Reserving Room Blocks for Your Wedding
Updated: May 12, 2020
I've recently been helping a few of my clients with reserving hotel blocks for their weddings and to be honest, it's tough! Each hotel has different policies and handles room blocks a little differently. While most blocks are free to the couple, some charge fees for your reservation and some charge fees if your guests don't book enough rooms. Some hotels will hold the rooms for you until days before the wedding and others will drop your blocks months out. When planning my own wedding, I think room blocks were actually the thing that made me most anxious throughout the entire planning process.
But it's okay. Take a deep breath. I'm here to help with all of your room block questions (and suggest some others that you might not have thought to ask).
First, it's important that we know what a room block is. Simply put, it's a guesstimated number of rooms you expect your guests will book at a hotel. The hotel will hold that number of rooms exclusively for your guests until a specified date, at which point they'll be released for public sale.
Why should you go through the hassle of getting room blocks? Several reasons!
First, they can save your guests some money. With the promise of booking ten or more rooms for two or three nights, when they might otherwise book only six rooms for one to two nights, hotels are generally willing to offer a modest discount to your guests (usually 15 to 40 percent).
Second, it can make transportation to your venue simpler. If you have a party bus for your guests, the hotel most of them are staying at is an ideal pickup and drop off location. Some hotels even provide a complimentary shuttle to your venue for your guests completely free for you.
Finally, it guarantees that your out of town guests have a place to stay. One of my clients has their wedding the day before the first Vikings game of the season. Without a hotel block, there's a chance many of their guests might not find a hotel within a reasonable distance to the venue.
How Many Hotels Should We Block?
I generally recommend you have room blocks to at least two (but no more than three) hotels. More if you have a lot of out of town guests and less if most of them live in the area or you're having an intimate wedding. This gives your guests some variety and different price points to choose from. If one is a luxury hotel with $300 rooms, try to be sure the other has more economical options, around $80 - $100 per night.
Questions to Ask the Hotel
Now that we know what a hotel block is and why you should consider them, here is a list of questions to ask each hotel you're considering, along with what their answers might mean for you.
- Do you offer a courtesy room block?
For a budget conscious couple, I personally think this is the most important question to ask. A courtesy block is a way to ensure rooms are offered to your guests at a discounted rate without you having to put down a deposit or be expected to pay for any unbooked rooms (if you will be held accountable for this, be sure your contract has a favorable attrition rate). But be careful: most of the time with courtesy blocks, the hotel is not technically blocking out the rooms for you. Rather, they are just honoring your group discount code. So if they sell out of rooms before your guests have had a chance to make a reservation, they're out.
- Do you have a minimum number of rooms to create a block?
The answer to this is almost always "yes." And generally speaking, it'll be about 10.
- Is there a minimum or maximum number of nights each guest can stay?
Some hotels will say your room block must be at least two nights. Some will say it can't be more than three. Still others will say as long as they're there one night, they can stay as long as they'd like at the discounted rate. Be sure you and your guests know how long they can / are expected to stay.
- How do my guests reserve a room?
Most hotels will give you a passcode that can be entered on their website or given to an agent on the phone. Some will require your guests to call the front desk and specify which event they're booking the room for. Everyone does this slightly differently, so it's important to know the details and accurately pass them to your guests. If you're getting blocks at multiple hotels, ask if you can use one passcode at each hotel (this is MUCH less confusing for your guests).
- How long before the wedding do my guests need to reserve their room?
Knowing this answer will help you know whether you should include hotel information with your save the date or wait until formal invitations. It may also (along with your reception menu options) determine how far in advance you need to send out your invitations. It's also good information for your guests to have. They can't complain to you if they waited until the week before the wedding to reserve a room when you already told them the block expired one month earlier.
- Will you let me know when rooms have been reserved?
Some hotels are great about keeping you updated about room blocks. Others may not tell you anything unless you call them first. Knowing the answer to this question will help you choose hotels that match your communication style and expected level of involvement.
- Can I add more rooms to the block later?
Since your room block is just your best guess at the number of guests staying, it can be easy to block too few rooms. You want to be sure you'll be allowed to add more later if more guests need to stay than you anticipated.
- What amenities are included with the room?
Unless the hotel is right next to an airport, you may want to ensure parking is included with each room and/or a complimentary airport shuttle. Do you think your guests will want a complimentary breakfast each morning they're there? Should they get a discount at the hotel spa? Will the hotel leave welcome bags in your guests' rooms? Knowing the available amenities will help you fine tune your guest experience for their entire visit, instead of just for your ceremony and reception.
- Do you offer a complimentary shuttle to and from our wedding venue?
Many hotels will drive your guests to and from the venue as long as it's within a 1 - 3 mile radius of the hotel. Knowing whether this service is available, how far they'll drive, how often the shuttle runs, and how many people can be shuttled at a time will help you decide whether you need to purchase additional transportation options. Just be sure your guests know when and where they need to meet to grab the shuttle.
- Do you provide the wedding couple with a complimentary suite?
Some hotels will give you a free room for bringing them so much extra business. However, they may require a certain number of rooms get officially booked before they make this offer.
But what if I don't want to do all this extra work?
I can say from personal experience that dealing with hotel blocks is not the most glamorous task involved in planning a wedding. If you don't want to deal with it, but still want to be sure your out of town guests have a good experience, you have a couple of options:
Head to www.hotelplanner.com. They have an excellent and easy to use tool for finding and reserving room blocks for your wedding.
Ask your mother to do it! I've worked with many brides who's mothers jump at the opportunity to take over handling room blocks. Chances are yours will too!
Hire a wedding planner to do it for you! Woodland Events includes negotiating room blocks as part of our full planning package (and partial planning, as needed). Don't want us to plan your full wedding? We also offer hourly planning services so you can just ask us to reserve your room blocks for you.