a wedding reception. They brag about how smooth everything went, how professional I was, and so on. While I certainly love these comments, I never really know if they are just being nice, maybe a little drunk, or a combination of both. After Kay’s reception, not a single person said anything to me. This proves, to me, all of the previous comments were in fact truthful and from the heart. The irony, it took an awful reception to prove to me how good my clients think I am!

  1. #1 by Kevin Colangelo on June 6, 2011 - 3:25 pm

    You did many things wrong;
    First, you NEVER allow a MUST PLAY song list via DJ Intelligence – ONLY allow a PLAY IF POSSIBLE list;
    Then in the planning BEFORE the reception you tell the bride that you will try to play as many on the request list as possible; YOU do NOT allow sheets of songs sent to you or handed to you outside the online system;
    You have this term written in your contract terms;
    Song lists submitted will be used as a guide and we will try to play as many as possible;

    Second, YOU made a FATAL mistake of listening to someone else – a bridesmaid telling you the father and mother were ready for the dances- you NEVER EVER listen or take someone else’s word for anything – YOU should have gone out off microphone to the Father and the Mother and told them it was coming up in a moment and if they needed the bathroom to go now and when they returned you would announce them onto the floor – you keep your eye on them to make sure when you announce them that they are in the space.
    YOU are in control NOT planners or caterers – it is YOUR job to make sure things are done properly and NEVER listen to planners or anyone trying to change things on the day of – ALWAYS speak to the Groom about a discrepancy and NEVER the bride;

  2. #2 by Jeremy Jones on June 6, 2011 - 11:07 pm

    With all due respect to Kevin, you were not there. The issue with the dances was much more in-depth than what I posted here. This post was about the play list. I only mentioned them in passing for the reasons posted. The situation here did not allow our normal procedures to be implemented regarding the dances. Details to this matter are not relevant to this discussion.

    Second, my contract does permit me to play the music I think will work best and it does state the provided lists are a guide and nothing more. We must make decisions at the time and choose our battles. There were a lot of personal things going on with the bride that will not be publicly shared which led to my decision to not exercise my right contained within my contract. Technically, I could have packed up and just left, but I chose not to do so.

    I love constructive criticism, how else can one learn, but you have a lot of nerve to claim I did “many things wrong” and I made a “fatal mistake.” You were not there. I will trust my 20+ years of experience, my impeccable track record of perfect receptions, my continued references from leading wedding professionals in my area over your blind comments based solely on a 2000 word description of one aspect of the wedding reception. That is one of the reasons your company is unable to afford me when I respond to your lead requests.

    I have heard many complaints about your company, I would never go to your blog and tell you what you did was wrong without knowing the complete story. I know you have done well for yourself and you have many satisfied clients. My ignorance of your events does not give me the right to claim you are doing things wrong when I hear about bad receptions, nor do you with mine.

    Thank you for advice concerning DJI, it is the system I use, and prefer. However, I have no problem with brides sending me their list in their own format. I work with them in their comfort zone. In our planning session, I do tell them if they send any music request outside of my website, follow up with an email and/or phone call to ensure I got the list. I do not want them to assume I received an email when there is a chance I did not.

  3. #3 by Kevin Colangelo on June 6, 2011 - 11:12 pm

    If the dances were not relevant o the post then why are they IN THE POST?
    and I was not there but there is NO EXCUSE for not organizing it yourself and entrusting soeone else to give you green lights;
    Would you blindfold yourself and ask a stranger on the sidewalk to help you cross the thruway – ?
    So if your contract says about the music then WHY OH WHY are you monaing about something you had control of?
    It seems double wammy time here – your moaning about things then coming up with excuses.

    If you want an opion then that is what its here for;
    If you dont disable responses, have a cream carcker and delete the whole thing – opinions count and sometimes we do not like them…take it and learn;

  4. #4 by Jeremy Jones on June 7, 2011 - 12:04 am

    The dances, as well as the other items were posted to re-enforce to brides to not entrust these items to your future sister-in-law or other inexperienced people. I said that in the post.

    I am not disabling comments, especially now, as I like for everyone to see the difference between someone like me and someone like you.

    You jump to conclusions. You make an assumption based on a small essay concerning an event that had more moving parts than could ever be made in a simple blog entry.

    I take the entire situation into consideration. While yes, I could have told her no, I’m playing what my contract permits, the damage from that would have been far worse than the damage from following her wishes. None of that matters for this blog entry. The point of this entry was to illustrate why creating a non-negotiable playlist will be bad for your reception. Nothing more.

  5. #5 by Paige on June 15, 2011 - 11:14 pm

    As a bride, if a DJ told me that I couldn’t have a “must play list”, I wouldn’t hire them. That’s why I hired Jeremy. Personal attention, attention to detail, and experience.

  6. #6 by Kevin Colangelo on June 16, 2011 - 12:10 am

    With all due respect – we are talking about a hypothectial here – the difference between one bride and another is sometimes great – allowing a HUGE MUST PLAY list is danger as IF the DJ did not play one or more, then a bride could simply file suit for not playing a list that said must play and deem it part of a contractual obligation;
    It is FAR easier to allow a play if possible list and ask the nride AND groom if there are any MUST plays and the reason for those must plays – each individual is different – if a bride and groom hand over 40 must plays – thats about 2 and half hours, and IF that list of songs was mainly obscure music or non danceable music, then I personally would not agree to play it or do the wedding because I am the one that looks a fool when nobody dances to songs and not the bride and groom – people are easy to judge a DJ on the music they play not knowing that in the background the couple has given him a 40 song must play list – would you or any couple want us the DJ to make that announcement before dancing – Ladies and Gentlemen all the music and every song has been hand picked by the bride and groom for this evenings dancing therefore we are not taking requests etc etc ?
    I have seen SO many times EMPTY dancefloors because the bride and groom demanded certain songs to be played(not at weddings I do) but at other weddings I have witnessed, and I then see the song list and I then see why;
    Remember a DJ is like a chef – he has all these ingrediants – songs – and no chef is going to be butchered into making a dish using the ingrediants someone who has no clue how to make the dish professionally as its HIS face that goes red not the couples;
    Its about WORKING together as a team;
    All situations are different and as we have seen here above it leads to disasters – trust the professional to guide, help and advise you – we want to please but just because you pay a DJ does not mean you can tell him what to do or what to pay minete by minete;

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