I was recently asked by Northern California Brides magazine for my best picks in San Francisco hotels for wedding room blocks. It's always humbling to see my name being quoted in a magazine, but it delights me to be able to share my knowledge and 'tips' with brides and grooms out there!
To tie in with Northern California Bride's article, I have decided to write a post on wedding room blocks.
First of all, let's define what a wedding room block is. A wedding room block is essentially a block of rooms set aside at specific hotels at specific rates for your wedding guests to reserve. In other words, it guarantees that your guests will be able to reserve a room there at a specific rate. This rate is determined by a number of factors, including the actual number of rooms you want to be blocked, the type of rooms, the time of the year for the room block dates, etc.
Why, exactly would a couple want to create wedding room blocks for their guests? It really is not about getting the biggest discounts or lowest rates. It's about providing guidance and convenience for your out of town guests who are spending a lot of money to travel to attend your wedding! It is also an effective way to keep your guests together at 1 or 2 hotels, making it easier for you to plan any type of transportation, gift bags, etc. for them. Therefore, couples really need to do their due diligence in selecting the most appropriate hotels for their wedding room blocks. Here are some things to consider:
1. Proximity to Wedding Venue(s)--it is generally a good idea to select hotels that are in close proximity to your wedding venue(s), making it easier for guests to get to and from your wedding. If you are providing transportation for your hotel guests, it also makes it more predictable to get them to the wedding on time.
2. Rates--As I mentioned above, creating wedding room blocks is not always about getting the lowest rate. Hotel room rates are mostly driven by demand, so it can fluctuate quite a bit. For example, if there is a city-wide conference in downtown San Francisco, we can bet that the hotel room rates will be significantly higher because there will naturally be a big demand for rooms around that time. By creating a wedding room block ahead of time, the pre-negotiated rate would be fixed regardless of demand, and you will also be guaranteed the availability of a specific number of rooms for your guests to reserve. That said, I normally would help my clients pick at least 2 different hotels for their room block so that they can offer 2 levels of pricing for their guests.
3. Quality--With the internet these days, you can bet that if your guests are solely looking for the 'best deal' or 'cheapest' rates, they'll find it on their own. Therefore, I advise my clients against selecting hotels purely for their pricing. It's got to be the whole package, which includes value for the pricing, the quality of service, room size, etc. As mentioned in the Northern California Brides article, the St. Regis San Francisco is one of my favorite hotels both for events and for wedding room blocks. For a rate in the high 200s, guests will THANK you for convincing them to splurge. It is conveniently located within walking distance of landmarks such as Union Square, SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Gardens and more. It has top notch service, an array of casual to fancy restaurants surrounding the hotel, beautifully designed sleeping rooms, and world-class on site spa facilities. Ofcourse, not all guests would want to splurge, which is why having a less expensive alternative nearby would be ideal, and there are plenty of choices!
4. Attrition--More and more hotels are requiring at least an 80% attrition for their wedding room blocks these days. This means that the couple will need to financially guarantee that at least 80% of the rooms under the total room block would be picked up. Be sure you ask about their attrition policy upfront, as every hotel is different. I'll use the St. Regis again as an example. Depending on the dates, if you create a room block of 10 rooms per night, there is no attrition and the unreserved rooms will simply be released to the general public one month prior to your wedding date. However, if you want to reserve 20 rooms per night, there will be an attrition. The hotel has to protect themselves too, because they're putting a whole lot of rooms aside for your guests and if these rooms go unbooked up until the month prior to your wedding, they may not be able to rebook them in time.
5. Other Costs--When choosing a hotel for your room block, couples are likely to ask guests to pay for the rooms on their own. You are merely providing a convenience for them in creating these room blocks. Therefore, when deciding on the hotel for your room block, you should factor in all costs and not just the room rates. For example, your guests can easily be paying up to $50 per day for their overnight parking at a downtown hotel. Breakfast may be an additional $15 per person. The gift bags you want to provide for each guest could cost you $3 per bag. Some of these could possibly be negotiated upfront when you contract with the hotel, but certain things like the gift bag fee is really not a negotiable item since it's more a union labor requirement.
To determine whether or not you should create a room block, you should take a long and hard look at your guest list. How many of the invited guests are from out of town? How many children would be included with the out of towners? There are lots of factors that go into each and every decision when it comes to wedding planning. Every detail should be well thought out, to ensure a wonderful journey for you and your guests!