With more and more guests traveling for weddings, creating a hotel room block is a must for most couples. While all hotels have different group booking policies, there are a few key contractual details to look out for when combing through your options. Here's an overview of some basic hotel contract terms you should know.
Food and Beverage Minimums
Food and beverage minimums are a common requirement when booking a hotel room block, as they ensure the hotel will meet their sales goals in lieu of the fact that a large percentage of guests will be attending off-site events. If you plan to host all of your events off-site and have a large minimum to meet, you may be able to get creative with this spending by offering guests a bottle of wine at check in or adding a turn-down treat. Your sales representative should be able to present you with a bevy of options as alternatives to hosting an event on-site.
Attrition is a clause some hotels use to ensure that their group bookings are committed to paying for a specific minimum number of rooms regardless of how many are actually booked by guests. If a group block isn't hitting that minimum number of rooms by a particular date, the party signing the contract may face a financial penalty or the empty rooms may be released to the public for sale. For example, let's say you have a 30-room block booked at your hotel and there's an attrition policy in place that requires your guests to book 80% of rooms by 60 days prior to the wedding date. If this dates arrives and some of the rooms you've held are not yet booked, they're released to the public for sale or you can opt to pay an attrition rate of around 75% of the room rate to continue holding the rooms. Attrition rates vary widely among hotels, and many hotels bypass this but may have other ways of guaranteeing a particular number of bookings.
Cancellation Policy and Force Majeure
It's in your best interest to be sure that the cancellation policy is very clear in your hotel contract. While it's unlikely that your wedding will be cancelled due to illness, poor weather conditions, war, a hotel strike, or for personal reasons, you should know what you, and your guests, would be on the hook for financially if anything happened. While you’re going through this part of the planning process, it may also be worth looking into wedding insurance.
Sales and Discounts
It's rare that you'll get a huge discount on hotel rooms unless you're booking a hotel for exclusive use, or during low season. Hotels have very specific goals their sales teams are required to meet throughout the year and whether they meet those goals with your event or through miscellaneous bookings doesn't make a huge difference to their bottom line. While many people think they have a lot of leeway for negotiations because they're bringing a big event to a hotel, that is not always the case, especially for popular and boutique hotels. Another thing to note is that if you're booking a hotel without exclusive use, you or your guests may at some point (usually long after you’ve negotiated your room block rates), find cheaper room rates for your hotel online. Unfortunately, this is the nature of online flash sales and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. If this happens, you may want to chat with your sales rep about whether your guests can utilize the cheaper time-limited rate and still count those rooms toward your minimum bookings.
It's common for hotels to charge fees for things like delivering welcome bags to guests' rooms and receiving packages on your behalf. This should all be stated in your room block contract. These fees are typically non-negotiable.
This story originally appeared on Martha Stewart Weddings.