How to get the best rates for your wedding group
We all like a good deal. This is especially true when planning such an important event with a significant investment, such as a destination wedding. So, here is how to get the best rates for your wedding group!
What’s the best option when you are having a destination wedding at an all-inclusive hotel?
How and where should your guests’ book?
With so many options for booking from online travel agencies to using a travel agent, or even contacting the hotel itself to book direct, it is really hard to know how to get the best group rates or how to choose the best booking option for your wedding group.
First, I will explain what concessions are, how they work and how to get them! Then, I will explain the different options for booking a group, what the main characteristics are with the options. Hopefully, this information will help you choose the option that suits you and your group best.
WEDDING GROUP DISCOUNTS
Many people are under the impression that the hotel will greatly discount on groups. “the hotel should give me ***** for free because I am bringing in **** people”. This is very rarely the case. Your group is just a drop in the bucket for a big hotel.
However, what can be considered is that many hotels will offer concessions (freebies) when you bring in a group. ALSO, if you are working with a destination planner, you are NOT a drop in the bucket for them, so extra added concessions should also be available.
WHAT ARE CONCESSIONS?
Concessions is the word used by the travel industry that means the freebies you will receive. Depending on where you are booking, these concessions may differ, and some travel agents or destination wedding planners may not even offer them to you as they keep them as part of the fee for having booked your group. (Not cool, by the way. See our guide as to how to choose the right destination wedding planner for your wedding group.)
Canadian groups tend to get offered less than American groups as the overall rates tend to be lower. Make sure your written contract lists your included concessions.
For example, some hotels will offer every 6th room for “free” or every 11th passenger for “free”. Numbers for freebies will vary per hotel (more expensive hotels can offer more) and will vary per season as well. In addition, most will offer upgrades for every so many rooms and other perks.
EXAMPLE OF HOTEL CONCESSIONS FOR A WEDDING GROUP
- Private check-in for the group (if the group arrives at the same time)
- Welcome drink and cold towel upon arrival for the group
- One (1) complimentary room for every 10 paid room (11th room free) based on double occupancy and lowest room category least number of nights (non-cumulative)
- One (1) complimentary upgrade to the following upper category per every 10 rooms paid per night
- 10% spa treatments for all wedding guests (not combinable with other promotions)
*Terms and Conditions apply:
Concessions are offered based on the initial number of rooms blocked and there is a 10 room minimum (including complimentary rooms) for these concessions. The courtesies will be granted based on the final headcount of rooms (30 days before arrival). The minimum number of nights for rooms to count towards the courtesy nights is 3 nights.
In addition, you should work with your destination wedding planner to ensure other perks regarding other services. For example, here are some additional concessions that may be available.
- Flight refund for the wedding couple (Must be booked through us, economy seats, for flights from the US and Canada) of up to $1000.
- A dedicated website where your guests can see your story, RSVP, book their rooms, flights, and transfers.
- Complimentary private roundtrip airport transportation for the wedding couple and/ or other members of the group.
- Discounts on group tours such as a chartered catamaran for the group, golf, or another adventure as a group.
- Free customized maracas as a wedding favor for your guests
HOW DO FREEBIES WORK?
Final amounts are calculated at the time of travel and will be based on the amount prior to taxes and fees. Essentially, everyone booking needs to pay at the time that they make their reservation. Once the group is paid up, the final count will be made and your destination wedding planner (or another source of booking) will contact you to determine where you want your refund applied. (Hopefully, a very large one!)
Example based on every 11th person free:
Guests 1-10 pay normally
Guest 11 pays normally but will count towards a refund
Guests 12-22 pay normally
Guest 23 pays normally but will count towards a refund.
Amounts are also calculated on the shortest length of stay in the least expensive room. I compare it to the buy one, get one free promo. They won’t give you the most expensive pair of shoes 😊
Get ready for some math. Not so fun, but the refund part is! SO, let’s say the least expensive room is $537 per person for 3 nights, they will adjust this amount to before certain fees for $457 (for example). So for every 11th person, you would be entitled to receive a refund of $457. Normally, the wedding couple does take this money to help offset some of the wedding costs, but you can also choose to refund some of your guests.
TYPE OF WEDDING GROUP BOOKINGS
The first thing to know is that there are several ways to go about it. There are a few things for you to contemplate in order to get the best group rates for your wedding group. Here are a few points to consider…
1 – Will the hotel sell out? Is it a small hotel? Getting married during high season? How many rooms / guests will you be expecting?
2 – Do you have funds available to front in order to block rooms for your group?
3 – Will everyone be flying on the same flights?
4 – How much do you want to organize for your guests versus them organizing themselves?
OPTIONS WHEN BOOKING A WEDDING GROUP
Option 1 – Group Room Block
Essentially here, you are locking in rates and rooms for your wedding group. This can be as little as 6-10 rooms depending on the hotel. The contract will outline the terms and conditions for giving back the rooms without losing any money as well as the cancellation policies.
This block ensures that rates the rooms you block are reserved for your group, so even if the hotel sells out, you have rooms for the guests that are expected to attend your wedding. Also, this locks in the rates. This option also allows guests to start with a small deposit and make payments.
