Booking a block of rooms: 5 helpful tips from the hotel front desk

January 2 | Guest post by SmileyFace
bonnie and clyde
Hotel plans stressing you out? No worries, let the Front Desk handle it. (Photo by Nuttall Photography)

There can be so. many. things to worry about when planning and executing a wedding/commitment ceremony. If yours happens to include setting up a block of rooms at a hotel, then I have some tips for you! I work at the front desk of a big hotel in a major city, and have seen a lot of frantic brides come blazing through our doors. It seems like there are a few key things that often get overlooked and inevitably seem to throw a wrench in the works for our couples (and usually their parents, in-laws, and BFFs).

Here are some of my TOP TIPS for making your important day run just a little smoother. Because seriously, an hour before your wedding you should be thinking about your vows and finding your stress-free happy place, not worrying about gift bags…

1. If you reserve a block of rooms, make sure you know what time check-in and check-out are.
This is my MOST important tip. If your wedding is at 3pm and all your guests come into town the morning OF your wedding, be aware that they probably will not have access to their rooms to get ready. Most hotels have a check in time of 3pm-4pm, which means all your guests are getting ready in the lobby bathroom. This isn't because we are mean, it is because the rooms are usually occupied until about 12-1pm, and then we have to take time to clean them thoroughly for you.

If you have an afternoon wedding it is a very good idea to encourage your guests to come into town the day before your wedding. This way they can get ready in a relaxed and stress-free manner.

Also, if the Sales Office at the hotel promises you "It'll be just fine!" to come in at, say, 10am for check in… go ahead and do two or three blind calls to the front desk and ask them about their early check-in policy. That is where you will get the truth because they aren't trying to sell you anything. If three people tell you it is a-okay then it will very likely be fine. But if they try and find a nice way to say "that's probably not going to happen" then take their word for it.

2. If you have transportation picking your guests up from the hotel and taking them to the wedding, make sure that two times are listed in your welcome sheet/itinerary/invitation:
When the shuttle is ARRIVING, and when it is PULLING AWAY. If it just says "Shuttle at 10" then it is unclear whether it is STARTING to pick people up at 10 or leaving at 10. Chaos ensues.

3. Give two copies of your schedule for every person working the desk. At least.
See three desk clerks? Drop off 10. Inevitably, when folks are confused they come to the desk for help. That's what we're there for! But 99% of the time the wedding party has not given us a copy of the schedule, so we have no idea what is going on, much less when or where. I say drop off extras because there are usually more people working than just the couple you see on the desk. Plus, if we have a copy and one of your guests needs one, then they usually take ours.

4. Making gift bags? Here are some tips that will save you time, stress, and money.

  • Make them all the same. Less confusion, less mix ups, less work and stress. Trust me.
  • Don't spend lots of time and money on the bag decor. I have given out hundreds of gift bags, and I can tell you that a great many people just don't appreciate crafty talents. I know that is sad, but it's true. Most folks just blindly take them.
  • If you're on the fence about having them at all, then SKIP THEM. I know that sounds a bit like a Debbie Downer, but I'm telling you — very few people are excited about their gift bags, and they seem to be a big source of stress for our couples. I can't tell you how many times I've had the couple who's getting married at my desk in a tizzy about whether Al or Denise have picked up their bags. Remember, it's just snacks.

5. Something that would be way more useful would be a stack of itineraries at the Front Desk.
You could make these super pretty and crafty even. Give us a bunch extra and have us hand them out to all your guests with the key packets. Having an itinerary makes everyone feel less stress and more in control of their day.

  1. great post! It's a good reminder that while I might notice a hand tied raffia bow or a custom designed logo, other (non design student) people don't care. Better to spend money and time on a detail that you the couple will remember.
    I will also remember to clue in the hotel staff on details, giving the desk a stack of info is a DUH idea. And it gives an air of what my mom calls "que fanciness"

    8 agree
  2. This is super helpful! I'm sort of in panic mode regarding booking a block of rooms, because I don't want to dictate where people stay while attending our wedding, but then I realize that it makes it easier for them. I don't even know how to go about booking a block, or if there are rules of thumb to follow for how many rooms we'll need, or distance away from the ceremony location that's appropriate. See? Clearly anxious about this.

    4 agree
    • Ahh!! What a good question- how many rooms should one book? And how far in advance?

      4 agree
      • Depends on the season and what type of hotel you are booking at. Most hotels ask that a group of 10 or more rooms need to blocked for rates, grouping rooms together, etc… Summer months are our busiest and we ask brides and grooms to book their block 2-3 months in advance. This guarantees room availability and gives them enough time to let guests make their reservations. Always remember that hotels will only hold those rooms for a period of time before they are released back into the system to be sold, which may leave guests without a room or paying a higher rate!

