What Are The Key Ingredients In A Hotel Room Block Contract For A Wedding?

review and filling out legal contractIf you’re like most of us, then the thought of reading a room block contract does not excite you 🙂

Most of us worry that we don’t know enough about what should be included in a room block contract. Or that we may have overlooked something that will end up costing you?

Well, worry no more. As you will learn there are just four important parts to any wedding room block contract. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to navigate these waters without getting hurt.

In order to understand what goes into a contract, let’s go over what you should not do.

Don’t Just Sign The Contract

Most couples will sign a room block contract without thinking twice about the consequences. They are presented with a document, glance at it, and sign away. They do not negotiate, read or understand it. They just sign it.

These are the same couples that end up paying a significant deposit a year in advance, and then even more money three months ahead of the wedding.

However, there is no reason to part with so much money so far in advance. There’s no guarantee that you or your fiancee may have the same jobs in a year’s time. What if you have to push the wedding to a later date or cancel it altogether? Will your deposit be refunded?

Instead of blindly signing what is presented to you, read on to see what needs to be included and more importantly, excluded before you sign a contract for a block of hotel rooms.

But first things first. Do you even need a contract?

If are looking to block less than 30 rooms, then ask the hotel for a courtesy room block. With this kind of a room block, you don’t need to place a deposit (in most cases), and there are no contracts.

The hotel offers a discounted rate for wedding guests with the understanding that the reservations have to be made by a cut-off date (about four weeks). If guests call to make reservations after the cut-off date has passed, they may not get the room rate or the room type they need.

For more information read our article on how to get a courtesy room block.

What should I look for in a hotel contract for my wedding room block?

While most of the contract for a block of hotel rooms is boilerplate stuff, there are four things that you should keep an eagle eye out for to stay out of trouble.

  1. Deposit Amount
  2. Cut-Off Date
  3. Attrition Rate
  4. Cancellation Policy

Let’s go over each of these individually.

What’s the deposit amount and how will it affect you

In the room block contract, a hotel may require a set amount as a deposit, or a percentage of total revenue up front when you sign a contract. They may even require additional monies a few months ahead of the actual wedding date to secure the block.

What you should know: Make sure you know what the deposit amount is and how it is calculated. Even if you are set on one specific hotel (And you shouldn’t be), you should still shop around to see what everyone else has to offer. At the very minimum, you can take what other hotels offer and use it to lower the deposit amount at the hotel you really want. Ideally, you want there to be no deposit at all and if you are not set on a specific hotel, then pick the one that is most flexible on terms.

As long as your demands aren’t outrageous, most hotels will do whatever it takes to get you in the door. Consider asking for a partially refundable deposit. Or see if they will spread apart the payments over time.

Use the cut-off date as a bargaining chip

When you initially block rooms, it is assumed that you do not know how many guests will actually make reservations. The rooms are “reserved” under your wedding party name and are held so your guests can make room reservations. A certain number of days (Typically 30 days) before check in, the rooms that are not reserved will be released for general sale. The date that the rooms are released is referred to as the cut-off date.

While the cut-off date in and of itself may not seem all that important, it can play a big factor when you negotiate. You can offer a longer cut-off date (6 weeks) instead of the standard 3-4 weeks and see if you can get out of  paying a deposit or get rid of the attrition clause altogether.

Try to remove any attrition clauses

The attrition rate is the percentage of sleeping rooms that have to be ‘picked up’ (i.e. reserved) by your guests at the hotel.

Let’s take an example to get a better understanding. Mary Nixon blocks 20 rooms for one night at a hotel for her wedding guests. A month before the wedding, guests have only reserved 13 rooms and her contract with the hotel stated that her attrition rate was 75% (i.e. She was responsible for a total of 15 rooms). In this scenario, Mary has to pay the hotel for an additional two rooms even though they were not used.

In most cases, you want to tell the hotel that an attrition clause is a deal breaker. In fact, most hotels don’t even include an attrition clause in wedding room block contracts. If the hotel refuses to budge, then consider using another hotel altogether.

Cancellation clause

Look into what damages are specified in the case you decide to cancel your wedding room block altogether. Some hotels will charge for the entire room block if you decide to cancel a few weeks ahead of time so make sure you read the clause about cancellations.

Ideally, you want to be able to cancel the whole thing without any penalties. If that’s not possible, then negotiate with the hotel to have the cut-off date be the last day that you can cancel the room block without incurring any fees.

Also, there should be a force majeure clause that terminates your contract in the case of an emergency that you do not have any control over.

What if the hotel is inflexible about changing the terms of the contract?

We hear this often. In our experience, most hotels, large and small, are willing to work with their customers to close the deal. All you have to do is ask for some simple changes. If the hotel is interested in working with you, they will bend their rules to suit your needs. If they do not agree to change some of their policies then you should threaten to move your business.

But I tried to threaten them with moving my business elsewhere and they are still not budging?

If the hotel is being this inflexible while you are trying to get in the door, then think about how they are going to be once they have your money? Start looking elsewhere.

Lastly, we would recommend that any verbal promises should be included in the written contract. So if the hotel has promised you a free bridal suite, make sure it is in writing. Ultimately, do not sign any contract until you are happy with what is written in black and white.

What should you do next?

Booking a hotel for out of town guests does not have to be complicated. Read more about how to block rooms for wedding guests.

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