Expert Advice from a Disc Jockey

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2010

Caroline D'Amore, Disc Jockey
Los Angeles, California

Known for: Pulling from a unique library of classic songs, dance beats, and indie hits to create personalized playlists for weddings, parties, and events.

How to find her: For bookings, contact Andrew Shack: aashack1@gmail.com

Creating a reception playlist from scratch seems daunting. What's the first step? 
Try not to think of it as one giant list -- that's overwhelming. Instead, break it down into three smaller ones: cocktails, dinner, and dancing. The beauty of having three lists is that since the vibe inside each one is consistent, you can just pick one, hit shuffle, and let the iPod do its thing.

When should playlist building start? 
About a month before the wedding. The classics and favorites will come to mind easily, but other songs will take time. And remember, the list doesn't have to be set in stone. If a new hot song pops up, you can always throw it in there last minute, even the day before the wedding.

How do you get the mood right for each list? 
For the cocktail list, keep it laid-back with indie-pop songs such as "Strict Machine" by Goldfrapp, "Taper Jean Girl" by Kings of Leon, and "An Honest Mistake" by The Bravery. The dinner list should feel softer, since people will most likely be giving speeches. I'd suggest songs like Radiohead's "High and Dry," The Flaming Lips' version of "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "Surfing on a Rocket" by Air. For the dance list, you'll definitely want uplifting beats that let everyone know it's time to get down. Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Starting Something," "Celebration" by Madonna, "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga, and "Hard" by Rihanna are perfect.

How do you guarantee a good mix? 
The rule of thumb is seven to one: For every seven fast songs, have one slow one. Think of slow songs as a chance for the lovebirds to dance and the singles to catch their breaths.

Does it matter if you and your guests have very different tastes in music? 
No. It's your day, and you should play what makes you happy! If you're worried that people won't dance, though, just mix in some classics and top-40 hits that everyone knows the words to -- think Michael Jackson, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears.

Any suggestions for a unique first dance? 
"Love Song" by The Cure, "Crazy Love" by Van Morrison with Bob Dylan, and Sade's "By Your Side" are a few of my favorites.

Father-daughter dance? 
M y favorites are "All My Loving" and "Yesterday" by The Beatles. Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" is really sweet too.

Let's talk worst-case scenario: What if the iPod doesn't work or cuts out after dinner?
Unfortunately, you can never count on technology, so it's always a good idea to have a backup plan. I'd definitely have another iPod on hand with the same exact playlist, just in case.

Is it really necessary to have someone manning the iPod all night? 
It's a good idea to have someone in charge of changing the playlists from cocktail to dinner to dancing, but otherwise the iPod can be left on shuffle. If something goes wrong, he or she should be the one to turn on the backup.

What's the rule when it comes to volume? 
Just remember that a wedding isn't a concert. During cocktails and dinner, the music should blend into the background -- people are going to be chatting, so it shouldn't overwhelm them. When it's time to dance, crank it up loud. Of course, it's always a good idea to check and see if your venue has any specific restrictions.

Top Tip 
"If you're nervous about using your iPod as a sound system, don't be -- you can still get that high-energy, dance-party vibe by plugging big speakers right into it. Tons of sound-equipment stores rent them for weddings and events, and it doesn't matter if you're not exactly tech-savvy. Most places are willing to send someone to hook it all up for you and make sure things are running smoothly."

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