How To Reserve Hotel Blocks for Your Wedding


Figuring out where all your lovely friends and relations are going to stay

hotel blocks how to

So. The wedding is almost planned, and suddenly someone (your mom, your well meaning BFF, your… damn partner) brings up hotel blocks. Do you have a blocked booked? It seems like a thing people do. Should you do it? Or is it just one more thing to add to the list?

Short answer: only you know for sure.

Longer answer: hotel blocks are fantastic when you want as many people as possible in one place for logistical or transportation reasons, if you’re hoping people will stay near the actual wedding, if everything else is going to be booked up, or if you just want to offer your guests some guidance. Lucky you, though. Hotel blocks are the perfect job to give to that person (aforementioned mom or BFF?) who’s been begging for a project all of their own to help with. There is just enough complexity to make it a rewarding task, but not so much you’ll want (or even care to) to micromanage.

So what do you need to know about hotel blocks? Well. It turns out there is a lot you can know, and all of it is covered here. But if you only read one thing, make sure it’s about different kinds of hotel blocks… and make a note of the genuinely scary attrition rate clause. Because you don’t want to be stuck paying out of pocket for twenty rooms that your guests didn’t book.

When to reserve

Location of the wedding and time of year are both key factors that determine when you should get this done. Is your wedding happening in a small town with limited accommodation, during a holiday weekend, or concurrent with a sporting event/convention? Book early! Getting married in New England during the fall colors? Book early! A beach town in the summer? You guessed it, book early! Essentially, once you book your venue, it’s time to start researching hotel options.

THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF BLOCKS

Closed (aka Guaranteed) Blocks: The hotel requires a deposit in order to block off rooms and will hold you financially responsible for any unsold rooms. Sometimes it’s a percentage, sometimes it’s a real number—this is what’s called the attrition rate.

This is the type of block associated with nightmares of making sure that every room gets filled up. The ONLY time I recommend doing a closed or guaranteed block is when the hotel is literally the only game in town and you are as close to certain as possible that all rooms will be snapped up.

Open (aka Courtesy) Blocks: These are usually free of clauses holding you financially responsible for unsold rooms within the block. Generally, the biggest requirement with a courtesy block is that all reservations are made prior to a cut-off date (about thirty to ninety days in advance). Rooms that are not reserved by the cut-off date are released and sold at market price. The main downside to this type of block is that often hotels will only hold a small number of rooms (ten to twenty is the norm).

If you feel like you will need more rooms than the maximum allowed within the courtesy block, I suggest asking the hotel what their policy is regarding adding additional rooms upon completion. Also, I suggest booking a second (and possibly a third) block at another hotel.

Regardless of which type of block you reserve (though essential for a guaranteed block), you’ll want to be careful with your numbers. It’s hard to guesstimate how many rooms you’ll need before you have an RSVP count. A good rule of thumb is to tally all of the out of towners and divide by two. This will be your high number. Odds are, you’ll need fewer rooms than this, as some guests may make other arrangements. Not everyone will stay in your block, and that’s okay.

Choosing Properties

If you’re getting married in a larger metropolis, it may be hard to narrow down the options. Here are some key points to consider:

Price: I suggest giving your guests two or three options in price (i.e., budget, midrange, luxury). Make sure that the price points vary by at least fifty dollars from one category to the next.

Location: Try to book a hotel that is near your wedding events. Hotels within walking distance (or located near transportation) are the best option. Otherwise, your hotels should ideally be within ten miles of your wedding venue. Also, choosing hotels near other attractions and restaurants will give people who arrive before the wedding have something to do (they will thus leave you alone while you’re scrambling to take care of any last minute items).

Check-In Time: Many of your guests will only stay the night of your wedding. It’s important to make sure that the check-in time does not conflict with your ceremony start time (and leaves plenty of time to freshen up after checking in!). Guests who are arriving on the wedding day will need time to check-in and get ready. If you’re planning a 2PM ceremony and check-in time is 3PM, well, some of your guests are going to be annoyed because they had to get dressed in a lobby bathroom. Not fun.

Once you’ve narrowed down the search, reach out to some hotels for initial offers. You can pick up the phone and call each hotel on your list (ask to speak with someone in Group Sales), or you can use an online tool to do the initial legwork. A couple of free ones that I like are Jetaport and Hotels.com/Groups.

Questions to ask during your initial contact

  • What is the group rate including taxes and fees?
  • Is there a fee for parking? Does the parking fee include in/out privileges?
  • What time is check-in? Could you guarantee early check-in if needed?
  • What time is check-out?
  • Is there a minimum stay requirement?
  • Do you offer a courtesy block? What is the maximum number of rooms?
  • If we need additional rooms, can we add to the block? What would the cut-off be for adding rooms?
  • What sort of amenities come standard (shuttles, breakfast, free in-room Wi-Fi, etc.)?
  • Is there a bar and restaurant onsite? What are the hours?
  • Do you have facilities to host pre- or post-wedding events onsite?

Options & Amenities

Room types: Make sure to arrange for a variety of room types to suit your guests—families and friends sharing rooms will likely want doubles and couples will likely opt for king or queen rooms. Take a look at your guest list and split the block accordingly.

