Freebie Friday :: Hotel Room Blocks

Don't ya just love the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo?? Image by Anna Delores Photography

Don't ya just love the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo?? Image by Anna Delores Photography

Sure, my blog is my own little corner of bragger town where I showcase my recent (and not so recent) work, but I'd also like it to be a super helpful resource for my clients and others who happen upon it in search of wedding guidance. In the spirit of adding more helpful nuggets to the blog, I'm implementing "Freebie Friday," when I'll give free advice on a particular wedding planning topic. If there's a specific topic you'd like me to talk about, leave a comment below with your questions and I'll post on it next week!

This week, I'm talking about guest hotel room blocks. These can be daunting and confusing (sometimes even for me), but the trick is to do your homework, be diligent, and read the fine print. Ask your venue or planner what hotels they recommend in the area, but if that isn't fruitful, do a good old fashion google maps search to find accommodation near your venue. If you're providing wedding-day transportation for your guests, you can also consider properties in a fun area nearby where guests might enjoy walking around, shops, and restaurants. The goal is to find accommodation options at 2 or more price points; think Best Western, Hyatt, and Four Seasons. This gives your guests an option to stay on a budget or to splurge for the weekend.

So what's the point of a room block? Room blocks ensure that your out-of-town guests have accommodations reserved for them when they move forward with reservations for your wedding. Let's say you're getting married over 4th of July weekend in Laguna Beach, California. Your guests will be in biiiig trouble if they decide to make reservations in June when they send in their RSVP card, but with a block, there will be rooms set aside for the busy weekend. 

There are different kinds of blocks and different properties have different policies... this is where the confusing part comes in. First, we'll discuss the courtesy block. A courtesy block is just that, a courtesy to you from the hotel and is offered at no charge. As a courtesy, they'll set aside a block of rooms (usually no more than 10) under your event name ("bride's last name-groom's last name"). Your guests will call the hotel directly to reserve and pay for a room under the event name until all 10 rooms are booked. When your 10 rooms are booked, most hotels are willing to add another 10, based on availability, and so on.  

The catch with a courtesy block is the "based on availability" part and the cutoff date. Because this kind of block is offered at no charge to you, the hotel has to be sure that they haven't reserved rooms that won't be paid for. To avoid this, the hotel will release your block of rooms back into their general inventory, meaning, your block is no longer reserved. Depending on the property, this usually happens 4-8 weeks prior to your event date. So, if you're getting married on 4th of July weekend and have a courtesy block at a local hotel, your guests will need to make their reservations by May/June in order to take advantage of those you've set aside. 

What if you want guests to be able to book their rooms up until the last minute or you want to ensure your group has access to more rooms all at once? Well, then you might incur some financial responsibility, but you'll also likely score a better room rate for your guests as well. Instead of a courtesy block, you can ask about a contracted room block, which is often for more rooms (usually a minimum of 20 rooms or 40 room nights. Hotels like to talk in "room nights" which to the rest of us would be 20 rooms for 2 nights). You'll sign a contract for those rooms stating that if guests don't book them, you'll be financially responsible. Now, I know that sounds scary, but ask/read about the hotel's attrition rate... (I never said this would be simple.) 

In hotel block speak, the attrition rate is basically the percentage of room nights that you're actually responsible for. Let's say you sign a contract for 40 room nights and the attrition rate is 50%. If you have 10 guests make reservations for 2 nights, your block has booked 20 room nights and therefore has satisfied your financial responsibility. Way to go wedding guests!  

However, if the attrition rate is 80% and you've blocked 20 rooms for 2 nights (or 40 room nights) and you have 10 guests that stay 2 nights (or 20 room nights), that means that you're stuck picking up the tab for 12 room nights (80% of 40 is 32. 32 - 20 = 12... wedding planner and mathematician!)  In this case, let's hope you're not getting married 4th go July weekend in Laguna Beach or those 12 rooms are going to seriously cut into your budget. Yikes. 

Both block options have pros and cons so it's important to think about your guest list, how many people will be traveling to your wedding and what you're comfortable with in terms of financial responsibility. As I mentioned, every hotel property is different so keep that in mind if you speak with a hotel property that does things a little differently that I've described. Here are a few things to ask when inquiring about/setting up a room block for your guests:

1) Will I be financially responsible for any of these rooms if they go unbooked?

2) If so, what exactly am I responsible for? What is the attrition rate?

2) When is the cut off date for my guests to book?

4) What discount will my guests receive with this block?

5) Can my guests book their rooms online with a code or only by calling the reservation line?

You should aim to have your room blocks set before you send out save-the-dates so that you can include the accommodation information on your save-the-date (or on your website that's listed on your save-the-date!) So for all you newly engaged fiancés and fiancees, now's the perfect time to get started!

I hope that clears things up a little on the hotel room block front. Have a wedding planning question that you'd like me to answer/discuss??? Leave a comment below and I'll chat about it next Freebie Friday!