Book your room blocks ASAP
In an interview with Wedding Spot, Thomas Beaman, the owner and operator of professional wedding planning and photography business PA Unveiled, gave this pro tip:
“Most hotels allow blocks to open up 1 year in advance. As soon as you have confirmed your wedding date and wedding venue, contact multiple hotels to get rates. Booking your room block early will give you a better chance at locking in a lower rate, and will give your wedding guests more time for planning travel.”
He also noted that most wedding room block quotes are only valid for a short period of time, so it’s good to make your final decision within that frame.
Get an idea of who will need accommodations
One way to get an estimate of the number of guests who may choose to utilize the room block(s) is to attach a Google Form, Survey Monkey, or other polling service link to your wedding website. This will spare the stress of potentially under-filling — or over-filling — the room block. The wedding website is also usually where couples include room block details after the room block(s) is reserved, so it makes sense to use it as a one-stop-shop for all things room block-related.
Strategize your outreach
Beaman said that when you message or call hotels to ask about room blocks, group hotel sales representatives often follow a script. Here’s what you should say to get the best rate:
Don’t state your budget. When they ask for your wedding budget, say you’re still figuring it out — even if you have one in mind. The sales rep won’t be able to upsell you to the next package, and instead will give you information on the full range of services available. Plus, your budget may change and you don’t want to waste this valuable research time.
Be open about comparing deals. Beaman also said to “let them know that you are reaching out to multiple hotels to figure out the best rate, and to see what services are offered.” Mention this casually at the beginning of your communications — if you wait to say it, it might come off as a sneaky bargaining tactic rather than an honest fact. They know you’re doing it, but stating this upfront can persuade them to get to the best offer sooner rather than later.
Price match their competitors. “Once you get those initial rates and any perks that the hotel offers, do not be shy about calling the other hotels to see if they can offer something similar or even better,” Beaman said. “Depending on the area, you might have a chance to save some money for your guests by doing this.”
When Wedding Spot asked Breanne Kiefner, the owner of travel company Root Adventures, for her advice, she said, “Ask for what you want … sales managers work on commission. There are only so many rooms available, so even on popular weekends, your sales manager is competing with their associates for the rooms available. If you need a cheaper rate, ask for it!” Trust us: Your guests will appreciate it.
Understand the different types of room blocks
There are two main types of room blocks: Guaranteed blocks and courtesy blocks. Understanding the differences between the two is incredibly important.
Guaranteed (also known as confirmed or closed) room blocks require a contract, and those contracts often include additional fees or penalties for cancellations. And, most importantly, couples will be on the hook for some — or all — of the rooms that don’t book.
In an email to Wedding Spot, accredited wedding planner Lynne Kennedy of The Gilded Aisle Weddings Inc. said, “The contract will state what percentage of the block must be booked which typically ranges from 90% to 100%. For example, a contract for 10 room nights with a 90% guarantee requires 9 rooms to be booked. If only 8 rooms are booked, the client will be responsible for paying for that ninth room.”
Courtesy blocks, on the other hand, are a no-commitment option the sales representative may offer. NYC wedding planner and founder of Modern Rebel Shack Egan told Wedding Spot that “a courtesy room block is anywhere between 10-20 rooms that are set aside for your guests usually until a cut-off date. … You are not responsible financially if none of them are booked, it’s just a courtesy!”
The tradeoff? “The hotel will most likely release the unbooked rooms (at current market rate) to other customers 30-60 days prior to the date,” said Beaman. So if you don’t mind taking this risk, consider maximizing your flexibility using this tactic.
When we interviewed Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events, he said that attrition is one of the most important things to keep in mind when negotiating room blocks. “This is the couple’s saving grace and it is negotiable,” he said.
“First, what is attrition? Attrition basically means that the hotel is going to forgive a percentage of your unused room block rooms. If you have an attrition of 20% with a room block of 10 room nights, then really you are only financially responsible for 8 of them. I’ve seen an attrition clause go up to 30%, but most of the time it’s going to be 10% or 20%. You want to make sure you have attrition. It’s an item that most couples will miss because you don’t know what you don’t know.”
When you finalize your top hotel choices, ask if attrition is already baked into the contract and what the rate is. Then, consider counteroffering with a rate that is 5-10% lower than that.
Book wedding room blocks at multiple hotels
Beaman said that booking 2-3 hotels has two main benefits:
Price. Give multiple options for your guests to choose from so they can choose the work within their own budget. “The price should be a difference of least $50 between the lowest price and the highest price hotels,” Beaman said.
Perks. “Many hotels offer a free room or suite to the couple if they fill up their room block,” Beaman said. “By getting a room block at a second or third hotel, you increase your chances of getting these same perks for parents or grandparents if those blocks fill up.”
But again, when booking, make sure you know the hotel’s policy. Know the minimum number of rooms required to book; contract details, such as cancellation policies; and any perks the hotel may offer for booking a room block. Bring up your concerns and questions before committing.
Spot-check your options
Melanie Levin, travel consultant and owner and principal planner of LuckEleven Events, told Wedding Spot that couples should get input from their parents or closest family members before they make their final decision.
“I’d recommend doing a spot-check with important family members to see if they would be interested in staying at the hotel you choose. This will give you an idea of how many guests would choose the room block as well,” Levin said.
Auto-schedule guest reminders
Most hotels have a cut-off date for room block booking. Even if you share this information with your guests in your initial instructions or on your wedding website, set up an automated reminder either using an email feature like Google’s built-in scheduler or through a free text message service such as Scheduled.
When should you send it? It depends, but Beaman offered this advice: “If the hotel tells you that rooms will be released to the general public 30 days before your wedding date, you will want to send your guests a message two weeks prior to that date reminding them to book their rooms if they have not done so.”
Now you know all about wedding room blocks!
It takes some great research and negotiation skills to navigate hotel room blocks for weddings. But with this helpful advice straight from the minds of experts who have been there and done that, you’ll get rates and rooms everyone will love.
Up next, boost your wedding planning knowledge even further by learning how to plan a rehearsal dinner.