Also, ask the hotel to set aside rooms on different floors—you probably don’t want spend your wedding night next door to your parents, and you definitely don’t want your friends waking up your grandma with their in-room after-party.

Perks: Many hotels are happy to provide extras to wedding blocks that they don’t normally offer to other groups. You just have to ask! The key here—knowing what you want to ask for in advance! Here are a few of the most common perks:

  • Shuttle Service: The hotel may have an in-house shuttle that you can take advantage of to transport guests to and from your wedding. This is usually subject to a max distance radius from the hotel. Some hotels do charge a nominal fee for this service, but you can be certain that it will be less than hiring a third-party.
  • Free Rooms: If you’re booking a large number of rooms at one property (i.e., twenty or more), you may be able to get a free room. Hotels often have a “comp ratio” of 20:1 or 25:1, meaning for every twenty or twenty-five nights sold, you receive a complimentary night. Some hotels will offer upgraded rooms if you’re shy of the comp ratio.
  • Welcome Bag Delivery: If you chose to have welcome bags, you can ask the hotel to hand them out at check-in or deliver them directly to the rooms. Be aware that most hotels charge a fee of anywhere from two to four dollars per bag, which can add up quickly! Ask them to waive the fee before you sign the agreement—most hotels are willing to concede on this point because it’s a very nominal profit.
  • After Party: Wanna party the night away? Many wedding venues have restrictions on event end times. Ask the hotel (well in advance) about keeping their bar open late for you. Most hotels will gladly do so, provided your group spends a minimum amount.
  • Brunch: If your hotel offers free breakfast, they may be willing to provide you with a private space for post-wedding brunch. Some hotels can open a meeting room for guests to hang out in while they enjoy breakfast. Sometimes there’s a small cleaning fee associated with doing this, but again, it’s going to be cheaper than booking a restaurant brunch.
  • Pre-Wedding Pool Party: If you have a small group coming into town the night before the wedding, ask the hotel if you can use the pool after-hours for a small pool party! Make sure to point out that after hours will not disturb the hotel’s other guests and that you’ll be sure to keep it low key. Again, there may be a small fee, but, pool party!

I’d suggest picking two or three perks that are really important to you and have fun negotiating.

Speaking of negotiating…

Negotiating with a hotel isn’t as hard as you might think. Approach it as a simple process of working together toward common ground as opposed to a winner/loser take all situation. Don’t be adversarial—stay calm and be prepared.

First, make a list of the perks and amenities that you’d like to have included in your block. Then, make sure that you’re speaking with the person who has the authority to grant you said requests. A lot of times you’ll be directed to a group sales associate who needs to check in with a manager on special requests—it’s best to set up a call or meeting directly with the manager.

Don’t take this process personally—if you’re negotiating, you need to be prepared to walk away or concede on some points. And don’t feel nervous about asking for things. Don’t let fear of what the person is going to think about you guide the conversation. The hotel is always going to offer what’s in their best interest first, but you need to advocate for what’s in your guests’ best interest. That being said, obviously you don’t want to be a bully or impolite. Using phrases like, “Is there a more budget-friendly option?” and, “Oh, that’s not what I was expecting,” are easy ways to ask for lower prices and to express your displeasure with an option.

Other tips and tricks

Don’t answer the budget question up front. If you provide a number, that’s where the hotel will start. Let them know you’re not certain, and that you plan on talking to a few hotels to determine the best option(s). Use the offers that you receive as incentive—don’t be shy to let each hotel know what you like about their competitor’s offer and give them the opportunity to compete for your business.

Once you’ve settled on a deal that both you and the hotel are pleased with, you’ll want to get everything in writing. Be sure to read the contract and be on the lookout for phrases such as these:

  • Attrition Clause: This isn’t a concern with a courtesy block—if you’re booking a guaranteed block, make sure that the percentage is a comfortable one.
  • Cancellation Policy: Make sure that you’re aware of what happens if you need to cancel the block for whatever reason. In an ideal world, you’d want to maintain the option to cancel at any time without penalties. Also, make sure that there is a force majeure clause in the agreement so that you will not be held liable in the instance of an emergency that isn’t under your control.
  • Cut-Off Date: Make sure you’re okay with the timing. Keep in mind that invitations usually go out approximately six to eight weeks prior to the wedding, so you may need to adjust if your hotel requires a cut-off of more than four weeks.
  • Deposit Amount: This should be zero for a courtesy block. If you’re doing a closed/guaranteed block, make sure that the amount is as you discussed, and make sure that you’re comfortable with the payment schedule as well as the refund policy.

Double check that any verbal agreements made during the negotiation are included in the final agreement (including comp ratios and early check-in). Don’t sign anything until you’ve read it and are comfortable with it. If you ask for changes to be made (within reason) and the hotel is not cooperative, you may want to look for another option. I’ve come to find that when a hotel is not willing to be flexible at this point in the process, it can often lead to an even worse experience down the road.

Getting the word out

Now, you’ve got to let your guests know where they can score discounted rooms. The easiest way to do this is to include an accommodations page on your wedding website. Make sure to include any special codes or links guests will need to use when booking. You can also include the accommodation info on your save the dates or as an insert with your invitations.

