Our project of late has been trying to figure out this whole hotel blocking thing. At first, I thought "arranging a discounted rate at a local hotel for your out of town guests is a lovely and necessary gesture." But then, after a few bad phone calls and a lot of frustrating internet research, I began to wonder...is this a necessity from days past (as in the pre-internet days of travel agents) that has endured as a formality and an "expectation" rather than something that is actually useful to guests?
Here are the problems that I have with blocking hotel rooms. Our friends and family have very different taste in hotels. While our siblings may prefer more luxury or boutique-type hotels, our parents and aunts and uncles may want something more familiar (like a larger chain hotel) and cost effective, especially those that are staying the whole week. On that note, how do we decide which dates to block? I know that my parents will be coming for a whole week, but many of our guests will be more constrained by jobs, school, etc.
And many of our friends who come in from out of town will likely stay with other friends, bypassing the hotel altogether. How can we, especially considering we haven't even sent our invites out, be expected to know exactly what everyone else's travel plans will be? Most hotels seem to expect some kind of guarantee that you will fill all the rooms that you think you will need (again, how are you supposed to know?), and I'd be pretty unhappy having to foot the bill for 4 unused hotel rooms if they didn't get booked.
In my own experiences attending weddings, I have never stayed at the specially selected hotel where rooms were blocked (the only exception being my sister's wedding in Cape Cod). In fact, JT and I recently attended an out of town wedding where we had the option of going through the "block" and staying at a chain hotel close to the venue, but we instead opted to stay at a boutique hotel rather out of the way as a way of having a mini-vacation before and after the wedding. Plus, we got a great deal on the hotel at Hotels.com. We stayed at a luxury hotel for what we would have paid for a Best Western.
Which brings me to my final point...in the days of Hotels.com, Priceline.com, and countless others, how useful is a hotel block anyway? Won't guests have better luck searching online for something that meets their needs as far as location, amenities, and price?
I urge anyone out there reading this to share your thoughts. Have you used blocked hotels when attending a wedding? Have guests at your wedding used the rooms? Did they find it helpful, or did most just do their own planning?