If you’re planning a destination wedding you’re inevitably going to reach a point where you’ll consider setting up a room block for your wedding guests. You’re probably going to have a lot of questions because if you’re like most people, you’ve never set up a room block in your entire life! Add that to the fact that you’re going to be asked to sign a legal contract financially guaranteeing X amount of rooms or dollars, and I can see why a lot of our couples get nervous about room blocks. So let’s look at the various options you have for this, and what a lot of the room block terms mean.
First, what is a room block?
A room block is a group of hotel or resort rooms that a hotel/resort puts on hold at a specially negotiated rate for a group of people. A room block typically needs to have 10 or more rooms to qualify for special rates.
Side note – Let’s get real about the words “negotiated rates”. Most hotels and resorts already have a set price that they offer for a room block – courtesy or contracted. This is typically a preset (by the hotel chain or management) certain percentage off of the room rate that would have been charged for that day/dates. If you set up a room block, you’ll often be simply given/offered this lower rate, without having to truly negotiate for it.
Can you ask for a lower rate than this? Sure.
Does that mean you’ll get it? Not often.
What people don’t realize is that you don’t always have negotiating power! If the hotel was already going to be booked on that date or historically has a high rate of occupancy on that date, you don’t have a lot of negotiating power – just because you are going to book what you might consider to be a lot of rooms does not mean that the hotel or resort feels the same way.
Once you set up a room block, your guests will call to book and pay the hotel or your destination wedding planner for their individual rooms. Oftentimes, you’ll be given a web link that you can give to guests that will allow them to book directly online using the link (web address).
There are 2 types of room blocks – Courtesy and Contracted
A Courtesy Room Block is a block of rooms that the hotel/resort has set aside for you as a “courtesy”. They are going to set aside a certain number and type of rooms for you to offer to your guests. You’ll sometimes be given a special (lower) rate for these rooms, but not always. You do not have to financially guarantee that these rooms will be booked by you or your guests. If you book them, that’s great. If not, it’s no big deal, because you won’t be charged for it.
You may still be asked to sign a contract for the courtesy room block. You won’t be charged if your rooms don’t book but this adds some weight for the hotel to actually hold this block of rooms for you.
Basically, it outlines that the hotel will hold these rooms and you are aware of it. It will list the rate that the room(s) are being offered at. It also states the date that the hotel rooms will be released to the public, at which point your guests will not be able to book a room at this discounted rate.
Hotels will typically offer 10 or so rooms on a courtesy room block but you can sometimes get a few more. It all depends on the hotel.
A Contracted Room Block requires a contract to pull those hotel rooms out of inventory. You’ll need to guarantee a certain number of rooms will be sold in that block or you’ll have to pay for them anyway. The contract will state the rate, the amount and type of rooms, and the consequences of not booking all of the rooms in the block. This consequence is often called an attrition clause.
An attrition clause is when a group doesn’t live up to the hotel room block agreement and a payment is required to make up for the rooms not rented. For example, high traffic hotels might have a 90% guarantee, meaning that you must book 90% of the total rooms in your block. So, if you’ve blocked 10 rooms, you’ll be financially responsible for 9 of the rooms, even if your guests do not book them.
Why would you go with a Contracted Block when a Courtesy Block has no penalties?
- Your hotel or resort may not offer a courtesy room block. A lot of popular and higher end hotel chains will not have this as an option. You’re more likely to find a courtesy block option in a lower priced hotel or resort.
- You have booked a busy hotel that books quickly or you have booked a busy week/weekend that will fill quickly. If either of these are the case you’ll want a room block to make for sure that your guests will have a room for your wedding. A lot of guests wait until the last minute to book and if you didn’t set up a room block they may not be able to come to your wedding!
- You need a lot of rooms. Again, a lot of times your guests wait until the last minute to book and if you didn’t set up a room block the rooms may be gone, and they may not be able to come to your wedding!
My wedding is a month away and the hotel just released all of my rooms but I still have guests that didn’t book their room. What happened?
What happened is you’ve reached your “cutoff” date. This is the date where the hotel released any remaining rooms that did not book within your block. They offer them back into their inventory in hopes that they will become booked by someone else.
Once released back into inventory the rate becomes the current going rate for the room – usually higher than the negotiated room block amount. If your guests still need to book a room they will now be booking outside of the block and will pay whatever rate the hotel is offering. Yep, your guests are going to be mad. It’s not your fault – it just happens. This also means that once the rooms are gone, they’re gone. Your last minute booking guests may not have a room to book!
What if you’re nearing the cutoff date and your unbooked rooms are about to be released but you know your best friends moms cousin is definitely for sure going to need a room but can’t pay right now?
Then you’ll need to go ahead and book that room – either you’ll pay for it and they’ll pay you back or your best friend’s mom will do it and they’ll pay her back – or whatever. But if you know you’re going to need that room and you’re pretty confident the hotel is going to book up, you’re going to want to snag that room at the lower rate you blocked it for.
