There's more to wedding day travel plans than trying to hide your car from the best man and his arsenal of aluminum cans. We've got the 411 on getting you and your bridal party around.
Choosing your transportation begins with an assessment of who you have to take with you, and the size of your bridal party plays a big part. If it's just you and two bridesmaids, a slick luxury sedan will get you there in style -- the bride's parents can ride in a separate car. But if you've got a crowd, consider a trendy stretch SUV or Hummer that up to 22 people can pile into. Try to save a seat for the photographer: Candid, wide-angle, or paparazzi-style shots are a surprising favorite.
Afterward, make sure you remember you'll need to transport the two of you and groomsmen as well. Some couples opt for a car for just them and car or cars for everyone else. The choice is yours. If the reception is within walking distance from the ceremony, you can hire a choir, musician, or, say, mariachi band to serenade you.
Since limos are the most common choice, we thought nitty-gritty tips would help ensure your stretch goes smoothly. Ask for recommendations from recently married friends, the caterer, hotel concierge, or reception hall manager.
- Play the Blushing Bride. Ask about wedding packages. Some places will offer you complimentary champagne or upgrades just for asking; others will include a discount if you book for the bachelorette and bachelor parties too.
- Time It Right. Most limos have to be hired for a three- or four-hour minimum. If your travel plans consist of one 15-minute trip to the church, you might want to go for a less expensive option, like a Lincoln Town Car, which is still technically a limo. If there are several legs to the trip, renting the car for the night may make more sense.
- Book Early. Reserve your car at least six months in advance—or more like nine if your wedding is in April, May, or June, which is prom season. Comparison shop to get a decent deal as prices (and quality) can vary wildly. (Hint: Limos that aren't white often cost less.)
- Check the Fine Print. Read the contract word-for-word and ask for a statement detailing the costs of the deposit and balance due. Make sure the following is in writing: the date, hours, and pickup locations; amenities; the driver's name and attire; the make, model, and color of the car; plus cancellation and refund policies.
- Save Up Front. Place the smallest possible deposit on the bill—20 to 25 percent—to minimize your loss if the service winds up being less than great. Plan on tipping 15 to 20 percent, but check the contract to find out if gratuity is already included.
- Drop in on the Car. Make the final reservation in person, not over the phone. That way you can inspect the cars and ask which one you'll be getting. Most places won't guarantee a specific car, but you can get an idea of the fleet.
- Meet Your Chauffeur. Have a conversation with your driver ahead of time. Make sure he knows not just where you're going but how to get there. Let him know if you have a special request or heads-up (you'll be bringing sparklers back into the car after the ceremony, for instance).
- Assign a Type-A. Designate a bridesmaid to call the driver 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time to make sure your ride is coming on time.
- Prepare to Pester. Be sure to get an after-hours phone number of someone at the limo company in case any emergencies come up.
Making Your Exit
- Traditional Adieu. For their grand exit, most brides and grooms get into a formal car together, but there is absolutely no reason you have to stick to tradition. Use this opportunity to let everyone see you in your dream car. From a red-hot Ferrari to a Rolls Royce, you can rent cool cars from specialty car rental companies.
- Other Au Revoir Rentals. Take off on a vintage Vespa, or create a rustic feel by driving away in a friend's baby-blue antique pickup truck. Or how about a tandem bike for two fitness fanatics? Or sometimes simple is chic: a romantic walk, hand in hand.
- Provide for Your Guests. If you've got a lot of people coming in from out of town, are hosting the wedding events at several different locations, or are having the ceremony in a hard-to-find or hard-to-get-to location, consider renting minivans and shuttle buses, which are good for getting guests to each spot and on time.
- Costs for Mass Transportation. Expect to pay $75 to $100 per hour for this kind of mass transit. For a fun alternative, charter a 1920s-style trolley or a double-decker tour bus.
- Bridal Parties Top the List. If you don't have a bus going back to the hotels and are leaving in a different car, you should at least make sure transportation is arranged for the bridal party: cabs, another limo, or just enlisting a friend or family member to take each bridesmaid are all acceptable options. Just let each girl know earlier how she should get home so there are no questions that day.
- Parting Ways. If you haven't rented a shuttle bus for your guests, you should at the very least provide a taxi phone number so that any guests who've imbibed can make it home safely. You can also plan ahead with a taxi company so that they always have one waiting out front, and they can radio more cars as needed after the party's over. Now get moving.
Transport tip: If you have lots of out-of-town guests, consider renting minivans or shuttle buses to get them around.
-- Laura Gilbert, with additional reporting by Anja Winikka
Wedding Planning Basics