Congratulations to all of the brides! I am the BDW TA specializing in the Caribbean including Punta Cana. I have been to both Majestic Colonial and Majestic Elegance and they are wonderful resorts!
I've been following some of the posts and thought I would add a bit of information that is important to remember when comparing rates. Your destination wedding is your special day and everyone wants to get the best rates possible for yourself as well as your guests. Absolutely rates are important, but making sure that you have an advocate working for you is also important. All of the TA's from the BDW Forum are certified destination wedding & honeymoon specialists. This means we have participated in hours of training, product updates, seminars and site visits where we visit the properties and tour all aspects of the resort. There are numerous continuing education opportunities each year as well as the opportunity to meet with our local resort and wholesaler representatives. This along with years of experience in working with groups allows us to provide our clients with the best service possible. Part of this service is working to get our clients the best rates possible. We work with a variety of wholesale tour operators and because of the volume of business they do typically have rates better than you will find anywhere else including going directly to the resort. In addition to all of this, WE LOVE WHAT WE DO!!!
A few to things to remember when comparing rates - Not all rates are the same.
Even if you are traveling at the same time and staying at the same resort as another group, depending on when each group was booked rates could and most likely will be different.
Resorts are constantly offering new promotions and terms & conditions of booking can change too. A promotion that was available 3 months ago, 1 month ago or sometimes even last week, may not be available today.
Resorts have high and low seasons. In the case of the Majestic Elegance Resort, rates drop after April 30, 2013. So a group traveling in May will most likely have lower rates than a group traveling January - April 2013, even if they booked at a later date.
There are also differences in booking a group block versus individual reservations. Our BDW "Group vs Individual Reservations in a Nutshell" is below. This explains in detail the differences when considering whether a group block or booking individual reservations is right for you.
This is our "in a nutshell" version of group vs. individual booking procedures:
When you do a group block, you always know you have the rooms, and the price will not go up, but if rates go down, the hotel and tour operator will usually accommodate a price drop and make an adjustment. With blocking group space, you must have a minimum of 10 rooms. Typically, this is the best way to guarantee that you will get the most from the resort in terms of upgrades, complimentary events or free nights. Some definitely offer more than others in terms of incentives. It is all laid out in a contract that the hotel proposes, and the tour operator, myself and you all sign. The perks and freebies are all spelled out for you. A deposit of at least $100 per room is due within about 1 - 2 weeks of getting the contract set up. Usually this would be coming out of your pocket, since it is not likely that the guests would be booking or putting up money this early. Then as time goes on, if your guests want to add additional rooms, or arrive early, or stay late, or fewer nights than you have booked requests can be adjusted within the block. Group rates are not always lower than what you can find shopping as an individual, but most times, they are. Something to consider when shopping and comparing an individual rate, it will be the rate for ONE room only and this rate will change as the availability at the resort changes. With a group contract your space and rate is guaranteed for as many rooms as outlined in the contract. Final payment for groups is usually due about 65 days prior to departure, and once all payment is in the rooms can be nonrefundable if the hotel chooses. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Alternately, you can have your guests all call one central agent, and as for me, I keep track of everyone, booking them the lowest available pricing as they come, (price matching and such if necessary), and you as the wedding couple have no financial responsibility for any of the guests bookings. I still will gather up all the bookings and I write to the hotel manager just before your arrival asking for any possible amenities they can offer the group and especially for you yourself, but this is NOT guaranteed to get you an upgrade or free party or anything. Also, the hotel COULD possibly sell out, and then late birds could find that they are out of luck with no rooms left.
Airfare: Either way, unless the entire wedding group is coming from the same city, and traveling both directions together with no changes or deviations, it does not make sense to try to block airline space as a group. It is best to have each of the guests book air individually either through me as part of the package, or just on their own, letting me know their flight schedules so that I can provide airport transfers to and from the hotel. Once airfare is booked, there are no price adjustments.
So I hope that explanation helps a bit! We work with both types of wedding groups, and find that both ways of booking have their bonuses and drawbacks, we just have to find what will work best for each bridal couple and go from there!
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thanks! TA Patty