You know we love our hotels here in the Washington DC area! Being the nation’s capital and a major tourist destination, the DMV is unique in terms of planning a wedding and what it means for your out-of-town guests. Most wedding guests will make the trip to the DC region to celebrate your wedding and get a little vacation out of it too! This means that they will need a place to stay, which means: hotels. And, lots of them!

We’ve written before about how to secure a room block in the DC area for your wedding, but it has come to my attention recently that there are few terms used in the hotel industry that might be confusing to a couple planning a wedding. (Thank you to The Dandelion Patch for hosting me at wedding planning advice session!) Before you try to secure a block of rooms for your wedding, read through this list of hotel room block terms so that you’ll know what they are talking about and costly mistakes are avoided during your wedding planning process. Best of all, your wedding guests have a place to stay for your wedding! Now, understand that with this list I can’t actually make your friends and family members get on the ball and make their hotel reservations for your wedding. You’ll have to bug them to do that on your own!

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Photo Credit:Kristen Gardner Photography; from Elizabeth + Paul’s DC hotel wedding

Here is a list of six hotel room block terms for weddings in the Washington DC area….

Block:  This term refers to the set of rooms that a hotel will set aside for your wedding guests to use for your wedding weekend, at your request. Typically, the block is created as a courtesy to your guests and you personally don’t have to pay for them. Once your guests reserve a room, they will be responsible for paying the bill. The hotel will set aside a certain number of hotel rooms for your guests for a certain period of time. Some hotels will give a discounted rate for room blocks. 

Courtesy Block:  This is another term for a room block. As a “courtesy” to you, the hotel will set aside a certain number of rooms for your guests without holding you financially responsible for rooms that are not booked. Your guests will have to call on their own to the hotel (or book online via your custom link) and make their own reservations within the block.

Social Block:  We have many large, corporate sponsored events here in the Washington DC area that also need hotel room blocks. In these situations, the rules are a little bit different than your typical wedding in the DC area. A social block refers to a room block that is for a wedding or other non-corporate events. When you call a hotel to reserve a room block, it helps to refer to it as a social room block so that it is clear that this is for a wedding and not a large, corporate event.

Release Date:  Sometimes also called a “cut off date.” This refers to the date on which the hotel releases any unreserved rooms within your block, making those rooms available to the general public. You and your guests must reserve the rooms within your room block by this certain date. After the release date, the rooms in your block will not be reserved for your wedding guests and any discounted rate that was previously offered is no longer guaranteed to be available.

Buy Out:  This is when you guarantee to the hotel that you will be using – and thus financially responsible – for all of the rooms in the hotel. Buy outs can be “total,” meaning all of the rooms that the hotel has, or “partial” with just a certain number of rooms within the reserved buy out. With a buy out there is no release date and you are financially responsible for any rooms that are not booked and paid for by your guests. This type of arrangement works best for smaller hotels or situations in which you know for sure that your wedding guests will be using every room and you don’t want to have non-wedding guests staying at your hotel of choice. 

Attrition:  This term refers to your financial responsibility for the hotel room block if not all rooms are booked and paid for by your guests by the cut off date. If you have a courtesy block, then you have no financial responsibility, and no attrition. But, some hotels require anywhere from 75-90% attrition, meaning that if your guests book less than the designated percentage of rooms then you are financially on the hook for those unbooked rooms. This is common in the DC area during very busy weekends (think Presidential Inauguration or the weekend in mid-May when every Washington DC university has graduation) or in areas in the DMV where there is a low supply of hotel rooms and the hotels don’t have to be flexible. This is particularly tricky if you are looking to get a block for the night before and the night of your wedding. Often a block will fill up on the wedding night, but the night before might have lighter bookings, and that is where attrition can be tricky. Look out for attrition clauses in your hotel room block contract and make sure that you fully understand what you are signing.


So, there you have a list of terms for booking a hotel room block for your wedding in the Washington DC area. Hopefully you feel more confident and will choose a fabulous hotel for your out-of-town wedding guests! Be sure to read our post for how to make a room block here in the DC area and use our vendor guide to find hotel wedding locations in the DMV.

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the other DC area wedding advice that we have put together for you or look through our list of the best Washington DC area wedding vendors!

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