Wedding Standards and Standard Weddings by Mark Johnson

November 26, 2007 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Somehow, the same songs keep bringing joy to reception dancefloors

I recently performed for a wedding that would certainly qualify as one of the least stressful weddings ever. It went off without incident or complaint and it was certainly a pleasant surprise to miss out on the myriad of possible problems that could have arisen.
The groom was pretty laid back, booking my services within two months of the actual wedding. Usually such short-notice weddings involve the bride being pregnant but that wasn’t the case. They had just forgotten to book a DJ when they were taking care all of the other reception items.
The bride was Chinese and her parents and other family members were flying in from China for her PhD in Electrical Engineering graduation ceremony in May and staying until the wedding. The groom was also a PhD in EE as well. Perhaps this inspired their nonchalant attitude.

Reception Mystery
They had returned my DJ agreement and deposit in a timely manner but during the weeks preceding the date, they were very elusive, leaving me with many unanswered phone calls and un-replied-to emails. I left plenty of messages and didn’t get any non-deliverable messages via email.
Apparently neither the bride or groom had ever attended a wedding before and her parents were pretty clueless on the activities that occur during a typical “American” wedding. The civil ceremony, cocktail hour and reception were all being held at the same Holiday Inn location. Logistically it was pretty easy, as I could set up one speaker for the outside gazebo ceremony, another speaker in the cocktail room and my main system no more than 20 feet away in the reception room.
The hotel manager had pretty much planned their entire evening. 5:30 to 6:00 for the ceremony, 6:00 to 7:00 for the cocktail hour and 7:00 to 11:00 for the dinner and reception. I had gleaned these tidbits by contacting the hotel directly and asking the right questions, since I could not contact the bride or groom.
When I asked about the elements of the reception, ie introductions, cake cutting, garter, bouquet etc, she mentioned that she usually leaves it up to the DJ, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the delivery of food. These particular elements went without any problems, as I basically facilitated each with the bride and groom being positioned in the right place at the right time. Thank goodness I carry spare garters-they didn’t have one.

Instant Music
Musically, they didn’t even have a first dance song chosen or any songs chosen for any parent’s dances. Thus, relying on my copy of the Mobile Beat Top 200 list, I picked those first three songs. It was at that point that I wondered if I could perform for a complete wedding using songs only from that list.
After the introductions and first dances, I weaved in and out of the slow and fast portions of the reception using exclusively the songs on the Top 200 list. Sure enough, with each passing song and the joy it generated, it further illustrated the absolute value of the songs on that list.
Towards the end of the reception, realizing that I had kept true to my little Top 200 plan, it really struck me how the general public still has a great fascination for these time-honored songs. This bride’s non-existent playlist was in sharp contrast to the kinds of playlists that I’ve received for other weddings.

“Tried and True” vs. “Variety Is the Spice of Life”
Without being specific, I’ve had one wedding dominated by Grateful Dead music and another by Contemporary Christian music. I also recall receptions wanting a high amount of classical music played throughout. Having advance notice of these song requirements helped deliver the music that they desired.
Sometimes I get an exact song list to be played during the dinner and dancing portion of the reception. I try to advise the bride that while I can usually weave in certain songs throughout the reception, to rigidly adhere to a list removes the possibility of adjusting to the guest’s reactions to the songs being played. Most of the time the brides are pretty open to my professional opinion regarding the playing of songs. My intent is to work within the style of songs presented by the bride. After all, it’s their party.
I’ve heard often about how mobile DJs sometimes distain the use of these lists in an attempt to become more creative. It appears that those DJs perform for many weddings and to be “different” they play different versions or remixes of the standards. Or they avoid the obvious standards altogether. Perhaps it’s entertaining to them, providing a break from monotony-but what about the guests?
To the guests, the fact that you played “Mony, Mony” yesterday or last week has no bearing on today’s reception. “Mony, Mony,” “Love Shack,” “YMCA,” “The Electric Slide” and many other “obvious” standards caused my “un-listed” reception’s dance floor to fill every time. The Mobile Beat Top 200 list certainly represents the best of the best. Not that I would bring 10 CDs containing only these songs. But a good ole’ standard wedding can be a huge success with only these wedding standards.

Mark Johnson is a long-time mobile DJ and has written for Mobile Beat for years, giving his insightful and often incisive perspective on many business and operational ideas. His articles grow out of his own experience and his observations of other DJs during his travels. Always providing an alternative view, his previous articles can be found at


I wondered if I could perform for a complete wedding using songs only from the Mobile Beat Top 200 list.

Editor’s Note: Look for the Mobile Beat Top 200 list online at and in the next issue of Mobile Beat Magazine

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (375 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

Filed Under: 2007, Mobile DJ Performance Tips