Sample Wording

Sample 1

We’ve reserved a block of rooms at Notell Motel at a rate of $XXX per night. You can reserve one of these rooms by calling 212-555-1234 or visiting www.hotelsite.com. Please reference or enter the code 414Wed when booking. In order to secure the discounted rate, please book by April 1, 2015.

Sample 2

A block of rooms has been arranged at XYZ Hotel.
Rooms can be reserved by calling 718-555-1234 before June 1st and referencing the Lee/Andrews wedding. Additional information is available on our wedding website, www.kickasswedding.com.

Sample 3

Brooklyn is full of amazing places to stay, but for your convenience blocks of rooms have been reserved at:
XYZ Hotel
123 First Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Reference Reyes/Jones Wedding
Group rate available until September 1, 2015
800-867-5309 / www.xyzhotel.com/brooklyn
For more information, please visit our wedding website www.kickasswedding.com.

Finishing Touches

Make a note on your calendar of the cut-off date for your room block. One to two weeks prior, contact the hotel and ask for a copy of your rooming list. Send an email reminder to any guests who haven’t booked.

Approximately two or three weeks prior to the wedding, make sure that any items that you negotiated (i.e., comps and upgrades) are being taken care of. If you’ve reserved a shuttle, now is the time to finalize timing and details. If you’re hosting a pre- or post-wedding event, confirm all details and head counts at this time.

If you’re giving out welcome bags, drop them off one or two days before check-in. Remember, welcome packets (if you decide to do them) can be as simple as a welcome letter, a map, and an attraction guide (which are often free at tourist centers). Some of my favorite items to include in welcome bags are a local treat (in NYC think bagel or a black and white cookie), some asprin or alkaseltzer for post-wedding hangovers, and postcards. You could even include one postcard addressed to you and your partner so that you come home from the wedding to a mailbox full of love!

I suggest (for practical purposes) providing your guests with a welcome letter at check-in (many hotels will print these free of charge—just ask!). Think of this as all the stuff you hoped they paid attention to in your invite and wedding website, reiterated. In the welcome letter, include a timeline of events along with clear directions or shuttle info for each event. I also suggest including a list of local activities and restaurants that you recommend. Try to suggest things that are both unique to your location and easy to get to.

Finally, make sure that the hotel staff is just as informed as your guests. Provide the front desk with several copies of your schedule and any transportation information, just in case!

Meg Hotchkiss

Meg Hotchkiss is the founder and lead planner for LVR Events in New York City (and beyond), where she’s been making wedding magic happen for the better part of a decade. Her love of parties began when she helped plan her My Little Pony themed fourth birthday party, complete with real, live pony rides in the driveway. In her spare time, Meg loves taking random road trips with her husband and their two puppies, hunting for vintage treasures, and hosting epic dinner parties.

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  • kate

    SO HELPFUL. wish i’d had this when we booked our room block!

    • Awww. Sorry I didn’t write it sooner! Well, now you can be the super helpful friend who takes care of this for future weddings!! :)

      • kate

        haha, yep – exactly! :)

  • jspe

    I’ve pitched this before here, but we used Inmex, which does conference planning for Unions. It meant that the pricing was a bit on the higher side (high labor costs = higher prices) but we’ve got a super swanky hotel for $150/night. There are plenty of other hotels nearby that people could find for cheaper on their own, but it was nice to have. By playing two hotels off of eachother, we were able to get two parking passes (not more, sadly) and two free upgrades. So- no free room, but fancy suites for the same price as a regular room. Two hotels really hid that the blocks were closed – I strongly recommend reviewing the fine print.

    • Yes, Inmex is also a great option!! :)

  • Lauren from NH

    I am trying to figure out if I need to be worried about the check in time issue. Wedding is at 3:30PM, which is probably right around check in time, but all of our out of town guests will be in on Friday for the rehearsal dinner so for them it shouldn’t conflict. But since the wedding is 1.5-2hours out of our local area some other guest may get rooms. Is this worth worrying about?

    • laddibugg

      MAybe you can ask the hotel to allow early check-ins for people in your party if you can get an accurate head count? I do wonder how many people are going to plan in advance, and how many will just decide that day that they want a room.

      • jspe

        yup! I’ve found the hotel to be mostly accomodating because we are planning so far in advance. Don’t call the day before, but a month in advance and they can probably make it work.

    • Sarah E

      Doesn’t this fall under “trust your adult guests to be adults”? If I were going to a wedding two hours away and planning to stay overnight, I’d totally look up check-in time and plan accordingly.

      I say, don’t worry about.

      • Lauren from NH

        That’s my first thought, just re-reviewing it since the potential check in conflict had not occurred to me at all before reading this piece.

        • Lawyerette510

          I think trust them to be adults, and if you want to make their life a little easier, you can ask about the availability of early check-in. But generally people know what time check in is, and how to ask for early check-in if they need it, etc.

