In this week's "Ask the Expert" we asked for and received some great advice from Megan Nickerson, Sales Manager of the Bay Harbor Village Hotel & Conference Center. She filled us in on the importance of booking rooms early and what steps to take when booking those rooms.
What are some of the main questions/concerns you get from Brides? What advice do you give them?
Working for a 90-unit destination resort, where the majority of our weddings are destination, one of the main concerns I hear from Brides is they are afraid their guests will not find lodging in the area or if there will be enough. This is a valid concern. Depending on the time of year and the location of the event, lodging options could be limited. Area events, other weddings and group functions, as well as transient guests, could all play a factor in the number of hotel rooms available to wedding guests.
I encourage them to set up a block through our hotel (most guests prefer to stay on property or as close as possible to limit the amount of driving) and recommend other area hotels to secure blocks as soon as possible, should they have many out of town guests. I also encourage them to keep their guests updated with options and contact information when they are ready to book. It should be seamless and easy for all parties involved. Some wedding guests will want to book up to one year in advance to ensure they will have lodging in their preferred hotel.
What is the importance of booking hotel rooms early?
Securing your hotel rooms early is extremely important; the earlier the better! Especially if you're planning your event in northern Michigan during the summer season when we have the most visitors to our area. Not only are your wedding guests competing with other visitors to the area, they are also competing with other wedding groups. Along with many other area wedding locations, the Bay Harbor Village Hotel has the ability to have multiple weddings a day. With the majority of our weddings being a destination and with guests traveling from all over, almost every guest will be searching for accommodations.
Regardless of the time of year or wedding location, reserve your blocks as early as you are able and give your guests plenty of notice to reserve by posting lodging options on your wedding website, Save the Dates, invitations, etc. giving them time to research and plan.
What steps do you need to take when booking / blocking rooms off for guests?
After you set a date and location, speak with that property’s Sales Manager or Event Coordinator for suggestions on area hotels. They will have ideas for the the most convenient and accommodating options.
Each hotel will have their own policies when it comes to reserving a block of rooms. Be sure to ask about the following:
1. Attrition policy
2. Reservation cut-off/release dates
3. Rates and whether or not they offer any discounts for group blocks
4. Minimum night policy
5. Accommodation options and discounts for the bride and groom’s lodging
6. Deposit required
7. Cancellation policy
8. Minimum reservation policy
9. Information on how guests should book (telephone, internet, group name/code, etc.)
What's the best advice you have for brides and grooms that are working on hotel accommodations for their guests?
- Do not try to guess what rooming types that guests will opt to reserve. This only leads to feeling stressed and should the hotel have a strict attrition policy, may leave you with a hefty bill should the rooms remain unreserved. If possible, block a small variety of styles giving guests with families of differing sizes and budgets options that best fit their needs. There is also nothing wrong with holding a block of standard-style rooms to start. Guests always have the freedom to upgrade if they so choose.
- Give your guests a variety of lodging options. If your wedding is hosted at a resort, be sure to secure a block at that property, but also list 1 or 2 other nearby hotels in the event the original block sells out. Wedding guests are usually savvy travelers and will often research the area to find the hotel that best suits their needs and budgets, but giving them options to begin their search can only help if they are unfamiliar with the area.
- Encourage guests to book as soon as they are able to avoid hotels selling out.
- If you do have to book hotels located farther than walking distance, consider hiring a shuttle of some sort for the evening of your party if the hotel does not offer this service. This way guests do not have to worry about driving after celebrating at the reception.
Although it might not be as fun to plan as the ceremony and party, this information helps so much in making THE BIG DAY possible! Thank you Megan for your expertise in this area!