It also allows you to provide the full info on your invites or wedding website as the rates will be locked in and you can provide them upfront.
Normally the couple locks the rooms in for anywhere from $100-200 per room. With some hotels, we can even lock in rooms with an overall $500-$1000 deposit. Again, your travel agent or source of booking should be able to advise and simplify this process for you.
Once your guests call in to apply their own deposits, the initial amount you put down can be refunded to your card or put towards your room.
The room block agreement also outlines the perks that you will receive because you are booking a group.
This option is best if you:
– Have money to put down for the group block
– Have 6-10 rooms or more
– Want to include fixed pricing on your invites / website.
– Want to ensure that hotel cannot sell out
– You want to be able to offer a small deposit and payment plan
Most of the time, guests will book their flights separately and have the flexibility to book flights as per their preferences (# of nights, airline, to pay with points etc.)
This option also allows for extra perks for the wedding couple that can include:
– Free flights for the wedding couple
– A custom website
– Free upgraded airport transfers
Option 2 – Group Block with Hotels & Flights
This is similar to option 1 but WITH flights. This is more common for Canadians that are accustomed to the all-inclusive package that already includes flights. You need to have at least 10 people on the exact same flights in order to apply for this option.
FOR U.S. BASED COUPLES
Generally, this type of group needs a larger deposit as you will need to pay 2 deposits, one for air and one for the hotel.
This type of block requires the highest deposit and the most organization within the group as the flights with regular airlines are non-refundable unless you buy insurance.
It does require more organization and the cancellation policies are much stricter than for hotel-only room blocks.
FOR CANADA BASED COUPLES
Most tour operators will allow the wedding couple to block 30 seats for as little as $300. Then the individual guests can call in to block their own seats and reserve their rooms, and pay their own deposits ($150 per person is the norm). You can also combine different cities within the group, so if you have 8 people out of Calgary, 4 from Vancouver and 6 from Halifax, they can all be included in the same group contract.
Your contract will outline the deadlines for posting deposits, and releasing seats back with and without penalty.
This option is best if you:
– Are Canadian and your guests are flying from Canada
– Have money to put down for the group block.
– Have guests that are willing to pay deposit relatively quickly
– Want to provide fixed flights and rates on your invites / website.
– To ensure the rooms remain available and the hotel cannot sell out
– You want your group to travel on the same flights — same city (cities).
Option 3 – INFORMAL GROUP (aka express group, a la carte group, your group your way)
You want to be considered a group by the hotel and get any freebies that you can, but you really don’t want to be responsible for putting up money for your group or dealing with any sort of contract. In this case, we can request a group code and you provide this code to your group.
For everyone in your group that calls and books (they do have to book with the same source) this code will be applied to every booking. This allows the rooms to be sent to the hotel as a group (for rooms to be allocated in the same area as possible) AND many hotels will still offer concessions with this type of group. You may receive fewer freebies (every 11th instead of every 6th) and you will not be provided a written contract for the concessions, but you are still being booked in as a group and will get some freebies / perks for being booked as such.
This option does allow guests to book with or without flights, and also allows for price matches in most cases (if they find a cheaper price somewhere else).
However, NO SPACE is being held at the hotel so if guests do not book in a timely manner and the hotel sells out, there are no reserved rooms for your group.
If rates change and hotel raises (or drops) their prices, whatever the rate is when booked will apply.
This option is best if you
– Only want to pay your own deposit
– Don’t mind if rates change
4 – Combination Group
Some hotels will allow you to combine the above type of groups 😊
Want to get 10 contracted rooms and no more? You can ALSO get a group code for other rooms that can add to the block. Or you can contract 10 rooms only and then add on another group with 10 people with flights. OR you may have half your group in Canada that want to book with flights and half your group in the US, wanting to book hotel only and pay in USD. There are options for everyone! For larger groups with guests from both Canada and the US, this is often a good option to get the best rates for your wedding group.
5 – Do your own thing group
Another option that some couples choose just to allow their guests to book when and what they want. Essentially your invite / website will say ‘we are getting married on this date at this hotel’ and then the guests can book however they want.
– Your guests can take advantage of flash deals
– They can book with whatever source they feel most comfortable with
– many online booking sites get assigned the ‘worst’ rooms
– if booking through an online site, your guests will have no support if anything occurs
This option is best for you:
– If you only want to organize your own room
– You do not want to pay a deposit for anyone in the group
– If you are not worried about the final guest count – You are ok with guests contacting you for help with the rooms, as you would be the main point of contact.
I hope this guide has helped you figure out how to get the best group rates for your wedding group. If you are working with a travel agent or destination wedding planner, they should be able to guide you as to which way is the best way to get the best rates for your destination wedding AND also to get you the maximum amount of perks possible.
Feel free to get in touch with one of our destination wedding planners if you need help or guidance or are still unsure how your group can get the best rates.
Want to know if our team is the right fit to help you plan your dream destination wedding? Check out our team page. We are here and happy to help.
Feel free to post your comments or questions below or get in touch! We love to get feedback from past wedding couples who can share their insight and experiences as well.