        • Potential check-in conflict is one of those things that no one tells you about and then all of a sudden, whoops! All the guests are late because of a mad rush at the front desk! In your situation, since your key people will all be checked in the day before, the hotel should be amenable to offering early check-in for the handful of people who may need it on the wedding day. But ultimately, this is one of those you can’t please all the people all the time scenarios, and yes, as Sarah E said, you’ve got to let them be grownups. Personally, when I’m traveling an hour or two to a wedding, I usually get the majority of myself together at home (i.e. hair/makeup) and then just slip into my fancy duds upon arrival so I don’t get wrinkled on the ride. The hotel is less for getting ready and more for postponing the drive home!

      • genevathene

        Yeah, at most, I would probably just make a quick note about check-in time on the wedding website to alleviate my own worries. But presumably, your adult guests are adults. :)

  • A.

    Put the prices on your website or no? My mom says it’s “gauche” to list them, but if it were me, I personally wouldn’t want to guess which block is more affordable, even if it should be “obvious based on the hotel type” aka Hilton v. Best Western (mom again). Plus, our BW block is still $150 because it’s an expensive area, so if people are thinking it will be more like $100-80, they may be in for a rude awakening.

    But if people, especially family members, really will think it’s tacky and my friends have shown no interest in the room blocks thus far (though I won’t be surprised to get a few panicked calls a week before the wedding…), is it just not worth it? Our invites are going out this week, so need to decide whether list or not.

    • jspe

      I think it’s been fine to put prices…if anyone thinks it is tacky, they haven’t told me. :-) Also, having a deadline for the room blocks has gotten people to RSVP, and given me a totally plausible reason to send a nudge without being too much of a pain (I think, at least). Like, “hey, RSVP because I’m nervous” isn’t great, but “hey, just a reminder that the hotel deadline is today” really got some people moving.

    • qj

      We listed the prices on the website, as well as when the blocks “expired.” To us, the website felt like a more “informational” space with the purpose of providing easily accessible information to our guests to make their lives easier as they travelled to our wedding. No one said anything about it being tacky or whatever (at least to us or our parents). :) And, for what it’s worth, no one seemed interested in the rooms until right before the block expired, and then folks snapped up 30 some-odd rooms in just a couple of days.

      ETA: Also, because the negotiated block prices might be less expensive than the rates they could find if they just looked online, it saves everyone else a phone call to inquire about the wedding rates.

    • Sarah E

      Idk, I just assumed people would click the link or google the hotel or something and find out prices before blindly making a reservation, since that’s what I would do.

      The hotel I blocked is unfortunately pricier than I would normally book, but we had limited options and the cheaper option didn’t call me back, so there you go.

    • We listed the nightly cost on our wedding, and I’ve seen it done that way at all the other weddings I’ve been invited to. Your website is the place to share need-to-know information, that’s definitely something folks need to know. I’d be annoyed if I had to click a link to find out the cost of the room.

      • A.

        Well and my guests have to actually CALL (horror of horrors) and that’s what would really piss me off – to have an awkward call with a hotel rep at the Hilton, just to find out that, oh, I can’t afford that. Oh, and now I have to call the BW just to find out that even the other option is STILL out of my price range and I just wasted a bunch of time.

        Maybe I’m answering my own questions here, but I am definitely getting a bit overthink-y about all the different ways people may find us rude, haaaaa.

        • Jules

          You are definitely overthinking it. In my experience, if they have a room block, it’s normal to have to call. Not all hotels have a fancy online system, plus not all of the online systems even WORK. It is a really nice thought to block the rooms, but past that, it’s on your guests. We sent out a friendly reminder to out of towners when we knew ours would expire and then left them to take care of themselves (contact us for questions). You can’t be holding yourself responsible for making sure no one has to pick up a phone.

    • CP

      I say put the prices on the website. My husband and I just booked a room for wedding we’re attending this summer. I was googling and trying to see if we could get a good deal, and it turned out the rate the couple had locked in was lower than any discount I was going to find. If I had seen the rate on their website, I would have known that and not wasted time.

      But I’d caution to be really clear on what the rate is for. If you have different types of rooms in your block and some types fill up, will guests no longer have rooms available at the lower price? (Does that make any sense?) I’d just double check with the hotel that you have the total cost and that it’s for all rooms.

    • kate

      i’ve seen the per night price listed with hotel info a lot and personally don’t think it’s tacky. but as a guest i also don’t have a problem extrapolating or googling to find out base rates of the different options listed and half the time i just go find my own hotel via priceline or something anyway, so i wouldn’t miss it if it wasn’t there either.

    • TeaforTwo

      Include it – that will make it easier on your guests, particularly if you have blocks at more than one hotel. (We booked one inexpensive hotel block and one more upscale one.)

      One particularly good reason to include it is that often the block rate isn’t the best rate that guests can find at that hotel. What they’re offering is that there is definitely going to be a certain number of rooms available, and that the price is guaranteed in case prices go up between now and then, but at almost every wedding I’ve travelled to, I’ve found a cheaper rate (usually a pre-paid rate, or an online discount) at the same hotel that was lower than the block rate.

      Posting the rate helps your guests do their research.

    • I don’t think it’s an issue to put the pricing on the website. I wouldn’t put it on the printed invites, but as Jubilance said, the website is the place to share info such as this! As CP mentioned, be clear on what the rates are – if you have different categories of rooms at varying price points, you can edit the first suggested phrasing as such: We’ve reserved a block of rooms at Notell Motel at a special rate starting at $XXX per night. You can reserve one of these rooms by calling …..

