This comprehensive guide includes everything you need to know about setting up a room block for your wedding guests.
1. When to Make the Reservation
Key factors that determine when to make your reservation are the location of the wedding and time of year. If your wedding is taking place over a holiday weekend, around a sporting event, at a beach during the peak summer, or in a small city with limited accommodations, you want to beat the crowd and book early! Basically, you should begin researching different hotel options as soon as you book your wedding venue.
2. The Most Common Types of Room Blocks
- Guaranteed Room Blocks: this requires you to guarantee that a specific percentage of the rooms in the block (typically 90%) will be booked and used. For any rooms that are left unsold, you are financially responsible to cover the costs. The hotel may also require a deposit in order to secure the room block. Though this option may provide less flexibility, you may receive lower group hotel rates. So, this is a good option if you have a relatively accurate idea of the number of confirmed guests who will need accommodation.
- Courtesy Room Block: this provides you and your guests the most flexibility as it does not require a commitment to book a specific number of rooms or come with any financial penalties for not booking enough rooms. For a courtesy room block, the hotel will hold a specific number of rooms for guests to reserve up until a specific date. After that cutoff date passes, the unsold rooms become available for general booking. Many hotels limit the number of rooms for the courtesy block, so try not to request more than what you need. If all the rooms in the block get booked, the hotel will usually add more rooms to the block to accommodate your remaining guests. Note: if your wedding takes place during the high season, the hotel may not even offer the courtesy block as an option.
3. How to Negotiate Contract Terms for a Hotel Block
Be sure to review the contract before anything is finalized. You want to understand all the terms before you sign, so keep an eye out for these keywords:
- Allowable Shrinkage Clause: a number that refers to the allowed percentage of unsold rooms before a penalty fee is applied
- Target Percentage: The allowable shrinkage clause is usually set between 10–20 percent of the reserved room block. This means that if you booked 20 rooms but only two to four rooms are not sold, you will not be charged with a penalty fee.
- Attrition Rate or Minimum Commitment: a number that refers to the percentage of rooms that must be booked in order to avoid a penalty charge Target Percentage: The attrition rate or minimum commitment is usually between 80–90 percent. If you are unable to book the entire room block, you owe the hotel for all of the unsold rooms based on a minimum commitment of percentage.
- Mitigation Clause or Re-sell Clause: This requires the hotel to try to book unused rooms in your block, so that you are not financially responsible for rooms that are later sold to other customers.
- Cancellation Policy: Review the cancellation policy so that you are aware of all the consequences in case the room block needs to be canceled for any reason. Of course, the ideal circumstance would be an option to cancel without any penalty fees. Confirm that a Force Majeure Clause is included so that you are not held liable for any emergency situations out of your control.
- Cut-off Date: Work out the timing details. Wedding invitations are usually mailed six to eight weeks before the wedding day. You may have to adjust if the hotel requires a cut-off date of more than four weeks prior to the wedding.
- Deposit Amount: No deposit should be required for a Courtesy Block. For a Guaranteed Block, make sure that the contract includes the deposit amount that was agreed upon, along with details of the payment timeline and refund policy.
4. Hotel Perks for Wedding Blocks
You will find that many hotels are more than happy to provide perks to wedding blocks that they don’t normally offer to other groups. Here are some of the most common perks:
- Shuttle Service: Many hotels have in-house shuttle services that can transport guests to and from the wedding site (though there may be limitations on the distance radius from the hotel). Some hotels may charge a small fee for the shuttle service but it will certainly cost less than hiring a third-party transportation service. Take advantage of it!
- Free Rooms: If you reserve a large block of rooms, you may be able to get a free hotel room! Hotels will often offer a “comp ratio” of 20:1 or 25:1. This means that one complimentary night is given for every 20 or 25 rooms that are booked. If you are shy of the comp ratio, some hotels may offer upgraded rooms instead.
- Welcome Bag Delivery: You can ask the hotel to hand out your welcome bags to guests at the time of check-in, or have them delivered directly to the guest rooms. Keep in mind that most hotels charge a fee of $2-$4 per bag, which can add up very quickly. Ask for this fee to be waived before you sign an agreement with the hotel; most hotels are willing to do so since the welcome bag delivery fees only bring in a very nominal profit.
- After Party: Most wedding venues have restrictions on closing hours for events. Ask way in advance if it would be possible to keep the hotel bar open late for you; many hotels will be happy to oblige if the guests spend a minimum amount for the night.
- Brunch: If a free breakfast is included, some hotels may provide a private area for your guests to have post-wedding brunch. Other hotels may offer access to a meeting room so that guests can have a space to mingle while enjoying breakfast. A small cleaning fee may be charged if you choose to take up these offers, but it will still be less expensive than booking a group brunch at a restaurant.
Featured Cover Image: Ethan Yang Photography