By Jim Weisz
I have a confession to make. For the first few years I was a DJ, my go-to for cocktail or dinner music was popping in a Kenny G CD and letting it just play through. I thought I had a taken my programming to the next level when I switched to Kenny G for cocktails and Michael Buble for dinner. How innovative! I cringe looking back on that.
For the last 5+ years, possibly my favorite time of the evening to program is cocktail and dinner music. I realized that that pre-dancing music can play a role in the overall success of the event. I’ve come to enjoy finding a playlist for those times that engages the audience, whether it’s toe tapping, head bobbing, silently singing along, or just enjoying the music, even if they don’t know the specific songs I’m playing.
Being in this business for the last 20 years, I’ve talked to plenty of DJs who have a set dinner or cocktail playlist that they play for every wedding. While that makes it easy, I personally love building a playlist based on that specific couple’s tastes.
When I book a couple, I set them up with a client account through DJ Intelligence to fill out planning forms. On the reception planning form, they give me an idea of what they want for dinner & cocktail music. Here are some examples of what I offer to them for styles:
– Older Lounge (example artists: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole)
– Newer Lounge (example artists: Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz)
– Soft Alt Rock (example artists: Lumineers, Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Twenty One Pilots)
– Coffeehouse (example artists: James Morrison, Eric Hutchison, Joe Purdy, Ray Lamontagne)
– Texas Country (example artists: Stoney Larue, Wade Bowen, Josh Abbott Band, Randy Rogers Band)
– Jazz (example artists: Miles Davis, Etta James, Louie Armstrong, Nat King Cole)
– Upbeat (various artists & genres ranging from the 60’s to today)
– Custom (please provide a list of some artists or songs you would like)
Those are just the sample categories I offer, you can of course create your own options. I have a crate with a bunch of songs for those styles and then I create the actual playlist at the wedding. That way, no two weddings are the same. While I’m the only person who is at every wedding I DJ, I think couples these days want their wedding to be unique and not cookie-cutter. I’ve had quite a few tell me they appreciate that I’m building the playlist for their wedding.
In addition, I’ve found they also really like that I offer a fully custom option. I know that because quite a few choose custom, where they give me a pretty good list of artists or songs to play. Sometimes, they even ask me to just combine a couple of genres. For instance, I had a wedding that wanted a combination of Classic Country & Broadway showtunes for cocktails & dinner. That may sound like a trainwreck, but I heard several guests commenting on the music, and not in a bad way. It was them saying they could tell this playlist was created for the bride & groom since he was a big fan of Classic Country and she loved Broadway.
With some creative programming, you can take what could be a boring portion of the evening (for both you & the guests) and turn it into something fun and entertaining. It’s your job as the DJ to make that happen!