    • Greta

      It’s definitely not tacky – I use the prices all the time for friends’ weddings. How else would you know which hotel you want to stay at? I feel like it’s putting a big burden on your wedding guests to force them to call 2 or 3 different hotels just to find out their prices, and then make a decision about where they want to stay, and call back again. If a wedding website didn’t have the prices of the block, I probably would just find my own.

  • qj

    Such good advice!! Something we suggested to the hotel but wished we’d insisted on was that the suite we rented as a “hospitality suite” (aka where folks came for drinks and snacks on Friday & Saturday nights) be surrounded by the block of rooms for the wedding. While we assumed this was the case (the vast majority of the rooms were on the same floor), the hotel unfortunately booked a non-wedding-related family with two babies right next to the suite. While everyone was quiet and respectful, the conversational buzz and in-and-out activity were understandably disruptive for that family, and the whole situation could have been prevented if the hotel had savvily blocked off the rooms immediately around the suite as wedding-related rooms (there were 30 some-odd rooms, so it should have been quite possible).

    • Eh

      This actually happened at my cousins wedding too. My aunt had booked a hospitality suit to host guests after the rehearsal on the Friday night. The hotel was constantly getting complaints from two families who were right near the suit (people talking in the hallways as they were going between their rooms and the suit, doors opening and closing). When I checked out on the Sunday one of the families was checking out at the same time. The clerk was apologizing for the family’s bad experience at the hotel and gave them a discount.

      • qj

        Bummer. I get why the families might be frustrated in both examples; it’s just such an easily-avoidable problem if the hotel can surround the suite with wedding guests’ rooms (who probably will be in the suite anyhow!

        • Eh

          My impression as to why that couldn’t happen for my cousins wedding was the types of rooms in the block vs type of rooms on that floor. The rooms on that floor were either two rooms suits or rooms with king size beds (I think only three or four rooms on that floor where blocked for the wedding). My cousin didn’t block a lot of those since they are not as popular as rooms with two queens (and there were none of those on that floor).

          • qj

            Ahhh, yes. This makes sense. It wasn’t the case with ours, but totally makes sense as to why that happened!

          • JessSC7879

            One factor that some guests forget about (or simply aren’t aware of since they aren’t in the hotel business) is the stay-over guests in the hotel.

            Example: If the hotel originally thought Guest A was checking out Friday morning from the room right next to the hospitality suite being used for Guest B’s wedding, but Guest A unexpectedly decided to stay over until Sunday morning, that’s a situation beyond the hotel’s control. Most hotels do their dead-level best not to move a guest mid-stay unless there is a major reason for doing so. A lot of hotels don’t assign rooms until the day before (or even the morning of arrival) for just the reason I mentioned above. It keeps them from having to unassign and re-assign rooms unneccessarily.

            I can understand where it’s frustrating on the part of Guest A and Guest B, but the hotel can only make so many changes and still stay within the floor/room type/proximity to other guest requirements. It’s a delicate balance that doesn’t always fall in favor of everyone. Sucks, but sometimes, those are the breaks.

  • Eh

    I thought I was really on the ball with blocking hotel rooms. There are only two hotels (both well known chains) in the town we got married (plus two independent motels). I made blocks at both hotels. Right after our invitations went out a friend sent me a message saying that there were no rooms available at either hotel under our name. I called both hotels – one confirmed that our block was full and the other said they had no block under our name and they had two blocks for other weddings that weekend so they had no rooms available. I was furious since I had notes saying how many rooms we had blocked at each hotel including the type of room and the price. The manager told me that woman who normally manages the blocks (the woman I talked to months earlier) was away but that they would try to work something out. They asked the other two parties if they could give up a few rooms (so we did end up getting a couple of rooms at that hotel). And then on top of that we blocked rooms at one of the motels (as a back up – no one ended up staying there).

    Another thing to be careful with is what happens when a guest cancels a room that was in your block. My step-sister cancelled her reservation (as she decided to share a room with my other step-sister) and my sister tried to book the same room (she called shortly after the room reservation was cancelled). When my sister called the hotel said they had already give the room to someone else (from another party). (In hindsight my step-sister and sister should have just changed names on the room instead.)

    We purposely went with well known chains (not that we had a choice since there were only two hotels in town) with the hopes that they would have some sort of standards. The one that lost our block did not have good reviews but it was also an older building (and in the process of being renovated – most of the complaints were regarding either noise or grunginess/oldness). Shortly after our wedding the hotel changed it’s name (it was downgraded to a lower quality brand in the same family of chains) and then about two months after our wedding the hotel actually had a fire.

  • Janelle

    I forget which board site I found them from, but my wedding is in about a month and I used JC Room Blocks from all of the positive reviews. They’ve been very timely with emails and helpful in the planning process along the way.. they gave me a few different options close to my venue and the fee was only $30 for the service. Highly recommended, as I had absolutely zero idea of what to do when it came to room blocks. The wedding planning stage is now crunch time for me, but I’m happy that I used their service and I got it out of the way.

