Booking wedding room blocks for your Philadelphia wedding
*This blog post is not meant as an endorsement of Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental Hotels Group, or any of its subsidiaries. I just really like Rapper’s Delight.
So, you wanna book a block of rooms for your upcoming wedding. Piece of (wedding) cake, right?
Blocking out a hotel is just one of many way-more-complicated-than-it-should-be indignities of planning a wedding. Unless of course you’re REALLY chill about the whole thing (“My guests are all adults! They can figure out where to stay for themselves!”). But if you’re like many of my clients, you’ll want to reserve a number of rooms so that your out of town guests can all stay in the same place, get ready in the same suite, eat the breakfast buffet at the same tables, and – as we all know – after the party, it’s the hotel lobby. But you have to be staying at the same hotel for that.
So, you want a reasonably priced block of rooms in proximity to your venue (or in proximity to cool touristy things so that you guests can enjoy the city in their downtime). Sounds easy enough.
Except when it isn’t.
If you ever want a textbook lesson in supply and demand, look at hotels in Philadelphia. Hotel room availability is like Halloween candy. When you don’t NEED a 50 lb bag of chocolate laying around your house, it costs $10 and can be found everywhere. Two days before Halloween, however, it costs $200 and there is only ONE left on the shelf, unless you want that weird mix of root beer barrels, wax lips, and circus peanuts.
So goes finding a room block. Depending on when your wedding is, you might have absolutely NO trouble getting a block of 50 rooms in Rittenhouse Square for $150 a night. The weekend afterward, however, you have to call every property in the city to block off 5 rooms at 10 different hotels, at a range of $200-400 per night. So what’s a couple to do? Here are my top 5 tips for finding accommodations for your wedding guests:
#1: Use a website like HiSkipper.com to do it for you. You might not get THE BEST deals or get as clear of a picture of the hotel without calling them directly, but it’s quick and relatively painless.
#2: Avoid the following weekends. Penn Relays (April), Penn Graduation/Alumni Weekend/Dad Vail Regatta (May), Labor Day Weekend/Made in America Festival (September), and always check with the Convention and Visitors Bureau website for any other conventions. If hotel availability is vitally important (for instance, if 90% of your 200 person wedding is coming in from out of town), confirm your weekend is ok with the hotels BEFORE locking down your date with the venue.
#3: Know how many rooms you need before you call. Some hotels (not all) will require guarantees on some weekends (not all). Meaning if you tell them you need 20 rooms, they might require you to put your credit card on file for 75% of those rooms. So if your guests only book 10 rooms, you have to pony up to cover the other 5. There’s a benefit to not OVERestimating how many rooms you need.
But there is a benefit to not UNDERestimating how many rooms you need as well. If you reserve 20 rooms but end up needing 30, you may not get the same rate for those last 10 rooms (if there are even any rooms available at all). The guests in the second block of rooms may end up paying more than the first group and might be grumpy about it. (#earlybirdgetsthebetterroomrate)
#4: Specify if you want/need double Queen beds rather than Kings. A lot of professional or academic conventions book double Queen rooms (I’ve run into a particularly annoying annual high school volleyball tournament a few times now). This is, of course, so that two unrelated/unmarried/platonic types can share a room a split the cost. Since many of you may have friends or family who would be interested in a similar arrangement, make sure you ask the hotel if the rooms in the block are single Kings or double Queens.
#5: Don’t panic. Even if you do have a wedding scheduled on a busy weekend, there are places for your guests to stay. If you can’t find any hotels that are willing to do room blocks, get creative. Often hotels will say no to blocks but still have rooms available to the general public. If you’re confident that your guests will use them, reserve those rooms on your credit card and have your guests switch the rooms to their names/cards. They can always book with hotels directly as well – they might not get a big discount, but your guests won’t end up sleeping on a sidewalk. If hotels aren’t working out, direct your guests to AirBnB or VRBO.
Bottom line: Philadelphia is a large city with a lot of hotels and even more private residents who are excited to host your guests and show off our city. If you can be flexible and do a little pre-planning, getting a block of rooms can be a relatively simple task!