When it comes to booking your wedding wheels, you can't go wrong by hiring some sleek, shiny limousines to shuttle you and your bridal party about. But consider your other options: You can have your attendants transported by a party bus or trolley, while you and your Dad ride to the ceremony in a vintage Rolls-Royce or even a horse-drawn carriage. Later, you and your new hubby can be whisked away from the reception in a flashy sports car. Whatever type of vehicle you choose, be sure to follow these "road rules."
Start Your Engines
Make your transportation arrangements at least six months before your wedding day. If you're getting married during prom season—late March through late June—consider allowing eight to twelve months. Your wedding reception site manager should be able to refer you to reliable companies. The National Limousine Association (nlaride.com) has a database full of companies that rent not just limos, but buses, trolleys and specialty cars (vintage models and snazzy sports cars, like a convertible red Corvette—sexy!). For horse-and-buggy options, look in the Yellow Pages, under "Horse and Carriage Services."
Who Needs a Ride?
Limo companies can help you determine how many wedding day vehicles you should book, but here are some guidelines: Standard limos seat four to six passengers; stretch limos hold eight to 10 people; and some stretch SUVs and Hummers can seat up to 20. Remember that you'll need to arrange transportation for three "legs" of your day.
For travel to the wedding ceremony, secure one vehicle for yourself and your bridesmaids and another for the groom and his groomsmen. If you want to ride to the wedding ceremony alone with your Dad, book an additional vehicle for that purpose; your wedding attendants can ride by themselves.
For the journey from the ceremony to the reception, have at least two of these limos on hand: You and your husband will ride in one and your bridal party will travel in the other (some bridesmaids and groomsmen might prefer to ride separately, with their spouses, dates or friends). After the reception, you'll need just one limo, to transport you and your husband to the place where you'll be spending the night.
Some brides and grooms also provide a shuttle service for their out-of-town guests, in order to prevent drinking and driving (cost: approximately $75 to $150 per hour, depending on where you live). To find a charter bus company in your area, consult your local Yellow Pages, under "Bus Charter and Rental Services." You might also try USA Bus Charter, Inc. (usabuscharter.com), which provides service in over 350 cities and is recommended by the American Bus Association.
Questions to Ask
When you’ve chosen a company and sorted out the final details, it’s time to sign a contract. But before you do, make sure these points are addressed in the official document:
• Overtime fees (it’s standard to be charged for a full hour, even if you run only 15 minutes over)
• Whether parking fees and tolls are considered additional expenses
• Gratuity policy (most companies add a 15 to 20% fee to your final bill; if not, you’ll need to give your driver a cash tip)
• Make and license-plate number of the car (if you specified a silver Lincoln and a pink Cadillac shows up, you’ll have some recourse)
• Name of your driver (with cell-phone and pager numbers, if possible, in case he or she is late)
• All pickup and drop-off times
• Payment schedule
• Cancellation policy
When you call prospective limo companies, be sure to ask the representative:
Do you have liability insurance? If not, consider going with another company.
What's the fee? Most companies charge by the hour—approximately $75 to $125 per car, depending on the size and color (in general, white limos tend to be 10 percent more expensive than black ones).
What will the chauffeur be wearing? A suit-and-tie dress code is standard at most companies, but you can request that your driver don a tuxedo, which looks much better in photos.
Do you have package deals? A standard one includes three hours of service, a tuxedo-wearing chauffeur, a bottle of champagne, a red carpet to roll out when you pull up to the reception site and a "Just Married" sign. Cost: approximately $300.
Do you have any references? When you contact former satisfied clients, ask them for the name of their driver so that you can request him or her specifically.
Pay a Visit
Once you've booked a service, make an appointment to check out the company's fleet in person. This way, you can gauge the quality of the vehicles (as opposed to relying on web site photos) and select the exact model you want to book. If you spot a vehicle you especially like, jot down the license-plate number so that you can have it reserved for your big day. Ask if you can meet your driver, to gauge his or her personality and level of professionalism. Find out if he or she smokes, too, because even if the driver lights up outside, the unpleasant smell of tobacco will linger in the car—and on your hair and clothes.
To ensure that everything goes according to plan, email the limo company detailed directions to all wedding locations; just to be safe, have copies on hand on the big day. Call ahead to confirm all of your pickup times (you can certainly ask one of your bridesmaids to assist you with this), especially the hour you expect to be taken to the wedding ceremony. To that end, make every effort to be prompt—you don't want to keep your wedding guests waiting!