  • notquitecece

    This was seriously the most annoying part of planning our whole wedding, and while we did it for good reasons (we wanted elderly relatives staying somewhere central, with other guests), I would say: AVOID IF POSSIBLE. Often, block rates are worse than what you can find on normal travel sites, and the worry about potentially being responsible for unbooked rooms is not worth it (for guaranteed blocks, obviously, which may be the only option if you live in a tourist destination city like us).

    Also, don’t be afraid to point out to them that the rate they’re giving you is higher than other advertised rates (or comparable hotels). My husband talked them down quite a bit this way, which was helpful.

    • Jules

      But if you can get an open / courtesy block, you really have nothing to lose by doing so. If a guest doesn’t want to stay in the room block at the price listed, they don’t have to, and you lose nothing. I don’t normally go to the room in the block because it’s always the cheapest; I go because it makes coordinating with other guests easier and because I don’t feel like trying to find $20 in savings at somewhere convenient to the wedding. If I were bothered by the rate, I just would book elsewhere.

      I will say this: I would err on the side of caution. You might think that nothing major is going on that weekend, but you forgot about football/baseball/basketball season, or there’s a parents’ weekend at the university, or a major convention (that’s not in your field, so you don’t know about it…). When you’re caught up in the wedding, it’s especially easy to forget to consider every possible scenario and it’s better to call and release rooms rather than go “oh SH*T!” three months out.

      • notquitecece

        I think you’re right, especially for small towns or rural areas — but for big cities, it just might not make sense. (For instance, where we live, staying in a small BnB or an AirBnb would make WAY more sense and be much cheaper than staying in a big downtown hotel.)

        Mostly I was commenting to say: if it doesn’t make sense for your crowd/location, don’t do it! People will be okay if there are lots of options for where to stay!

        And +++++ to Meg’s suggestion about outsourcing it.

        • Eh

          My friend (who lives in a city) got married the same weekend as a large political convention and some other smaller things and it was almost impossible for the out of town guests (which was all of the groom’s side) to find hotel rooms. They had assumed that since they live in a city and there are lots of hotels that it wasn’t a big deal until some friends started calling them and mentioning that they couldn’t find any hotels in the core of the city and that they might need to stay in the suburbs. (At that pointed they Googled their wedding date and found all of these events.)

          We got married in a small town and I thought it wouldn’t have been a problem (especially since we got married in October – so it was after wedding and tourist seaon) but it turns out that there were two other weddings that weekend and very limited hotel rooms in the town.

          • notquitecece

            Yeah, I think it depends a lot on the wedding — and your crowd! Like I said, we wound up reserving a block because of extended family who do best in hotels. But most of our younger guests (or slightly less traditional older guests) would have been happier in AirBnBs or other non-chain options. AND that would have put them closer to the venue, because there are so few hotels in our neighborhood.

            Maybe this is just a Bay Area problem, though. :) Everybody everywhere else ignore me!

          • Jules

            I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong. I definitely wouldn’t put money down on a block if there was a chance that people would want to airbnb or do something different. But I just still think you have nothing to lose by doing a courtesy block at a few hotels. Stuff happens – other weddings, conventions, etc. Even for Houston, rates during certain weekends skyrocket during OTC and we hosted part of March Madness this year. None of this is common knowledge (it’s not uncommon though…)!

            Worst case – they release the rooms, and people who didn’t book on time will have to figure something out and you (or someone) wasted a few hours.

          • Yup! There are always going to be people who want to stay at X Brand because they have points, or an AirBnb because a group of people want to bunk together, or they’re going to stay in a certain area of the city because they’re making a vacation out of the trip…. You’ve got to just let them do them. However, the courtesy/open block is a wonderful thing for your guests who are just too busy to research anything or generally feel more comfortable in a chain hotel. I find particularly in a larger city, the hotel block also serves as a notice to the less adventurous that “yes, this is a safe/family friendly/OK part of town”… And if you’re really just setting it up as a backup option, it will take hardly any time (i.e. no negotiating for perks, etc.). You could probably have it done in under an hour.

          • notquitecece

            That’s awesome — that sounds amazing (can we go back in time and have you deal with this for us?!). For us, it was a time-suck (again-again, because of location), and a tremendous source of stress.

            I just DON’T recommend scrambling on Christmas Eve to make sure you can hit the required number of rooms on a closed block before the Boxing-Day deadline the hotel imposed.

            Sidenote: I had no idea people felt so pro-hotel-block! In the planning process, the coordinator we talked to basically said “this is not a good deal for you or your guests in this area”, so I thought it was becoming a slightly more optional thing.

          • Awww. That sucks! And yes, good point to add – try to keep your cutoff date away from major holidays!

            It’s a totally optional thing. Sometimes I strongly suggest it to my couples, sometimes it’s not worth it. Totally depends on the scenario & what the couple hopes to accomplish.

          • qj

            The “safe place to stay” thing was a factor for us, with a ton of out of town guests who were a little nervous about staying in a city (and a range of similarly priced hotels available in the area that were in various states of brand-new-and-lovely and eh-run-down), so blocking off a couple of spaces in the city and in the ‘burbs (closer to the wedding, which was out in the country) was something a bunch of people found helpful when narrowing down brands/neighborhoods/etc. so they didn’t have to do the research! :)

          • I can’t tell you how many phone calls/emails I get from my couples’ moms – inquiring as to the safety of Brooklyn & Queens.

