How to Book a Hotel Room Block for Wedding Guests

hotel room block_bride and groom with wedding guestsJust about every wedding stands to benefit from a hotel block. Beyond just getting your guests a discount, setting up a room block at a hotel near your wedding ceremony and reception site gives your guests peace of mind. Guests traveling from out of town probably don’t know your city very well, and they’ll have no idea where to stay. By setting up a block, you’re giving some much-needed guidance and some well-researched choices. After all, your guests are spending the money and taking the time to get to your wedding; booking a block shows you appreciate the effort by doing as much of the organizational work as you can ahead of time.

Having all your guests stay in one conveniently located hotel also makes everything easier for everyone. Your directionally challenged uncle can pair up with a cousin who will make sure he gets to the ceremony on time. Everyone is sure to be close to the venue and able to ask each other questions so they don’t have to bother the bride and groom or the wedding party on the big day. They’re all coming to see you get married, but a bonus is that they get to see each other, and a block makes sure they can make the most of that.

The 5 Ws of Wedding Hotel Room Blocks

  • Who: Wedding guests, bridal party, and family who are coming into town for the wedding
  • What: A section of rooms, often in the same part of the hotel, that are discounted or given a group rate
  • Where: Any hotel you want!
  • When: Typically Friday and Saturday nights if it’s a Saturday wedding, but each block can be negotiated to fit your needs
  • Why: So wedding guests can get a great discount and have rooms close to each other for convenience/bonding/merriment purposes

Finding the Perfect Hotel(s)

Finding a hotel for your guests to stay at can be a daunting venture. Some things you should consider when you’re choosing a hotel:

  • Budget: You want to be considerate of your guests’ budget when picking a hotel. Many hotels will allow you to pick out rooms at a variety of price points (more on that later), which is ideal for making sure everyone has a great experience. (Note: it’s also a good idea to recommend a number of hotels at different price points, even if you don’t arrange a room block with each one. This will ensure everyone has some options on where to stay that will work with their budget.)
  • Style: When booking something for a large group, your best bet is always a major hotel chain. They’ll have a predictable room and experience that everyone understands, they’re easy to communicate with, and they’re sure to meet expectations.
  • Location: As close to the action as possible is best! Your guests are in town just for your wedding and they’ve already traveled to get there. Make things easy by finding something that makes getting to the venue convenient.
  • Amenities: Maybe you want a pool for your little cousins or free Wi-Fi for the bridesmaids. Be sure to scan the amenities before you make your final choice.
  • Checkin Time: This is also something you could potentially negotiate but keep an eye on the check-in and check-out times. If you have an afternoon wedding, your guests will likely want to be in their rooms before the event so they can drop off their stuff and freshen up.

Which Hotel Room Block to Book

There’s a little bit of lingo to sift through to make sure you book the right kind of block for your guests. Here are the options and a few more words to know.

  • Closed Block: This is the most formal and binding type of room block. You’re guaranteed a certain number of rooms, and you’re also bound to them. To be crystal clear: this means that if the rooms aren’t filled, you are liable for the cost. You only want to go for this option if you know for sure how many rooms will be booked, or if there’s an event or something else in town that will fill up every hotel room that weekend.
  • Open Block: This is also called a courtesy block, and it’s a much more casual version of the closed block. You aren’t financially responsible for unsold rooms, and your guests just have to be sure to make their reservations before a cutoff date. After that date, the rooms are released to the general public. This kind of block would work best for most weddings.  
  • Attrition Clause: This is what you’re responsible to pay if you don’t fill a closed block. It’s generally a percentage-based fee. If you’re going with a closed block, pay close attention to this. You can negotiate to make it an amount you’re comfortable with.
  • Allowable Shrinkage: This is the number of rooms that can go unbooked without a fee. It’s normally somewhere from 10-20%

Pro Tip: To avoid fees for unreserved rooms when your wedding weekend rolls around, start out with a conservative, smaller number of reserved rooms for your guests and add more rooms as needed.

