Hospitality 101: How to Book Hotel Rooms for Your Wedding Guests

book hotel rooms

Gianluca Adovasio

Having a destination wedding? Tons of people coming in from out of town just to attend your wedding? Don’t have a gigantic multi-million dollar estate with a whole bunch of rooms and butlers and maids waiting on your perfectly manicured hand?

Sounds like you need to book hotel rooms for your guests.

Admittedly, I hate administrative tasks that require me to actually make a phone call (major phone anxiety, this one), so I can see how tempting it would be to push this hefty task to the far corners of my mind. However, if you’re looking for the best bargain out there, taking the time to research which hotels offer the best rates in the best locations will be well worth the happiness of your guests and yourselves.

There are a lot of factors to consider when booking your hotel, and these are just a few of those factors:

  • What’s the minimum number of rooms I can reserve for a block?
  • What are the rates?
  • Is there a group discount?
  • What percentage of these rooms have to be filled up?
  • How many people are coming out-of-town and need to stay overnight?
  • Do I need to pay a deposit?
  • Where is this hotel located? Is it easily accessible by public transport?
  • Are there interesting things to do around the hotel?

Typically, for large hotel chains at least, you should be able to find this sort of information easily on the FAQs page. However, if your concerns require a little more sleuthing, there are plenty of travel resources out there that can help you out with reserving hotel rooms with minimal stress.

Dissecting the Terminology


 Nancy Cohn Photography

Weirdly enough, you’d think that reserving rooms would actually be pretty foolproof. After all, you just go to the hotel’s website, enter the dates that you want to stay over, and you pay and get a room! However, reserving room blocks can be more of a hassle, especially since wedding season coincides with vacation time and rooms are getting snapped up like free hot dogs.

  • hotel block: A hotel block is essentially what it sounds like — a “block” of hotel rooms. Essentially, you’ll be able to reserve a section/# of hotel rooms in the hotel for your guests.
  • regular hotel block: A regular hotel block generally requires you to pay some sort of deposit that will cover a fraction of the total cost that is needed to reserve the hotel rooms that you need. This sort of block doesn’t have a hard limit on the number you can reserve as long as they are available. Understandably, couples that are strapped on money are wary of this option, as the guests should be the one paying for the rooms.
  • courtesy hotel block: What most hotels don’t advertise is the option of the “courtesy hotel block”. If you specifically request a courtesy hotel block, hotels will offer to block off up to 20-30 rooms for free. The only requirement is that guests reserve rooms by a certain date. After that date, rooms that are not reserved will be sold again to the public by the hotel.
  • cut-off date: The cut-off date is the last date guests are able to reserve rooms within the hotel block specifically reserved for the wedding. After that date, the rooms are open to the public once more and there is no guarantee that guests can reserve those rooms. The cut-off date is usually one to two months before the start date of the actual reservation.
  • group rate: If a large group plans to reserve the entire block, it is entirely possible that the hotel will provide them a discount in order to sell as many rooms as possible. The group rate could be as much as 20% off the original cost. Couples should make sure that the group rate is included in the hotel contract should they need to sign one.
  • complimentary room: Often times, hotels will throw in a complimentary room if a large number of hotel rooms are needed and reserved for the wedding day. This could be just an extra room or a bridal suite — it’s just something nice to have on the side.
  • shoulder days: Shoulder days are days that give your guests extra time to stay at the hotel and accommodates their travels. Especially if this is a destination wedding, shoulder days can be useful in giving your guests ample time to get settled into their room, get accustomed to their surroundings, and explore the location during their free time.
  • attrition clause: The attrition clause will appear in a contract that you may have to sign in order to secure a hotel block. Essentially, the fees for approximately 80% of the rooms must be paid for, regardless of how many rooms are actually inhabited. More on that later.

