I recently read a piece in The New York Times in which a Mother of the Bride wrote in to Emily Post about her concern that travel expenses for a destination wedding would prevent guests from attending her daughter’s wedding. The couple was generously offering to subsidize the cost, but was unsure how to politely go about this.
While Emily Post had some great ideas she missed a big one that most people probably don’t know is a possibility: Working with the hotel to reduce the cost of the overall guest experience and not the quality.
So how do you approach this with the resort? First, hire a wedding planner! Just kidding, sort of. A wedding planner will have the knowledge and experience to tackle this problem for you – saving you enough money and hassle to cover their fee. But if you decide to go it alone, here’s how.
First, decide how much money you want to put toward subsidizing your guests’ expenses. Then, talk with your group sales representative. The hotel will always have a goal that they’d like to achieve from room and food and beverage (or F&B) revenue, but they often are indifferent as to the breakdown, especially if you are booking the entire resort for exclusive use by you and your guests, aka “a buyout”. Some ideas?
1. Ask your resort to charge you for the total amount you want to use to subsidize (let’s say $5,000) and then reduce the rates offered to guests. For example, if your block includes 20 rooms at $200, 15 rooms at $350, and 5 rooms at $550 you can put $50 per night and $100 per night toward the first two room types, respectively, reducing guest rates to $150 and $250. They’ll never know those weren’t the result of some solid negotiating on your part! Leave the pricey rooms for your guests who are willing to spend the money and/or pick up those rooms for yourself… can you say “honeymoon suite”?
2. Resorts often have extraneous charges that add up quickly; something that many people either don’t know to ask about or fail to take into account when looking at room prices. A $200 room becomes a $250 room once you add in required resort charges (usually housekeeping and bell) and taxes. Offer to pick up these extra charges for your guests – a $100 savings per guest room in this case. If you’d like, tell guests that the resort waived these fees… again as a result of your amazing negotiating skills.
3. Pick up the tab at breakfast or lunch! If you’re at a resort that is not all-inclusive breakfast can cost you a pretty penny… or sometimes 3,000 pennies per person. Make sure the hotel let’s guests know when booking that their room rate includes breakfast each day. If you’re concerned about some people having a free for all, offer a special pre-fixe menu with a few options from the larger menu. [See if the resort will count this toward your overall F&B minimum.]
4. Provide group transportation to and from the airport. If you want to be a “secret subsidizer” say the resort provides this complimentary service. No one will know you’re paying the bill. Just make sure you tell your guests so they know to look for the driver upon arrival!
5. Match up guests in advance. Have three single girlfriends who don’t think they can afford the trip? Suggest they share a room and then set aside one of the less expensive rooms in their name.
What’s the key to success? Make sure your guests have as much information as possible – via email or a personal wedding website – and that it matches what the hotel would say if someone were to call. Just tailor the information to be as open and honest as you’d like. Better yet, hire Lydia Ross Events and we’ll handle all that and more for you!