          • notquitecece

            Some places just don’t have open blocks — this was never an options for downtown SF hotels, because of the volume of conferences/etc.

            We booked a pretty conservative block size, and found ourselves needing to ask for deadline extensions, paying for some guests’ rooms (for a bunch of reasons), and basically asking people to stay there.

            Again, that worked out for us — but I wanted to be a lone voice saying “THIS ISN’T REQUIRED” here in the comments, in case someone came along with those instincts. Do what works for your guests/circumstances — like many wedding things, this is absolutely not required, and if you think your crowd can find places to stay in your city, you may be right.

          • Jules

            Aaaaand that’s where I’m saying, if you can’t, then don’t!

            Even if it’s open, it’s not a “requirement”. It’s just nice if you can.

          • Oh, TOTALLY NOT REQUIRED!!!!

            I find myself sounding like a broken record pretty often telling my clients that NOTHING outside of the couple, the license and an officiant/witnesses is required! I often have couples in the NYC area that opt not to do a hotel block, and to my knowledge, no one walks away saying “Oh, that wedding would’ve been amazing if only they reserved a block of rooms at the Embassy Suites”.

            If it’s feasible to do a courtesy/open block, awesome! If it’s not, people will deal with it. For some weddings it makes total sense. For other weddings it makes no sense. As with anything wedding related, there’s no one size fits all solution. :)

          • notquitecece

            Yes, exactly — and for us, even the closed block turned out okay in the end, despite all the hassle.

          • :) glad it worked out.

          • Eh

            I agree about the knowing your guests. I have used AirBnB (actually we did for our honeymoon) but it’s not popular among my family/friends (I doubt any of them have used it). Only one of my friends would have preferred a BnB over a hotel but there were limited options where we got married (I actually stayed in a BnB the night before the wedding so I didn’t have to be in the hotel with my family). I figured if she didn’t want to stay in a hotel she could book that herself. Most of my family and friends prefer to stay in chains because they have an idea of the quality. As Jules mentioned if it’s a Open block (which ours were) there is no risk for you.

        • Sarah

          Big city wedding haver here and I am now SO GLAD I made an open block. Taylor Swift is playing on the same night as our wedding and now everything is sold out right when people are booking their rooms. Its nutsssssss.

  • K Robertson

    I would definitely say know your people! We had a lot of extended family travelling and everyone gets along and stays in touch, so we chose a hotel that was all suites so that families would be able could share the space/price of the rooms. It also had free meals and a big common gathering place where everyone could visit. We were going for a family reunion vibe with the wedding, so everyone got to spend a lot of time together and it was really perfect for us. We were also really lucky in that the staff was absolutely amazing and accommodating with our big, noisy group!

    That said, this would definitely not have worked for all situations. Our parents were a really good resource in making this particular choice because they were the ones talking to aunts/uncles/cousins/etc… In fact, I delegated the whole hotel thing to my amazing MIL who really wanted to help with the wedding and absolutely nailed it.

    • Exactly! This is a really great task to outsource to the family members who want to help out! I’d just suggest going over your must-haves in terms of type/price/perks/location & letting them have at it!

    • Eh

      One of the reasons we booked two hotels was because we were hoping to separate some of my family that does not get along. I strongly suggested that my one aunt/uncle stay with her (adult) children at the hotel my other aunt/uncle were not staying. My aunt insisted on staying at the same hotel because my father/step-mum and brother/SIL were staying at that hotel so she “knew” people at that hotel. I pointed out that my sister was staying at the other hotel. My aunts have not talked in years so of course they ended up in rooms right next to each other and this aunt held a party in her room the night before our wedding and after the reception. My other aunt was very upset by the whole situation.

      My sister was married the summer after me and my aunt who through the party in her room refused to go because my wedding was too awkward for her and my sister’s would have been worse since my other aunt’s children and grandchildren were coming.

    • weddinghelper

      I had https://hotelweddingblocks.com… find me hotels for my wedding in New York and it was awesome!

      Got me rates quickly and for amazing prices! My guests were super happy!

      Highly recommend!

  • Elizabeth

    This is all insanely helpful info that I did not even bother to look up when the time came. I was like, *STRESS*STRESS*STRESS*AVOID*AVOID*

    I ended up pointing all my guests towards Airbnb. Ha! #lazygirl

    • Britta

      I wish I had gone the #lazygirl route- I worked with 2 hotels, got 20 rooms, and only ONE ROOM was booked! Everyone preferred airbnb for the area (beachy, expensive hotels, lots of events eg marathons) anyway. Which I get, and would do myself if I were a guest. It only took about ~2hr of my time in total though, and it was open/courtesy/no fee, so could be worse. I think these blocks also may be partly generational – my dad was the one who suggested we do it as it’s ‘customary’…

  • jubeee

    Getting married in the Philly area the weekend of the Papal visit? Guess what, you’re shit outta luck

    • You know, he’s so inconsiderate to come to the east coast during wedding season! ;) Send your info to out of towners as early as possible, if you haven’t already. Let them know the deal & that it’s important to book early wherever they can find space. Also it may be worthwhile for you to consider reserving a block somewhere a little further out in the burbs & having transportation available.