A Foolproof Guide to Booking Hotel Room Blocks

Once you’ve examined your options and made a choice (or narrowed it down enough to do a deep dive) it’s time to get into the how. Here are the steps to booking your block:

  1. Plan your approach: When in doubt, earlier is better for booking hotel rooms and blocks—you can think about it the same way you would book a room for your own vacation. Depending on how many hotel options you have and what events are going on around the time and place of your wedding, you don’t want to risk your top choices getting booked.
  2. Get in touch: You can book online, over the phone, or in person, but know that in person or over the phone is best if you have questions or you want to negotiate. You can ask to speak to the hotel’s group sales, or just let the front desk know you’re interested in booking a block.
  3. Negotiate the terms: You have some ability to negotiate, whether you want bigger discounts or perks like transportation or free breakfast, but you definitely have more negotiation power if you’re booking a closed block. Either way, at the end of the conversations you should request a contract or a written record of the terms you’ve agreed to. Before you start negotiation, some things to keep in mind:  
  • Think about the hotel landscape in the town. Are there only a few options that are likely to fill up? Are there events the same weekend as your wedding that will bring lots of guests? You want to know what you’re dealing with and how much you’ll be able to negotiate with the hotel, and much of that depends on what business will be like for them.
  • Be sure you’re speaking to someone in charge who can make the decisions you’re asking for.
  • Know exactly what rates or perks you’re planning to ask for. Consider comparing the rates with other hotels in the area. If there are lots of hotel options, they know you’re able to walk away and book with another hotel.
  • Don’t be the first to mention a number. You lose some of your power if you say how much you’re willing to pay upfront.

A few things you should know before you pick up the phone or get online:

  • Dates—do you want the whole weekend, or just the night of your wedding?
  • Number of rooms
  • Exact budget—make sure you know your numbers if you’re planning to negotiate
  • Any perks or amenities you want
  • Room type—you’ll probably want a variety of room types but go through your guest list before you call to get a feel what kind of rooms you think you’ll need. Do you have a lot of couples who might want one bed versus two? These are some of the things to consider.

While you’re on the phone with the hotel, a few questions that you should ask:

  • Is there a cost for parking?
  • Does the room cost include taxes and fees?
  • What is the process for adding rooms if that becomes a need?
  • When is the latest date to add rooms?
  • What is the cut-off day for guests to book?
  • What amenities are included?
  • Is there a shuttle to pick up guests at the airport?
  • Can you drop off welcome bags, and is there a cost to distribute them?
  • Can your guests book online? What’s the easiest way for them to make a reservation?

Communicating With Your Guests

Couples tend to take one of two approaches to guests coming in for their wedding: booking a hotel room block and telling everyone where the wedding will be with the assuredness that the guests will figure the rest out, or planning every part of the weekend with transportation, events, and gift bags to make sure everything goes perfectly. Neither one is the “right” way, and most of the way you do it comes down to the expectation of your guests, but what’s crucial in either case is communication.

Your guests need to know exactly what is planned and what is up to them to figure out. They need to know which hotel to stay in and where the wedding is, or anything else you’ve arranged for them. You can either put all this in the invitation, with a reception card and a travel card, and/or create a wedding website (sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Zola make this super easy) that lays out the information for anyone who’s traveling. Be sure they know where the room block is, what the room type options are, how to book on the block, and the latest day they can book.

Let Us Help With Your Research

As we mentioned, the best way to book your hotel room block for your wedding is to call the hotel directly or book it on their website if they provide that functionality. But before you get that point, we recommend doing a little research. Roomkey lets you search all the major hotel chains in any location, for any dates. You can search on a map to make sure it’s close to your venue, and search for the amenities you want. We also connect you directly to hotels, so you can communicate with them about exactly how many rooms you need, what kind of rooms, and make sure all your guests are part of the block. The last thing you want to do is book through third-party travel sites like Expedia or Booking.com and have to worry about your reservation getting canceled or moved around on your wedding weekend.

Like what you see? Sign up with Roomkey to receive honest offers, industry insights, and great travel advice.