20 Jan Your Guide to Hotel Room Blocks for Weddings & Special Events
After the show it’s the after party… And after the party it’s the hotel lobby! The hotel room block is such an important part of the guest experience for your big event or wedding. Of course keeping the fun going is one major benefit, but a hotel block also saves your friends and family time on researching accommodations, gives them a discounted group rate and makes it easy for you to deliver welcome bags or amenities.
Hotel Room Block Basics
You can usually start setting up hotel room blocks around a year in advance of your event. You should aim to get this planning task done before you send out save the dates so you can include the information on your event website or on a printed accommodations insert. Your friends and family are most likely to take action and make reservations right when they receive the card.
The main thing to know is that there are two types of hotel blocks: courtesy blocks and contracted/guaranteed blocks.
With a courtesy block, the hotel is basically being nice and holding the rooms free of charge since you’re bringing them business. You get preferred rates but you are not held responsible for any rooms that go unbooked. The hotel will provide a cut-off date (usually 30 or 60 days ahead of your event), and once the deadline passes, any unused rooms will be released back into inventory for general sale. For example, if the hotels holds 10 rooms for your wedding in a courtesy block and only 5 rooms are booked, no biggie. There are no penalties or financial obligations for you as the host. Phew!
In a contracted or guaranteed block, you will be responsible for any rooms that go unbooked by your guests. Typically the hotel will specify an attrition rate and deadline. Let’s say a hotel holds 10 rooms for your party and you have a 90% attrition. The attrition gives you a tiny bit of wiggle room. In this case, you will be allowed to release 1 room at the deadline, but you will be held financially responsible for the other 9. So if your guests only booked 7 rooms, you must pay for the other 2 (ugh!) since the hotel has already been counting on that revenue.
You should always try to book courtesy blocks since they offer the most flexibility. In some cases, this just isn’t possible if your group is very large or if it’s a small boutique property that can’t afford to have rooms go empty. This is often the case in resort or beach towns that book up far in advance.
Now that you have the basic lingo down, here’s your step-by-step guide to reserving your hotel room blocks.
1. Create a list of hotels near your event
Research all accommodations in the area that you may be interested in for your room block. Look into a variety of price points — you never know what kind of deals you’ll get! Ideally the hotels should be within 20 minutes driving distance of your event venue.
2. Make some calls
Ring each hotel and ask to speak to the “group sales” department. They will ask you some basic details about your event including how many rooms you’ll need in the block, what nights guests will be staying and what type of rooms you’d like, so have those answers prepared! In my experience, most hotels will allow you to reserve between 10-25 rooms max in a block. As for room types, if your event is mainly couples I’d reserve mostly king rooms. If there are a good amount of families and single friends, opt for rooms with two queen or double beds.
You should ask whether it’s a courtesy or contracted block and whether there are any other stipulations such as a minimum stay. Then, they will get back to you with rates. In my experience, hotels can be a bit slow at this step so this may take a few days.
3. Select your room blocks
Once you’ve heard back from all your options, compare rates and decide which ones make sense for your event. I would recommend choosing at least one affordable option and one luxury option so your guests have a range of price points to choose from.
If you’re planning to offer transportation, consider this: While offering a ton of hotel options seems nice, the transportation logistics get more complicated and expensive for you.
4. Ask for a contract
Get a contract from your final hotels. Review to make sure the terms are in line with what you discussed and sign on the dotted line. The contract should specify how guests should make their reservations whether it’s a phone number to call or a special code or link to book online.
5. Share the info with guests
Add it to your event or wedding website so your friends and fam can start booking. You can check in with the hotels periodically and ask for a “rooming list,” which will show all the guests that have booked so far. This will let you know if you need to add more rooms or remind certain people to get their rooms reserved.
I’ll end this with an insider tip: Kleinfeld (yes, that famous bridal salon from Say Yes to the Dress) offers a free hotel block service. If this process seems overwhelming or your schedule is jam packed, they can do some of the legwork for you and provide hotel options. However, I will say that I always prefer to communicate directly with vendors to experience their customer service for myself and make personal connections. For instance, if I have a hard time reaching someone on the phone, I know this may be a problem for guests trying to make a booking. Sometimes doing the homework yourself is the best way to go!
What questions do you have about reserving hotel blocks? Let me know in the comments and I’m happy to weigh in.