When you are having out of town guests travel in for your wedding it is nice to offer them a central location to stay overnight. Most hotels will offer group blocks on rooms but the process is sometimes confusing and can potentially be costly to you if it’s not done right. If you are working with me as your wedding planner I will be taking care of all of what follows for you (high five!), but if you are setting up room blocks on your own here are some tips to get you through:
What is the benefit of setting up a hotel room block?
Room blocks are popular with weddings because it gives your guests a central home base for your wedding weekend, and the hotels typically offer a reduced room rate so your guests can save money over the regular reservation rate. It is also helpful for you in your planning because when a guest books a room under your block their name is listed in the hotel’s system. If you are trying to determine shuttle details or you want to know how many welcome bags to deliver you can get the list from the hotel and know every reservation that is made from your group. One last added benefit is that a lot of times hotels will keep all guests in a block in one part of the hotel (like in one wing or on one floor) so usually guests in a block will have rooms close to one another.
Where do you start in setting this up?
First you want to narrow down the geographic area that you would like your guests to stay. If you are getting married in Lake Placid then you know you will be considering the hotels right in town. But if you are getting married at a remote venue in Central New York you might not have a lot of options nearby. Once you have the area picked out do a quick online search of hotels around there. Pay attention to the hotels’ location, amenities, and price for your wedding weekend. Then determine how many rooms you think you may need to cover your guest list (remember that your count should be for number of rooms, but number of guests). Lastly, you should determine if you want to give your guests more than one option of hotel to stay at, or if you want everyone to stay at the same hotel. This last piece often comes down to the price of each hotel.
When can I set up my block?
Most people don’t know that hotels typically won’t do room blocks for dates that are more than a year away. So if you are getting married 16 months from now you will have to wait another 4 months before you can get your blocks established. Some hotels make you wait until you are 6 or 9 months out. If you are trying to work with an inn or a local non-chain hotel they may have completely different rules to follow.
How do I contact the hotel?
Typically the hotel’s sales team is who sets up and manages room blocks. You will want to call the main phone number of the hotel and ask to speak with someone who is in charge of group room blocks. Most often you will be transferred to someone working in the sales office. Let them know that you are getting married on a specific date and you are calling to see if they were able to offer your guests a block at their hotel.
How many rooms can I block at one time?
Every hotel is different, but usually most will start with 10-15 rooms. They allow you to have these rooms held for your group and keep them held until their predetermined release date (usually 30-60 days before your wedding).
What if I need more than 10 rooms?
Hotels need to protect themselves from lost business and as such they start out with a small block of rooms so they are not pulling too many out of the general reservation system. But they also like to sell rooms so if your block books up quickly and there is still enough availability in the general reservation system they may offer to add more rooms to your block. Be aware that hotels book up more rapidly as you get closer to a particular date so waiting to add rooms to your block may result in the hotel saying no.
Do I need to pay for these rooms myself?
You certainly can if you want to, but most couples don’t have room in their budget to do so. And most hotels don’t require you to do so. You should be aware that there are some hotels that do require the couple to pay for the rooms, or charge the couple a fee if there are rooms that are not reserved before the release date. Unless you have no other options I recommend avoiding these hotels. There is no way to predict how many of your guests will book a room and with all of the expenses mounting up for your wedding you don’t need to add the cost of unused hotel rooms to your plate. I like to work with hotels that simply put a hold on a set of rooms for you and they don’t threaten any financial expense to you if the rooms aren’t booked up. Make sure you read the fine print in your room block contract before you sign, and be skeptical of any contract that requires you to give the hotel your personal credit card information.
What’s the best way for me to share the information about the block with my guests?
As I mentioned above, hotels book up more rapidly as you get closer to a particular date so you want your guests to book their rooms as early as they can. The best thing you can do is communicate the information about your block to your guests on your wedding website or other mode of communication as soon as you have it, and encourage them to book their room as soon as they are able. This will give you the best chance of the hotel being able to accommodate more rooms if your block fills.
How do my guests make their reservations under my block?
Your block will be set up with a reservation code, usually some variance on both of your last names, and guests need to reference that code when they call to make their reservation. Some hotels create a link where guests can make their reservations online in the same fashion. Once your contract is entered into the hotel’s computer system they will communicate to you the ways your guests can start booking their rooms.
Any other things I should consider?
When working on your hotel room blocks you want to consider your guests’ experiences and make decisions on what is going to be best for them. Most couples choose to block rooms at hotels with varying price points to accommodate the needs of their wealthy aunt but also their buddies from college. Two hotels is usually the most common quantity – one that is a little fancier and one that is a budget friendly. Of course if you are in need of rooms for 200+ guests you may want to block at three. You also want to take into account whether the hotel offers airport transfers, free breakfast, or late check outs. Go for a hotel that is walking distance to local hot spots if your guests won’t have a car or one that has free parking if they are driving to you. Don’t forget to consider a room for yourself if you and/or your fiance will need to stay at the hotel, and don’t forget to consider how much space and how many nights the two of you will need (if check in is 3:00 you will need to reserve your suite for the night before as well as the night of your wedding, otherwise you won’t have it for the morning when you plan to get ready). Other considerations may be taken for hotels that offer a private room that can be rented for your rehearsal dinner, welcome party, or your post-wedding brunch. Or for hotels that offer activities for your guests such as ones with a bar or restaurant on site, a hotel that is attached to a casino, or one that has a pool or play area for kids. Your wedding weekend starts for your guests when they check in to their hotel so make sure you are kicking your celebration off with the best possible experience for them!
Related Posts –
Getting Married in New York State
The Inn at Saratoga Wedding – Caitlin and Graig
Sagamore Resort Wedding – Amanda and Bennett
Photo above by Pat Furey Photography