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NOW Planning Advice: Booking Your Hotel Room Blocks and Wedding Prep Suites

The terrace of The Residence Suite at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
The terrace of The Residence Suite at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans

WRITTEN BY: Jessica Burke, NOW Weddings Magazine Publisher

If you’re planning a wedding, choosing the best option for your guest room blocks and, not to mention, the perfect place to get ready on the big day is going to pop up on your to-do list sooner or later. You may be asking: How do room blocks work? What should I look for in a hotel? Where do I even start? Fear not dear reader, we have rallied the experts and have answers for you!

wedding guest room blocks

Many of you may be wondering, what exactly a room block *IS* and why you should have one.

“A room block is a group of 10 guest rooms or more per night that a hotel puts on hold specifically for your wedding guests to reserve,” says wedding specialist Olivia Celata at New Orleans & Company, New Orleans’ official destination authority. “The rooms are kept on hold for a period of time, and your guests are responsible for making reservations and paying individually for their rooms before a specific cut-off date.”

Room blocks are a great way to get all of your guests staying at the same hotel(s) and are especially important if your wedding falls on a date where there are lots of events drawing tourism traffic to the area.. (You can find out what’s happening in the New Orleans area during your wedding timeframe at Room blocks also take the pressure off your guests of having to figure out where to stay and if it’s convenient to your wedding venue.

When should you start thinking about your room block?

Sooner rather than later is the order of the day.

“We advise our clients to begin the process of booking room blocks as soon as you’ve settled on your date and venue,” says wedding and event planner Amanda Price of Amanda Price Events. “Recently we’ve seen a pattern with hotels not allowing blocks to be booked until you’ve reached the 1 year mark prior to the event. You want to get the information to guests regarding room blocks as soon as possible, so the sooner you can make the decision on blocks the better.”

If you’ve already passed the one-year mark, don’t fret, but do jump on this task as soon as possible. Celata suggests making the decision at least 4-5 months before the wedding date at the latest.

how do you choose the perfect hotel for your room blocks?

Should you book just one hotel or several? How many rooms do you need to book?

You could do all the legwork yourself, contacting all the hotels you’re interested in one by one. Or, you could have someone do it for you for free. I’ll let you decide which is the better option for you, but I personally prefer less work and, well, *free*.

For those of you looking for the free/less work option, you can find that assistance at New Orleans & Company.

“New Orleans & Company offers multiple complimentary services for those having their wedding in New Orleans because we are all about increasing visitation to this wonderful city,” says Celata. “For 10 guest rooms or more, we will contact New Orleans hotels on your behalf to help you find the room block that fits your dates, needs and budget.”

Queen double room at The Higgins Hotel in New Orleans
Queen double room at The Higgins Hotel in New Orleans

ah the budget!

Should you book just one hotel or several? How many rooms do you need to book?

Even though you may not be footing the bill for guest rooms, your guests will appreciate having a few options to choose from. You’ll want to review your guest list and try to offer options that will fit in multiple price ranges.

“Consider booking room blocks at 1-3 hotels depending on the number of out-of-town guests and the guests’ needs,” advises Celata. “Having multiple hotels provides the guests with a range of price options as well as options when it comes to their preferred hotel rewards programs.”

guest room block contracts

While hotels may be willing to offer a “courtesy room block,” many will require a contract guaranteeing that a certain percentage of rooms will be booked.

“Hotels are likely to offer a courtesy room block for 10-15 guest rooms,” says Celata, “meaning they will not require a deposit to hold the rooms until a certain date. For more than 15 guest rooms, you will be required to sign a hotel contract asking you to guarantee a percentage of rooms. Make sure you work with your hotel to understand all the details before signing a contract!”

Celata adds, “New Orleans hotels are an experience in and of themselves. Your guests can build upon your planned wedding celebrations by spending time with each other at their hotel’s restaurant, bar, rooftop pool or even music venue. New Orleans has a hotel to fit every style, so try to extend the style of your wedding to the hotel or hotels you choose.”

the guest experience

New Orleans is a popular destination, so you may find that your guests add time to their trip to enjoy the city. Plus there will be downtime between wedding events where they’ll be looking for things to do.

“Consider sharing a list of all the couple’s favorite things to do in New Orleans with your guests,” says Celata. “That way they can experience the New Orleans that you know and love!”

Another benefit to booking room blocks is having an easier time dropping off welcome gifts to your guests.

“Consider adding unique New Orleans items to your gifts like pralines, Mardi Gras masks, second line napkins and guidebooks,” says Celata. “New Orleans & Company provides complimentary New Orleans Official Visitor Guides for your overnight hotel guests.”