        1 agrees
        • Thank you! We are getting married in September, but during a pretty busy time in Austin. I've been seriously vacillating between reserving now and waiting until the summer. I think I'll just call the sales office of the hotel we want and see what they say!

          0 agree
          • I would call now – September is still considered high wedding season, especially in places like Austin where it's still warm. I got married in June (also high wedding season) and when I called the hotel closest to our venue in March or April they could only set aside ten rooms for us because the ENTIRE rest of the hotel was booked with two or three other weddings. Better safe than sorry, and then you can also feel like you've checked something off your to-do list!

            3 agree
          • I live in NYC and am getting married in September. The hotel I wanted to book for a room block was booked when I tried in April! So I say it's never too early.

            0 agree
    • Just remember that booking a block doesn't dictate to your guests at all. They don't have to stay there! On our website we listed the hotel block and then a couple of other choices.
      I've always appreciated a block when I've gone to out of town events, because I know it will be in a good location, won't be gross, and there will be other people staying there.

      5 agree
  3. Thank you for this! I had a forehead-smacking moment when I read the first tip about room checkin times. Of course!! Glad I know to ask about it now!

    2 agree
    • We are having a 1pm ceremony so this was a huge eye opener for me. Calling my hotel now!!

      5 agree
    • I did manage to block hotel rooms for Friday before my Saturday 1pm wedding, but actually letting guests know they SHOULD check in on Friday is something I missed! :D

      1 agrees
  4. Another tip : don't pre purchase rooms for anyone except maybe parents. We used skyauction to find amazing deals for our destination wedding, but found many people wanted us to book it FOR them rather than get their own free accounts… Then decided they weren't entirely sure they were coming, etc. Yikes ! Mom and dad paid up, of course :)

    7 agree
  5. Another MAJOR tip: Make sure everyone's names match their room and EVERY SINGLE PERSON keeps their photo id on them. Seriously.

    I cannot tell you how many people I have refused to make keys for because they didn't have their id and/or their name wasn't on their room. I know that bridesmaids rarely have a place for their id and they get MAD if you refuse to give them a key to their room.

    Also, don't expect the front desk clerk to give you a key to the bride and groom's suite so you can decorate it as a surprise. If you have five people in a room and the front desk clerk tells you they need all five names, it's because of key issues.

    If your Aunt Mary comes to the desk and needs a key, but your mom made her reservation and never switched it into Aunt Mary's name, then I will need your mom to come to the desk and tell me (with her photo id) that Aunt Mary can have a key. If I make Aunt Mary a key without your mom telling me I can, or an angry bridesmaid without her id, or the bride's sister for the bridal suite, or the unlisted fifth person in a room, then I can get fired. Period. And as important as your wedding is to you (I do get that, I promise), my job is more important to me.

    47 agree
    • This is 100% true. If your name isn't on the room, you're not getting in. Good tip!! Also makes transferring phone calls to the correct room a lot easier…

      13 agree
    • I can't upvote THIS! enough. As someone who used to work front desk this is sooo important!!!

      4 agree
  6. This post topic has just saved me some serious anxiety. Now I can ask a question, I have been dying to ask anyone with good knowledge: HOW do you block off a group a rooms? What is that process like? Am I supposed to simply call my chosen hotel and ask for an approximate number of rooms be blocked off? Do I have to pay for anything? Do I have to garuntee ANYONE will actually book at the hotel I have blocked the rooms at? Do I have to leave my credit card (which just might max, if I am accidently charged)? Should I asked that a price be locked in for guests? If so is that locked in price time sensitive? Inquiring inexperienced minds need to know :)Thanks a million

    13 agree
    • Here's how you do it. In general. Each hotel is different.
      1) Find a hotel that is nice, and close to your ceremony site. If you are getting married at a hotel, then this part is already done. Voila!
      2) Call the hotel and say "Hi I'm having a wedding there on such and such a date and I'd like to reserve a block of rooms for my guests"
      3) They say Sure! And they will get you to the person you need to talk to who will tell you what the hotel requires.

      When we did it, we needed to estimate how many folks we thought would need a room so we could have the right number blocked off. There is usually a code of some sort your guests will need when they reserve their room so they get the special rate the hotel is giving them.

      It's pretty easy.

      3 agree
      • That code they give you is important! This is how the hotel knows who exactly is in the wedding block, which can be important when handing out those darn gift bags… :P If people book "on their own", or without that code, then their reservation will be under a "standard" code, and they will not get any of the consideration that wedding guests get (like gift bags, welcome notes, special room placement near the wedding guests, etc.) This most often happens when people see discounts they would rather book than the wedding discount- AAA rates, AARP, Rewards program/loyalty card discounts, etc. Just another thing to keep in mind ;)

        7 agree
    • I've never worked in the Sales Department, so I can only give you a partial answer.

