Making arrangements to get around on your wedding day for yourself. bridal party, and your guests is something that can sometimes get forgotten about. For some, its a non-issue. Some couples will purposedly book their wedding at a hotel or resort where all the events are taking place. If that is you, no need to read further. For others, ceremony and/or reception venue may require transportation, and this post is for you.
This bride enjoying her limo on her wedding day. Photo by Times Eye Photography.
Booking transportation is not a high priority booking like a venue or caterer; but I don't recommend waiting until the last minute. 4-6 months prior is pretty good, earlier if there is a big event happening in town that weekend (like a football game weekend in Happy Valley).
Most transportation rentals will have a minimum cost and hours. Usually the base rate is for 3 hours and then additional charges for each hour. No discounts given for less hours, but different aspects such as mileage can affect the final cost. Their are a variety of vehicles to rent. From limos, to buses, to trollies; and each tend to have their own starting price point. For shuttle larger groups such as guests; school buses tend to be the most cost effective.
Before you reach out to a transportation company, please have the following information handy as they will need it for a quote. Date of event, pick up and drop off locations (include address), pick up and drop off times, vehicles interested in, and estimated number of people using the transportation. Its ok if you don't know the exact times and numbers yet; just give them an estimate. Most companies don't need final details until closer time. If you are not sure what type of vehicle to rent, discuss with them your needs and see what they can offer.
Also if you are having a wedding at a property that is not typically used for weddings; let the company know. Ask them about having a driver come see the location prior. Most of the time they will do this as a courtesy. They can let you know if they foresee any issues with any of their vehicles getting there. I had one couple that the roads to get there were so narrow and winding; they would only use a sprinter vehicle. I also had one where the bus could not fit down the lane to the property, so people had to be dropped off at the end of the lane.
This bus actually got temporarily stuck at a venue. The bride used it as a chance to snag a funny pic!
If you are serving alcohol to your guests; please consider a shuttle. Its ok to forgo if your guests are not huge drinkers or the location has easy access to a taxi or Uber type services. Just double check with the venue if cars can be left overnight if needed. I never encountered a venue that has said no to this question. However, some may have a time the car needs to be retrieved by the next day. For those getting married around State College. I have found that its not hard to get a Lyft type service in town. However, a lot of venues 20-30 minutes outside of town it can be difficult to get sometimes (especially event weekends).
The hardest part with guest shuttles can be determining who all will actually use the shuttle. I've had couples rent multiple buses to ensure all guests can use the shuttle, only to have a bus go unused. Talk to your guests in advance and ask if they plan to use the shuttle. You can also put a note on the RSVP card. It can be a question with a yes or no to circle on the card; or ask them to note the back of the card. You could also do a survey on your wedding website. Asking is a win for you both. Guests like to know if there is going to be a shuttle or if they should make their own arrangements.
When planning shuttle pick up times for your guests, allow some buffer time. You want to allow a few extra minutes for late guests, traffic, as well as time to unload when they arrive. If your wedding ceremony is at 4:00 and the drive from the shuttle pick up to the venue is a 25-30 minute drive; I would tell guests the shuttle leaves at 3:15. If the shuttle has to go to more than one hotel, factor in time for that as well. Google maps can be a huge help in determining the time between distances. Just always add some buffer time.
For shuttles to take the guests from the wedding back; what most couples have done is have two return shuttles. An early one and one at the end of the reception. If the reception ended at 11:00, the do a shuttle at 9:00-9:30 and a final one at 11:00. Some companies will have the shuttle driver stay on site and do other return runs if needed. It may cost more; so ask. Just keep in mind the round trip times. If the hotel is 30 minutes away, that is at least 1 hour round trip for the driver. If your reception ends at 11:00, cut off early returns at 10:00.
Finally, be aware some transportation companies have it in their contract that someone visibly intoxicated (falling down drunk and vomiting), may not be allowed on the bus. You also can be held liable for any cleaning or damage done to a bus if someone gets sick. Some companies require security deposits now for this very reason.
Bridal Party Transportation
Bridal party transportation is a chance to have some fun. Maybe if you've always wanted to ride around in a big stretch limo or trolley; here is your chance!
Renting a trolley like above for the bridal party is popular for a lot of couples. Photo from Tera Nelson
Members of the bridal party usually need to be at the venue before guests. Whether they are getting ready there or need to do pictures. I recommend car pooling if you can (same recommendation to ladies who are getting hair and makeup done at a salon). If ceremony and reception are at the same location, I've had couples rent something to get the bridal party to the venue. Sometimes its one vehicle using the 3 hours minimum where they pick up the bride or groom with their members; then go back for the other side of the bridal party.
Most of the time at the end of the night, the bridal party takes the same shuttle bus as the guests. Some bridal party will car pool to the venue, use end of night guest shuttle, and get their car the next day. However, some couple's will opt to keep a separate rented vehicle for the bridal party. Some will send the bridal party members back on the shuttle, but get a town car or limo for the happy couple. Its all about what you want to do and spend.
If the ceremony and reception are at different locations, it can be nice for the bridal party to have transportation between both. If you have a shuttle taking guests from ceremony to reception, I would not use the same for the bridal party. Only because there are usually pictures afterwards and guests can get cranky sitting and waiting.
I recommend hired transportation if you want to drive the bridal party around town for pictures. It can be easier to hop on and off if you are all together. This can be especially true if you want pictures in areas with limited parking; like Penn State campus. If you decide to do this, check with your photographer if they want to ride on the shuttle. A lot of times they will ride on the shuttle and have the assistant drive their own car(if they have an assistant). This is important because you need to make sure you have room on what you rent to fit everyone; and all vehicles have a max capacity.
Getting a group shot like this at the Nittany Lion can be easier with only one vehicle since parking is limited.
Just keep in mind your own cars and where they will be that weekend. I have had couples leave their cars at the venue the entire weekend. They took shuttles services, but still had to make sure they got back to the venue Sunday morning to get their own car.
Finally, if their is a bridal party shuttle driving around to various locations, put someone in the bridal party on cooler duty. Have that person put together a cooler of water, drinks, and light snacks. First, check with your transportation company on their rules. Some will provide things like complimentary water, and some may not allow alcohol.