Wedding Welcome basket
Consider treating your out of town guests to a wedding welcome basket filled with local goodies. Photo by Sarah Alleman Photography | Welcome QR Tag by Camellia Memories

what should you consider before booking a hotel room block?

Wedding & Event Planner Amanda Price of Amanda Price Events suggests that couples keep the following things in mind when choosing a hotel room block for their wedding:

  • The location of the hotel in general – Is it in a safe neighborhood? Is it easily accessible for guests?
  • The location of the hotel in relation to the venue(s)
  • The location of the hotel(s) in relation to the other hotels you’ve chosen
  • The overall cost per night – Are there “hidden fees”
  • Multi-night minimums over weekends
  • Amenities for guests
  • Parking access and fees
  • Is the hotel offering concessions to the couple for booking a certain number of rooms?

Guest Cottages at The White Magnolia, Kentwood, Louisiana
Guest Cottages at The White Magnolia, Kentwood, Louisiana | Photo by Sarah Alleman Photography

your wedding day getting ready location

Many times couples choose one of the hotels that their room blocks are at for their wedding day prep location. This allows the couple to spend more time with their guests but if it’s not for you, go ahead and choose whichever location works best for you.

when to book your wedding prep suite

Price advises her clients to book their wedding prep suites at the same time as they’re booking their room blocks. “There are a limited number of large suites that have natural sunlight and are desirable for most clients, so we also book prep locations as the schedule allows.”

When booking your room or suite, the first thing to consider is the room size.

“It will need to comfortably fit your wedding party, hair and makeup teams, and at some point your photo/video team and planners as well – that could be a lot of bodies in one space!” says Price.

“If you are interested in taking pictures with your wedding parties, consider hotels that offer larger suites that can fit your entire party, balconies for couple or family photos, or even special artwork that would make a beautiful photo backdrop,” Celata notes. “Make sure the look of the hotel fits the style you are going for too!”

the lighting.

“You want a good bit of natural light for hair and makeup,” says Price. “We suggest a room with a clean, minimalist aesthetic with neutral tones as it’s typically what most clients want for the background of their photos.”

Professional photographer Sarah Alleman of Sarah Alleman Photography agrees, “Couples need to look for natural light, preferably a suite with multiple rooms with enough places to have two different spots to take photos so the backgrounds aren’t all the same for every photo.”

Alleman suggests booking a suite with at least 2-3 beautiful backdrops for photo opps such as putting your dress or tuxedo on and then fun shots with your wedding party. “I look for a pretty bed or sofa for bridesmaid pj + champagne pop photos or a cool balcony to capture the groomsmen having fun before the wedding,” she says.

Alleman also advises to look for a beautiful spot to hang your dress or tux up for photos as well as a place out of the way with good lighting to do detail photos. “If you’re hiring a photographer to cover this part of your wedding, make sure you have space to get great photos.” she advises.

should both of you get ready for the wedding at the same place?

We’re not saying you have to get ready in the same room together (though we love the idea of a private moment preparing for the biggest day of your life together!), but it is a great idea to book two suites at the same hotel for wedding prep if you don’t want to see each other beforehand..

“We prefer when our couple stays in the same prep location,” says Price. “While it does mean we have to be careful to make sure the couple doesn’t see each other until the planned moment, it tends to be a more logistically friendly option for all parties involved – the couple, wedding party and vendors.”

Alleman agrees, “If the venue is big enough, get ready at the same place. You can move details, like the rings, back and forth more easily and the styling looks more consistent.”

If you’re worried about seeing each other accidentally before the planned moment, don’t.

“Trust me,” says Alleman, “Your fiancé(e) is not going to go looking for you on the wedding day if they know you don’t want them to see you until the First Look or as you’re walking down the aisle.”

The benefits to staying in the same place are numerous. “Logistically, it’s easier when everyone is at one location,” says Price. “It allows for more flexibility throughout the day. It saves on time because you don’t have to incorporate additional travel time.”

Alleman agrees, “You get more opportunities for photos if your photographer isn’t having to travel back and forth between locations and you don’t have to worry about losing photo time to traffic and parking.” 

To wrap up, booking your room blocks and getting ready suite(s) is something that should be on your timeline earlier in the planning process than you might have imagined.

Consult your wedding planner for advice on hotels to consider and/or take advantage of the free assistance from New Orleans & Company to make this process easier. 

Thank you to our wedding experts for contributing to this article: New Orleans & Co. | Amanda Price Events | Sarah Alleman Photography

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