What do I need to know about Wedding Room Blocks?
You should book your wedding room blocks soon after you contract your wedding venue. Some areas have very limited options (I’m looking at you, Loudoun County, please build some more hotels – preferably ones that are taller than 4 stories!) so you will need to move quickly, before they stop offering wedding room blocks. For example, currently I am planning a wedding that is 12 months away, and we are getting turned down by hotels as already being “sold out.” In truth, those hotels aren’t actually sold out. But they are limiting the number of rooms offered to wedding blocks – especially if your event isn’t on their property.
Of course there are many things to consider – the travel time between the hotel(s) and your venue(s), the room rate budget of your guests, the getting- ready suite available to you for the morning of the wedding day; as well as the ability to host other wedding events (such as a Sunday brunch) at your potential hotel room block options. You will also want to consider what type of room block is best for you. There are two types of room block: courtesy and commitment.
Courtesy Room Blocks
A courtesy block is a limited number of rooms set aside only for your wedding guests, and you have no financial obligation to fill those rooms. You will likely get a small discount on the room rate. There will be an expiration date (usually a month before the wedding) on a courtesy block, and after that date any rooms not booked will be released back to the hotel’s regular inventory. If you fill up your courtesy block before the deadline, you may be able to add more rooms if the hotel has the inventory. The additional rooms may not be at the original rate if the hotel is projected to sell out for your weekend. Courtesy blocks are often smaller so you might need to contract with more than one hotel to accommodate all your guests. Most of my clients pursue this type of room block, and it serves them well.
Commitment Room Blocks
A commitment block includes a contracted financial requirement on your side—you will be guaranteeing that the hotel receives a certain amount of revenue from your block of guest rooms. This is called attrition, and can be anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the total number of rooms provided in the contract. You will want to clarify if your attrition rate is applicable for each room night (like you need to fill 90% of Friday night and 90% of Saturday night,) or applicable to the total number of rooms booked overall (90% of all nights.) It is better to have it for the latter, because you will have more rooms booked on the actual night of the wedding than the nights before or after. If possible, negotiate that any dates your guests book outside the block time frame (we call these shoulder dates – often Thursday or Sunday nights while your block is typically just Friday and Saturday nights) also count toward your attrition. There is also an expiration date on this type of block – so you really need to make sure your guests book their rooms before the deadline – otherwise you could be on the financial hook. Some couples agree to a commitment block because they need a very large number of rooms—larger than a courtesy block would include, which can sometimes be limited to 10 rooms. Other times, couples want to use a particular hotel, and that hotel only offers commitment blocks.
Negotiating Your Room Blocks
Some “considerations” to negotiate for when contracting for a room block: free or reduced parking, free in-room wifi, a free wedding-night suite, discounted room upgrades for your parents, and a resort-fee waiver. Remember to specify a mix of king and queen beds based on your group’s demographics.
Don’t want to deal with all this on your own? No worries! There is a free service called Where Will They Stay that will help you with your room blocks! I have been using this service for years, and can tell you with certainty that they get better rates than when I call the hotel myself to request a block. Their network, relationships and buying power is international!
Need more wedding planning help? I’ve got your back on many topics, such as how to properly set your wedding table or how to write your wedding ceremony from scratch or how much a DAR wedding costs? I hope you find those topics useful too!