A crucial part of a great wedding experience for any guest is a comfortable, convenient place to rest their head at the end of the night. If guests aren’t familiar with where you’re getting hitched, they’re going to want help figuring out where to stay. And while you could play travel agent for every single attendee, there is an easier way: the hotel block.
What Is a Hotel Room Block?
A hotel block is a set of hotel rooms that has been set aside for a group or event at an agreed upon rate. The smallest block typically starts at ten rooms.
By pre-negotiating rates at a pre-chosen hotel, you’ll save loved ones time and money while they attend your wedding—and ensure they’ll be surrounded by other attendees so the good times can extend before and after the reception. While you’ll definitely want to coordinate a hotel block if a large segment of guests are coming from out-of-town or you’re planning a destination wedding, it’s also a good idea even if most guests are local.
“Everyone today is looking to further their experiences,” says Victoria Ayers of Cescaphe Event Group. “Sometimes people want to stay overnight and make the wedding weekend an extended getaway.”
Meet the Expert
Victoria Ayers is the Director of Client Services at Philadelphia’s Cescaphe Event Group. Victoria and her team help couples navigate the wedding planning process and book over 800 room blocks annually on behalf of their couples.
Ready to start coordinating a hotel block for your wedding? Read on for everything you need to know, including how to get the best rates and tips for scoring upgrades.
How to Book a Hotel Room Block
1. Determine how many rooms you’ll need.
This depends on your guest list. “Figure out how many people are traveling in from out of town that are going to attend,” says Ayers. “If 50 percent of your guest list is traveling, try to match that percentage.” As most guests travel in couples or bunk up with friends, you’ll want about half the number of rooms for the total number of guests who will need them, plus a little buffer. For example: If you have a 200-person guest list with 50 to 60 percent of guests traveling for the celebration, you’ll want to hold space for about 120 guests. That equates to 60 rooms, but don’t worry about it being perfect “If not everyone needs a room, the bridal party or other friends and family will fill in,” Ayers adds.
2. Determine how many blocks you’ll need.
Once you know your room number, you can figure out how many blocks to book. Block sizes vary from hotel to hotel, but they’re usually between 10 and 30 rooms, with larger hotels offering larger blocks. Per Ayers, blocks at corporate chains such as Marriott and Hilton typically don’t go above 25, and she rarely sees anything above 30 unless it’s a privately owned property.
3. Shop around for the best rates.
Ayers recommends calling 3 to 5 hotels in the area to determine the lowest rates. “You’ll be surprised by how much they can vary,” she says. “The size of the hotel, if they already have groups booked for your date, convention, or major event traffic … it can all impact room price.”
Be sure to note when a quoted rate is set to expire. “A hotel typically only guarantees a rate for about two weeks,” says Ayers. After that, there's a good chance it will increase.
4. Be clear on your agreement.
Go with a courtesy block whenever possible. “A courtesy block is just as it sounds,” says Ayers. “A courtesy that the hotel is offering you.” With a courtesy block, you won’t be financially liable for any rooms in your block that don’t fill. After a certain cut-off date, the hotel will release the unsold rooms from the block and make them available to other guests. If you ask to reserve a number of rooms well above the hotel’s allotted block size—like, say, 50 when the standard block size is 25—the hotel may ask to sign off on an attrition rate. In this case, you will be financially responsible for any rooms up to a certain percentage of that larger block that doesn’t fill.
Attrition rates vary, but, per Ayers, they typically hover around 80 percent. For a requested block of 50 rooms, that would mean your party would be required to fill 40. If your party only fills 35, you, as the creator of the block, would be required to pay for the remaining five rooms. Courtesy blocks typically do not require a hard contract, but a hotel may opt for a contract or they may take down your payment information if an attrition rate is involved.
5. Get the word out.
Once you’ve secured your hotel block, you’ll want to add the information to your wedding website. If you’re sending out paper invitation suites, you can also include the details on an accommodations card insert. Here's one way to word the announcement:
For your convenience, a block of rooms has been reserved at [HOTEL NAME.] Please use the following link to reserve your room online; you can also call the hotel directly at [PHONE NUMBER]. Please reference the [LAST NAME] Wedding and be sure to book your room by [CUTOFF DATE] in order to receive the discounted rate.
A hotel block typically opens one year prior and closes about 30 days before your wedding date.
Tips for Booking a Hotel Room Block
Book as early as possible.
As in, as soon as you’ve locked in your wedding venue and date. Not only will this secure the lowest rates possible for your guests, but it will also allow guests to make travel plans as soon as they receive their Save-the-Dates.
Be strategic about location.
While your hotel blocks should be convenient to your venue (in a city, 15 to 20 minutes away from where you’re marrying is ideal), it’s actually more important that they be close to each other. “That way, if you’re hosting a brunch or an after-party it’s easy for people to get to the location,” says Ayers. “Or, if you’re offering transportation to the wedding, the [bus or trolley] only has to make one stop that people can meet at. It saves time in the long run.”
Negotiate for the best rates.
“If you’re choosing between two hotel blocks, be open with the salesperson,” says Ayers. “Ask if they can add rooms to the block or drop the rate. It’s not guaranteed, but definitely worth asking if you’re having a hard time deciding.” In Ayer’s experience, there can be some wiggle room between $10 and $30 on rates, and flexibility of up to five additional rooms on a block.
You should also inquire about deals for you and your spouse (some hotels will comp a couple’s room on their wedding night as part of the block incentive) as well as discounted rates for auxiliary events held at the hotel before and after the main celebration. “If you book a brunch at the time you book the block, you can ask for a 10 percent discount at booking,” Ayers offers as an example.
Know the magic words for perks.
When a hotel gets back to you with their rates, ask if they offer “any special concessions based on the pickup.”
“A hotel will know what you mean by that,” says Ayers, who explains that “concessions” are special perks given to a couple for hitting a percentage of rooms booked (the “pickup”) within their block. The pickup is usually high—around 90 percent—and perks can vary. What Ayers often sees is an upgraded suite for both sets of the couples’ parents, or the ability to book a suite at a standard room rate.
If you’re willing to get a little crafty—and you’re confident in the number of rooms your party will book—pickup concessions can also be another reason to go with more than one block. If you know you’ll book 90 percent of your block at each hotel, you can spread those perks to more wedding VIPs, like grandparents or members of the bridal party.
Hotel Room Block Etiquette
What should the price point difference be for my hotel blocks?
If you’re going to book more than one block, it’s a good idea to be considerate of all budgets. While some attendees might be excited to splurge on a 5-star boutique property, others might need something more economical. When choosing your blocks, you’ll want at least a $40 to $50 difference in rates, especially if your more expensive hotel runs over $200 per night.
Who pays for the hotel rooms?
“Whoever is booking the room should pay for the room,” says Ayers. Meaning it is not the couple’s or the host of the wedding’s responsibility to cover lodging for guests.
What’s the best way to hand out welcome bags?
There are two common ways to get welcome bags to your guests:
- Have the front desk agent hand out bags directly to your wedding guests at check-in. This is usually a complimentary service.
- Have the bags delivered directly to your guests’ rooms. This is a more luxurious way to present them, no doubt, but it usually comes with a cost—per Ayers, a $3 to $8 fee per room.
You can call a hotel at any time ahead of the wedding to review and/or update your rooming list. Guests may have booked using credit card points or a third-party website instead of directly with your block, so they might not be on the list to receive a welcome bag.