What happens if my guests booked all of the rooms in the block but now I need more rooms?
You have a couple possible scenarios – the first is that you let the hotel or resort know and they are kind enough to add to your room block at the lower negotiated rate. The other is that they will not add to your current block. In this case, if you’re going to need 10 or more rooms, you’ll need to make a new room block with another block of rooms. They may not honor the old room block rate and this room block may have a higher room rate. If you only need a few more rooms, you’ll just have to book them quickly but the hotel will charge the current going rate for the rooms that are booked outside the room block.
How many rooms should we block?
We recommend that you book rooms for about half of your total anticipated guest count for destination wedding locations. That means that if you’re expecting 100 actual guests, it’s a good idea to start with a room block of about 50 or less hotel rooms. A lot of your guests will be couples and will share a room. Some of your single friends will come with their significant others or may pair up and share a room. There will usually not be a lot of guests that chose to have a room to themselves.
When should we set up the room block?
You should reserve your room block as soon as your destination wedding location is confirmed.
This sounds like a lot to take on. Why would I even worry about a room block anyway? I’ll just let my guests book their rooms wherever they want.
I hear this all the time – and it may not be as simple as it seems. Let me tell you why (please note that this next section and bit of info refers mainly to resort all inclusive type properties) –
- Most resort and/or all-inclusive (beach) locations offer great incentives for blocking rooms at their location. Most start with a free wedding – yes, you read that right, FREE! If you book 10 or more rooms you’ll usually get your basic ceremony set up and some other amenities for free. But if your guests book their rooms on their own (individually and outside of a room block) you don’t get this – even if your guests did indeed book 10 or more total rooms.
- The number of room nights you book could earn you additional incentives, like free cocktail hours and free wedding receptions for your guests. And you won’t get any of these perks if you don’t book your rooms as part of a contracted room block – even if the guests all stay at the same resort as you.
- Your invited guests are less likely to attend your wedding if there is not a clear process for booking their rooms and travel. People simply have anxiety about traveling and having to wing it on their own deters them from coming all together.
- It creates division among the guests. Your guests that can afford to book immediately will get better rates but your guests that may need a little time may end up paying more. Your guests talk! And they will talk about what they spent as well. Having to spend excessively leads to a lot of hurt feelings when people feel like they didn’t get as good of a deal as someone else in the guest party.
- The biggest drawback for our clients – It usually ends up costing YOU a lot more. If your guests do not book their rooms as a part of a room block you will be responsible for all resort fees that are associated with them attending your wedding. If they stay at a different resort you’ll often incur a daily guest fee, that usually runs about $120+ per person, for any guest that stays off property and needs to come onto the resort the day of the wedding. There could be other fees associated with a guest booking outside of a block as well. For a wedding with 40 guests, if even 5 aren’t at the same resort as you, it could cost you $600 or more just for them to be able to attend your wedding ceremony.
We highly recommend setting up a room block contract for your wedding guests in almost every wedding scenario. The perks simply outweigh the negatives in almost every real life scenario. And we’re happy to help you through the simple process – we’ll even request and prepare your room block contracts for you, even if you’re not a wedding planning client of ours! Just give us a call and we’ll take care of you.
Here are a couple of actual real life scenarios that have actually happened with our clients –
We worked with E+J to book their wedding at a location where they could get as many “perks” as possible towards their wedding because they have a limited spending plan for their wedding.
They are expecting 60 guests (about 25 – 28 rooms) and the resort they ultimately booked for their Playa del Carmen wedding gave them 9 hours of complimentary private events since they contracted the 25 rooms that their guests will pay for separately.
That means that they will not have to pay for their rehearsal dinner event and their entire wedding day cocktail hour and reception dinner – including a full open bar! They are also getting their basic ceremony set up for free, as well as a few other perks.
They were so excited! Their dream wedding would not be possible if they had to foot the bill for everything they were planning. Thanks to the room block contract they’re able to have the wedding they dreamed about!
We worked with A+R on their Riviera Maya Indian wedding last year. They had 148 guests at their wedding.
A didn’t want her guests to feel obligated to stay at the same resort as they were hosting the wedding at so she only arranged a room block for her immediate family and bridal party. Only 87 guests stayed on site and booked in their block – 61 stayed at other resorts or stayed onsite but booked out of the block.
The total bill for guests outside the block for just the wedding day activities was over $9000. They would not have paid any of this if their guests had booked within the block. We had already talked with A+R about this possibility and they knew in advance this might happen, so they were prepared.
A+R are still very happy with their choice even though she admitted to me that having to do it again, she would have steered more of her guests towards the on-site room block.
2 couples – 2 different outcomes.
Both are happy because they chose the options that made the most sense for them.
You should do the same.