      Yes, you just call or show up at the hotel of your choice. Feel free to ask to see rooms to compare which types of rooms you want to book or even which hotel you want to book. You're going to talk to their Sales department and the Sales Person you work with is going to make a contract with you that includes the number of rooms in the block, the types of rooms you're blocking (doubles vs kings), the price, and the cut off date.

      Make sure every single wedding guest knows the cut off date. After that, the rooms you blocked are released and anyone making a reservation for your wedding will have to book for full price. Once that block is full, anyone booking for your wedding will have to pay full price as well.

      As to payment options, I don't know since I never worked in Sales. I would also imagine that depends on the hotel. The more rooms you want to block, the more the Sales Person will bend over backwards for you and the more you will want to verify details like check in times with the front desk since they're the ones you will be dealing with during your wedding.

      I've worked in several different hotels and can tell you that while the Sales Person you work with will generally try to be there for you every step of the way (they're usually good people who actually really do care about your wedding), once you have signed a contract, they can disappear on you, so make sure that contract is PERFECT before you sign.

      And try to be nice to the front desk people. Remember, when you need something during your actual wedding, you will deal with the hotel staff more than your Sales Person. The Sales Department usually works a 9-5 job and the front desk is there 24/7.

      Your Sales Person will likely not be at the hotel after your reception when you have five drunk wedding guests who want to stay at the wedding rate. The front desk will charge them full price and tell you that you can fight about that will the Sales Person or the front desk manager in the morning.

      10 agree
      • Amen sister! I couldn't agree with this more… awesome replies Cassie, thank you for adding your wisdom!!

        1 agrees
        • It's nice to see a post like this, so thank you, SmileyFace! Want to start a comment thread about all the awesome wedding guests you've had? I feel like Debbie Downer here talking about all the things that can go wrong lol. It's always nice when guests leave extra gift bags for the staff. I once had a guest who gave me a bouquet after the wedding! Surprise flowers are always awesome, especially from strangers :)

          6 agree
          • It's always nice when guests leave extra gift bags for the staff.

            OOOOOH! Of course it'd be nice to do this just because, but especially if a couple has a no-show guest… THEY CAN GIVE THE BAGS TO THE NICE PEEPS AT THE FRONT DESK! :)

            14 agree
          • And I'm guessing that if the hand-written thank you notes are going out the week after the wedding, including one for the front desk staff at Wedding Hotel is appreciated? :)

            1 agrees
      • Just a note to ask the Sales Rep the question about paying for rooms. I've blocked rooms for a conference before and one year our contract seemed different. We were blocking off a lot of rooms and we had few people booking the rooms. We had to release rooms at certain times along the way to avoid paying for rooms that weren't booked. So just go over policies with the Sales Rep. You may need to guarantee a certain percentage of the blocked rooms will, in fact, be booked. It can be worth doing a quick survey of people from out of town to see who might want a room before blocking if you are looking at a whole heck of a lot of rooms, just in case a lot of people stay with friends or family or decide another hotel is cheaper.

        0 agree
    • I used http://hotelplanner.com, since I was going to choose my hotel by price. Many of my guests are either local to or have relatives near the venue, and the only people who were gonna be without anywhere to stay are, let's say, not rich. I wanted them to be able to book a hotel that had a great price so they wouldn't have to stress about doing it themselves. Plus it would be nice to have them in the same hotel so they could hang out, since most of them already know each other.

      With that website, you can get hotels to bid on your date, then you can contact only those you want. It was a lot easier than calling each of them by phone. Especially since I'm not a phone person AT ALL. :lol:

      3 agree
      • Sugarfiend I am SO going to look into this!! I am not a phone person either, so this is super exciting! Thanks for the tip!

        0 agree
      • Just a tip about http://hotelplanner.com, as I have worked with it in the past (I handle Wedding Sales at my property).

        Hotels have to pay a fee to hotelplanner, or any third party site for that matter, for every hotel room booked. This means that if I would have given you a discounted rate of $110 per night over the phone, I now have a 10% fee that I need to account for which either makes your guest room price $121, or you will not get as many add ons as other brides who have called the hotel directly.

        Hidden fees are a killer!

        0 agree
  7. These are all great tips. I am trying to be a big help during the planning process, and this is something I will definitely feel comfortable handling on my own. Maybe my bride-to-be won't lose her mind after all. Thank you.

