what you need to know about reserving hotel room blocks for your wedding

Securing hotel rooms for wedding guests seems to be one of the more confusing things couples tackle as they prepare for their weddings. It's something we manage for our full-service planning clients, but they still have lots of questions, as do our coordination-only clients who are handling the hotel block arrangements themselves. Not surprising: Reserving a block of rooms doesn't have to be hard, but it's a lot different from booking a single room for yourself.

Here are answers to some of the questions we get most often, as well as some things to consider when you're choosing the perfect hotel for your guests.

do we have to arrange room blocks for our guests?

Well, no. You don't have to, but it is a courtesy, and it's one your guests will probably expect. After all, your out-of-town guests probably don't know your area as well as you do, so you're the one who knows the most about which hotel will be best for your guests and for your wedding logistics. It can take a lot of time to research and reserve your hotel blocks, so it's nice if you can hand the task over to your wedding planner.

when do we need to reserve the room blocks?

The sooner the better! This is especially true if your wedding is happening over a holiday weekend or coincides with some major sporting or cultural event in your town. Basically, as soon as you have your wedding date and venues set, you should start working on the hotel blocks.

will reserving the room blocks cost us anything?

That depends on what type of block you reserve. Hotels typically offer courtesy blocks and guaranteed blocks. Courtesy blocks don't require a payment guarantee, but they're typically for fewer rooms. Guaranteed blocks do require a credit card guarantee, and include a clause addressing the percentage of rooms in the block that must be booked. If you don't fill that number of rooms, then you're financially responsible for the cost of any that go unbooked.

We prefer to arrange courtesy blocks for our couples when we can. Hotels are often happy to add rooms to a courtesy block if it fills up early, and if the hotel still has rooms available. Sometimes, like if the guest list is very large and/or if the wedding is happening at a time when hotels in the area are likely to book up, we need to go with a guaranteed block instead to ensure that no guests are left without a room.

how many rooms should we reserve?

We like to divide the number of out-of-town guests by two, and use that as our starting point. We always confer with our couples, though: You know your guestlist best! Sometimes couples are pretty sure that most of their out-of-towners will attend; sometimes they know in advance that most of them won't make it. So the answer is, it depends.

how many hotels should we reserve?

Ideally, two, and they should be pretty close to each other. I like to reserve rooms at different price points when I can, so that guests can choose what works best for them; however, I also like the guests to be within walking distance of the other hotel so they can get together for drinks and conversation. Sometimes that's not possible, though, like if you're getting married in a rural area with few choices, or if the two hotels that are available would put your guests clear across town from each other. In that case, one hotel is just fine.

how do we know which hotels to choose?

When you start looking at hotels, consider their location, amenities, transportation options, and cost.

Try to book hotels that are fairly close to your wedding venues, considering both distance and possible traffic. You don't want your guests to have an hour drive to your wedding.

I like to find hotels that offer fun things for guests, too: A restaurant and bar, a nice pool, something that's close to popular tourist spots or entertainment options... Those all top my list.

If you know your guests will be driving or renting a car, try to find something that offers free parking. Parking at many hotels in DC can be around $50 per day, which won't be a fun surprise for your guests. If you know your guests will be using public transportation, then choose something near a Metro stop.

Finally, find something at a price your guests will be comfortable with. Your out-of-towners are already paying for travel to your wedding, so don't ask them to stay at the most expensive hotel in town. And if you do want to book rooms at a super-luxurious and expensive hotel, then try to offer a lower-priced option as well.

how do we get perks from the hotel?

Just ask! Some hotels will offer perks, some won't. Some perks you might receive are free or reduced price parking, free WiFi, free or reduced price shuttle service, free breakfast, or a free room. Some hotels might also be willing to waive the fee for placing welcome gifts in guests' rooms.

how do we let our guests know about the room blocks?

After all that work arranging awesome hotels for your wedding guests, you want to be sure they know about them. You can spread the word by including hotel information in your save the dates, on your wedding website, and on a separate card enclosed in your wedding invitations.

Have more questions? Leave them in the comments below, or ask your wedding planner. We're always happy to help!