Now that we know the terminology, it’ll be a lot easier to actually understand what the heck I’m talking about when I’m talking about…

 Getting the Most Bang Out of Your Buck for Guests

book hotel rooms

 Christian Oth Studios

Now you need to hash out the logistics.  How many hotel rooms should I even book in the first place?

This can get kind of tricky, because all of those logistics really depend on how many guests are coming. And you might not even get a super accurate guest count until there’s a few months left until the wedding. I generally don’t like tempting fate, so this is another reason why booking rooms can be difficult. Wedding planner Elizabeth Clayton did a feature on A Practical Wedding once, and she says that:

“My general rules about attendance are:

  • under 50 invited: 90%+ attendance
  • 75–100 invited: 75–90% attendance
  • 100+ invited: 70–80% attendance
  • 150+ invited: 65–75% attendance

People often don’t believe me when I tell them only seventy percent of their invited guests will show up, but through over a hundred weddings I’ve done professionally I’ve seen these numbers exceeded perhaps fewer than five times.”

And it actually makes a lot of sense, depending on the type of wedding that you’re having. Having a small, intimate wedding with a low guest count? Chances are, because you invited the people closest to you, they’ll most likely make the effort to attend your wedding. So feel free to consult those rules on attendance, and then make a rough estimate of how many guests are coming out of town and cut the number of rooms you’ll need by maybe one or two. Once again, these are just rules, and rules are broken all the time (e.g. all 457 potential guests RSVPs “Yes!”. Cue nightmare).

General rule of thumb, but DO NOT OVERBOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOMS. And even before that, make sure to read and understand your hotel contract carefully! Many hotel contracts will have an attrition clause, which will make you pay roughly for 80% of the rooms you have booked no matter the circumstances. So, if you have 40 rooms booked but only 27 rooms filled, you’ll still have to pay for 32 of those rooms. Consider it a safety measure on part of the hotel and a warning for you to not over-estimate your guest count. Plus, it’s always easier to underbook rooms and add a few extras than trying to negotiate your way out of a contract.

Beginning of a Great Day Begins the Night Before

book hotel rooms

 Hotel Caruso

Or the night before before! Jeez, when are all of these guests going to trickle in?

That begs the question, when are you having the wedding? A lot of times (ESPECIALLY if your wedding is on a Saturday), people will hop on over to your wedding location after work on Friday and call it a night. However, if these are guests that are coming out of town, you should reserve two days before your wedding and one to two days after your wedding. That way, guests can settle in and leave without feeling like they’re being hurried.

When should you reserve the hotel blocks?

Ideally, you’d probably should reserve hotel blocks as soon as you know your wedding venue and your wedding date. However, once again, because you might not have an accurate guest count until much later, try to underbook rather than overbook. It’s always easier to add, and this will be especially useful…

In a Far, Far Away Land…

book hotel rooms

Landon James Production

First off, I just wanted to start this off by saying props to the couple who’ve managed to book hotels for their destination wedding! I feel like I would be too neurotic and never book a hotel without having seen it firsthand.

Secondly, reserving a hotel in completely different country can appear intimidating. After all, how exactly ARE you supposed find a hotel that fits within your budget, has plenty of cool places around to hang out, is relatively close to your venue, has awesome amenities, is beautiful, and answer the rest of this list that I’m not going to list because it’s too long?!?

Good news is is that you CAN find that hotel. You can either 1) consult your wedding planner to find the best hotels to serve your purpose, 2) have a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings take care of all that jazz, or 3) do a bit of sniffing around and research to find which hotel you should reserve. Use travel resources such as TripAdvisor or GroupTravel to help you in your search. GroupTravel in particular has really great resources to help you ask and answer the right questions when trying to find your hotel.

Hopefully this guide helped you knock off a few items on your never-ending checklist! Additionally, you should ask the hotel you’re interested in whether or not they have established relationships with well-known vendors around the area. It can make wedding planning a lot easier if you already know that your vendors are going to be nearby and on-call at your wedding location.