      • jubeee

        Oh Darling, I’m getting married 45 minutes north of the city….the rooms are booked or are astronomical. We thought we solved the problem by making our home a b&b for our friends (we got a b&b 5 minutes from the site before the pope made his announcement) but now his father is moving which leaves a hole for them and for some of his family that would be staying with them. I feel awful that people will need to spend $350 a night for a holiday inn in central jersey :(

        • Oy vey. Are you getting married in Bucks County? Tell them all to stay in North Jersey & pool their money to rent a party bus to get to the wedding – it will be cheaper (and depending on the crowd, could be fun as AF).

          • jubeee

            Yes, in New Hope….

          • Did you check out Princeton & New Brunswick? Honestly, even as far north as Morristown could work. On the plus side, New Hope is particularly gorgeous at that time of year! :)

    • Sarah

      Taylor Swift is playing a concert down the street from our hotel/venue on the night of our wedding :( The hotel situation has already become an issue and we HAVE a block and we let everyone know about the wedding 6+ months in advance. But of course nobody booked and many people STILL haven’t.

  • kira

    I opened APW specifically to search to see if this had been covered and lo and behold, it’s on the front page. APW, you get me. <3

  • Kara Davies

    We didn’t bother blocking hotel rooms. We let guests know where a few reasonable priced hotels were in the greater area of our wedding location and let them figure it out for themselves. Far as I know, every out of towner had a bed and they arranged it themselves. Some hotelled, some crashed with local rellies, some drove in and out. No worries, no dramas, and I didn’t need to involve myself with any of it! Win win.

  • AnneBonny

    Thank you for this! There was an INSANE post on this on The Knot recently saying you wanted a HIGH attrition rate and a LOW shrinkage rate. I commented saying, “Don’t you mean the other way around? My hotel’s giving us 0% attrition/100% shrinkage and I’m told that’s pretty standard.” They disabled/deleted all comments on that post. WTF!

  • JessSC7879

    Hotel GM chiming in here with a few more pieces of advice:

    Talk with your guests ahead of time as to what TYPE of rooms they will need (standard, suite, king, queen, adjoining, etc.). It’s much easier for the sales person to quote a rate (or rates) if they know what kind and approximately how many rooms you need of each type.

    Second, be reasonable with the rate you’re expecting. Busy hotel weekends with a guaranteed sell-out are probably not going to get you a 75% discount (or any discount for that matter). Be flexible and be willing to negotiate. Check if your wedding falls on a major event in your town.

    Will your wedding block be rooming list only (i.e., where YOU tell the hotel who has permission to book out of the block) or an individual call-in (i.e., anyone can get a room out of the block as long as they know the wedding name or block code)? If you make it rooming list only, be aware that you are authorizing the hotel to turn away anyone that is not on your list from getting a room out of that block. Normal rate rooms may still be available. Aunt Sally may get a little huffy, but the hotel will only do what you tell them to do with your block.

    Lastly, the cut-off date is the cut-off date. It is YOUR responsibility to let everyone know about the cut-off date, NOT the hotel’s. If you call a week in advance and ask for a small booking extension, most are willing to work with you if they can. If you call 3 days after the cut-off and pop attitude, don’t be surprised with a firm “nope, you’re out of luck” even if there are plenty of rooms in the hotel.

    As the OP stated, be prepared to negotiate, but be aware that negotiation does not necessarily mean the hotel gives you everything you ask for. Compromise is the name of the game. Happy hotel hunting!!

  • Judy Allen

    We used Roomblocker for our wedding. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

    At first, I tried contacting hotels by myself. After spending half a day on the phone with different hotels and complaining to friends about how unnecessarily tedious the whole process is, one of my friends told me about these sites that make it a whole lot simpler. I spent the rest of the day researching the dizzying array of options out there and thought I’d share.

    It’s pretty easy to submit a form and get hotels to respond with rates. But then you’ll still need to go back and forth with the hotel several times, likely over phone/fax. Then after you sign the contract, you need to be careful about deadlines, making sure guests book in time.

    Most these sites drop you off after the contract is signed. Roomblocker gives you a custom reservation site for guests as well as a dashboard to see who’s booked already and how many rooms are left.

    It doesn’t cost anything, so it seemed like an obvious choice for me. If you do decide to do everything yourself, keep in mind your guests would likely have to call the hotel to reserve their rooms, then you’d have to call the hotel along the way to find out how many rooms you still need to fill. Not the best experience for you or your guests.

    Anyhow, hope this helps someone out there!

    http://www.roomblocker.com

  • MeggMarie

    Kleinfeld Wedding Block service is amazing and **FREE**! It may have been already mentioned but they were incredibly helpful and set everything up down to just what we needed in the contract. They give you a spreadsheet of the best rates. I tried a few of the wedding block services out there and Kleinfeld was able to get the best rates and was the easiest to use.

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  • weddinghelper

    I had https://hotelweddingblocks.com/ find me hotels for my wedding in New York and it was awesome!

    Got me rates quickly and for amazing prices! My guests were super happy!

    Highly recommend!

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