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Contracts and Room Blocks
By Amy Moorby (formerly Amy Clauss)
So, it’s been over a year since I wrote part one of this series. I guess I’ve been enjoying being a newlywed too much to think back about all the thousands of details involved in planning the wedding! But, it’s time for me to fondly recall all the details and share them with you.
In case you don’t remember where we left things last time, here’s a link to the first article in this series. I promise not to take another year to get to part three!
As a quick recap, we had worked with the Wedding Coordinator to get our locations set for the time being – wedding ceremony at the Wedding Gazebo at the Yacht Club; reception at Ariel’s at the Yacht Club; and Illuminations dessert party at the France Upper Terrace at Epcot. We now began one of the most tedious portions of the wedding planning – the contract and room block. The first part in this process was to tackle the room block, which had to be completed prior to finalizing the contract.
The Room Block
What is a room block, you might ask? Well, Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings (“DFTW”) offers wedding guests room rate discounts on a select number of nights at three Disney resorts selected by the bride and groom. The trick is that only those nights that are “blocked” are guaranteed to be available at a discounted rate. In fact, those are the only rooms and nights that are even guaranteed to be available – period. There’s another little wrinkle – you can only block a certain number of nights depending upon how many guests you expect at your wedding.; And, then based upon the number of nights that are blocked, you have to guarantee that a certain minimum number of nights will actually be booked. If the guaranteed number of nights are not, in fact, booked, then you would be charged the remaining number of nights at the discounted value resort rate.
Got that? Sounds confusing? Well, it is. To make it easier to understand, here are some of our specifics to help clear things up.
As our three resorts, we selected the Polynesian Resort, Port Orleans – Riverside and All-Star Movies. We wanted to offer our guests an option in each price category. Since we initially planned on having somewhere between 50 and 75 guests, we were able to block 60 nights worth of rooms and we had to guarantee that our guests would book a total of 50 nights. Incidentally, this may sound like a lot, but actually meeting the minimum number of nights was very easy. The real difficulty was trying to look into our crystal ball and determine which nights our guests would be staying and at which resorts. Our wedding was on January 12. We knew that certain family members were planning on arriving on January 10, but predicted that the majority of our guests were arriving on January 11 and leaving on January 15. So we blocked a small number of rooms at the resorts where our families wanted to stay for January 10 and then split the remaining nights among the three resorts for the dates January 11 throug the 15. Clear as mud, right?
Well, honestly, this was one of the most stressful and time-consuming decisions that we made during the whole wedding planning process. We spent so much time on it because we wanted to make sure that we got it right so that our guests were able to book the resorts that they wanted at a discounted rate. As it turned out we had no difficulty meeting our minimum (and we even increased our room block at one point) and actually, our room block ran out and our guests were unable to get the wedding discount. We would have been extremely aggravated about this fact except that it turned out that Disney announced AAA room discounts, which allowed our guests to book rooms at discounted rates that sometimes turned out to be lower than those offered with the wedding discount. Plus, with the AAA discount, guests were able to book rooms at any Disney resort of their choosing, not just those that we included in our room. In fact, in the end, we had guests staying at seven different Disney resorts!
So, after days and days of stress and maneuvering our room block around, we did the best that we could, and we were able to finalize and sign our contract.
The contract that you sign with DFTW is a pretty standard event contract. It really doesn’t contain any surprising terms and conditions. The specific things that we were concerned with were the room block information and minimum night guarantee that is detailed above, and the confirmation of all of the locations for the various events of the day of the wedding. Additionally, another important part of the contract is the minimum expenditure. Based upon the type of wedding that you are having, you have to guarantee DFTW that you will spend a minimum amount of money, exclusive of service charges and tax. Because we were having a custom wedding, our minimum expenditure was $15,000. This amount could be made up of anything booked with Disney for the day of the wedding,e.g., photographer, flowers, entertainment, food, beverage.
Again, the contract is fairly standard and, honestly, pretty tedious, so I won’t spend that much time on it. However, now that we had the contract signed, it meant that we had our locations booked and guaranteed, and we were now passed on from our Wedding Coordinator to a Wedding Planner, who was invaluable in assisting us with all of the details of our events. Also, now that the contract was signed, DFTW was able to send out their Save-the-Date letters to all our guests with all of the information necessary for our guests to start booking their trips!
DFTW sends out Save-the-Date letters to all wedding guests. These Save-the-Dates contain the relevant dates and locations, as well as information about the resorts that we had blocked. They also contained information about Magical Express and Magic Your Way tickets. The letters directed our guests to the website that DFTW had created for our event, which contained all the relevant information and allowed our guests to book and purchase everything that they need with a few clicks of a mouse. If you are interested in seeing what the website looks like, here’s a link to our page (surprisingly, it’s still active!):
Here is a link to the Save-the-Date letter that Disney sent out for us: Disney’s letter
Because the DFTW Save-the-Date letters were not sent out until after the contract was finalized and signed, and after we provided DFTW with a complete list of all of our guests and their addresses, we decided to send out our own Save-the-Date letters to notify everyone of the upcoming wedding so that people could have plenty of time to get vacation time and begin their planning. Our own Save-the-Dates went out about two months before the DFTW ones were sent. In order to assist us in all of our planning, we asked all of guests to fill out a response card so that we could get a handle on how many people were actually coming.
Our Save-the-Date letter that we sent out ourselves is below.
For any future Disney brides and grooms – I can’t suggest strongly enough that you do this! As it turns out, about 20 more people than we originally expected answered “yes” to our Save-the-Dates. What this ultimately meant was that our original reception location, Ariel’s, was too small for our group. So, we moved our reception from Ariel’s to the Atlantic Dance Hall at the Boardwalk. We were thrilled that this turned out to be the case because we had initially wanted to have the wedding at Atlantic Dance Hall to begin with, but when our projected guest list was between 50 – 75 people, the space was too big for our group. Now that our projected guest list was somewhere near 100 people, it was perfect! Isn’t it nice when things work out?
So, that’s all for now – sorry that this installment was a little dry, but it is the nuts and bolts of wedding planning, even at a place as fun as Walt Disney World. However, in the next installment, I will tell you all about the Planning Session and Menu Tasting!
Our Save-the-Date Letter
It’s official! We’re getting married and we’d like you to join us. We will be sending out formal invitation as the date draws closer, but we wanted to announce our plans in advance so that you can begin planning if you would like to attend.
We are doing our best to make sure our wedding is affordable to all our guests. To that end, Disney will be offering discounted resort rates for our guests at thee different resorts. You will receive a Save the Date packet from Disney Weddings in the near future that will contain more detailed information, including wedding and hotel information, as well as discounted park ticket packages.
Although Disney is providing our guests with a discounted hotel rate, there may be more deeply discounted rates available. If you wish to explore this possibility, we suggest that you contact a travel agent, or we would be happy to recommend our travel agent to you. Please let your travel agent know that you are attending the Clauss/Moorby wedding.
In planning flights, please know that our wedding will begin at 2:30pm on Friday, January 12, 2007 at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club. Additionally, we are hosting a Welcome Party at 5:30pm on Thursday, January 11, 2007 at Ohana, a Hawaiian-themed restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Please complete and return the enclosed response card by July 19, 2006 to help the two of us and our event planning team best prepare for our special day.
Amy & Mike
P. S. We realize that a destination wedding may not be convenient for everyone. We hope that everyone will be able to celebrate with use, but we understand if your schedule doesn not allow it.