    6 agree
  8. Do you have to give the hotel a credit card number to block the rooms with? Also, will it be charged for the rooms? I've never done it before, and just want to make sure before I give out any information.

    Also, thanks for this great post – it's been quite helpful!

    2 agree
    • You can request (or look for a hotel that allows this) the block be an open courtesy booking, where they only hold them in your event's name but the guests pay for the rooms themselves. That way, you don't have to pay for unused rooms in the block.

      0 agree
  9. This is fantastic. I was just starting to stress about how to go about this, and now all my questions (and more) are answered. Whoohoo!

    1 agrees
  10. Yeeees! As another long-term hotel front desk maven, just: yes.

    I've worked at hotels in rural England, urban Boston, and several places in between, and it's these same issues that come up over and over again. Check-in times (and no, saying, "But I'm in the BRIDAL PARTY!" doesn't magically clean your room any faster from afar, and saying, "But I booked this room MONTHS ago!" similarly has no magical effect on the current state of the room) are definitely the biggest problem, in my experience.

    Sneaky tip #eleventy: Remember that your front desk people (especially in a medium or large hotel) have some degree of control over what room you and your guests will occupy. We can frequently change your room allocation at a few keyboard clicks, without you even knowing, based on how you're acting at check-in. Be nice. Patient, even, if possible. It pays. :)

    10 agree
    • Being one of the guests who has had awesome treatment from a hotel, I totally second being nice to the front desk people. My dude and I have gotten some nice perks from being polite and friendly, including when needing to complain about other disruptive guests.

      3 agree
  11. Great article Katie "Smileyface" :) Very helpful sissy! xoxoxo

    2 agree
  12. Wht not employ a travel agent to help? Most often the hotel/ resort pays the booking agent so there is no money out of the planners pocket. You are relieved of one problem while helping another small business out?

    0 agree
  13. This is great advice! I didn't do gift bags and no one noticed! It's a really nice touch but don't get caught up on those little details. I would also try to get a hotel that's close to the venue or has a good transportation system. Or try to a system of out of town guest,who don't have cars, meet your in town guests so they can ride together to the wedding!

    0 agree
  14. When hotels hold blocks like this, do they leave open rooms unblocked for themselves or will they block their entire hotel if they have a few events.

    My example is that we are blocking some rooms at a local hotel. We wanted 10, but unfortunately, there were 2 other weddings the same day in town both reserving blocks. There are 44 rooms in the hotel. When she originally spoke to me, she said they usually reserve blocks of 10 rooms and no more for events. So that would make only 25 rooms blocked.

    Would that mean that potentially there are other rooms available for guests to stay without the special rate given us? This really confused me.

    1 agrees
    • Yes, that means that the hotel is only willing to sell a certain number of their rooms at a discounted rate, and that the rest of the rooms need to be sold at their "rack" rate (the normal selling price, no discounts). So if a hotel has 40 rooms, they will probably only be able to sell 20 at a discounted price if they want to make a profit. So if your guest misses the dates to reserve in your block, or your block is full, then they MIGHT still be able to book at the hotel, just at a higher price.

      1 agrees
  15. I also work at a hotel and I wantbto print this and give it every couple!! Also, if you have a shuttle make sure it will hold your guests! One 15 passenger van isn't going to cut it when 50 people want a ride! And the check in times……100% correct!

    2 agree
  16. Question about block rooms for wedding!
    Booked rooms early for a New Year's Eve wedding at a rack rate that is cheaper than the wedding blocked room rate. Have confirmation number with pricing for the night. When I check in and they see I'm going to the wedding are they allowed to charge me the higher wedding block rate? Thank you!

    0 agree
    • Technically no, they have to honor whatever rate you booked at. However, keep in mind that sometimes that higher rate is a package rate the bride negotiated with the hotel. This could include breakfast and shuttle to and from the event which you will not be able to utilize without paying the wedding rate. Make sure you know all the details before disregarding the wedding rate just because it is higher!

      Also, if the Bride and Groom are anticipating giving out gift bags or special items to their guests when they check in, you will most likely not recieve one. Most of my Bride and Grooms create their gift bags based on the rooms in their group block.

      0 agree
  17. I am a wedding planner and I ALWAYS use Kleinfeld Hotel Blocks with my brides to make these bookings. They are free for me and the bride to use and they do ALL of the negotiating for me (and the best perk is that I get a commission for providing my bride with their service).
    Their website is: http://kleinfeldhotelblocks.com/

    I usually work with Cathy. She's the best! So helpful.

    0 agree
  18. What sort of things are the responsibility of the bride and groom? My mom asked me if I picked a hotel that offers cribs for guest use (because my sister has kids). Is that really my job?

    2 agree

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.