Monday, June 1, 2015

Wedding Transportation- Why and How to Make it Happen

Being invited to a wedding as a guest means you can (and should) relax, enjoy, party and indulge a little...okay, maybe a lot! This is what your hosts want, what you're ready for and what they've been planning for. The food, the drinks, the decor, the music, the look and feel of the whole experience...and the transportation. Okay wait, transportation isn't always provided, and it isn't a requirement if you're doing the planning, but here are the Top 10 reasons why you should consider it a priority:

Providing transportation for your guests to get to and from your wedding (and from one part to another, if applicable) totally rocks because...

10. It makes your guests feel special- YOU know that they're special, now make sure that THEY know it! When you take the time to accommodate their transportation needs for your big day, they know that you've gone the extra mile to making sure that they'll have a good time. All of the other plus's (see below) click in their minds as soon as they find out and it just makes them feel at ease and happy. Happy guests are the best guests, and they show up ready for a good time until the very last song! 

9. It's fun! Seriously, how often do we get transported to an event?! It's exciting and may bring back memories of school trips as a kid, bar and bat mitzvahs, other weddings you've attended, trips with a team or a group, and visits to a new and exciting place. Think of the times that you've been transported somewhere in a shuttle or a bus. I can guess that these were some of the more exciting moments in your life. Maybe you won't be picking your guests up in a limousine (although that would be awesome!), but when you have a lot of guests to move, this is the next best thing,  and it adds an element of whimsy and fun for them! 

8. It's easier to relax when you don't have to worry about directions, parking, etc. and you know that you can just hop on a shuttle or a bus and it will bring you back safely after the party. Guests can immerse themselves in the party weekend vibe from hotel check-in to check-out and that's so nice. This is especially nice for guests who are traveling solo from the hotel to the reception (i.e. significant others of your wedding party, single friends, etc.) 

7. It helps guests figure out a timeline for the weekend early on. If they know when they have to be on the bus, they can work out when to start getting ready and go backward from there to decide what kinds of fun things they will do (or how to fit in what they have to do- i.e. hair, nails, buying a new dress, shoes, stockings, belt, sweater, etc.) prior to that time. Oh, and they can take advantage of the suggested activities in your Out of Town welcome letter!

6. It encourages guests to mingle from the start and gives a fun group mentality of "we're going to a party together!"- If everybody around you on a bus or in a shuttle is going to the same party as you are for the night, but you don't know them, there's a good chance you'll know at least one or two of them by the time you arrive. Maybe they'll even be sitting at your table for dinner, they'll become your dancing partner when your favorite song comes on, or they'll become lifelong friends! 

5. It keeps them on time- Want to limit or even eliminate late arrivals to your ceremony? Tell your guests when your transportation is leaving and they should all be on time (disclaimer: I can't guarantee they'll all be on time! That's up to them!)! If they have to catch a bus or shuttle, they'll push to be ready and often make it with time to spare! I saw a wedding recently where the guests had all arrived on buses, mingled, signed the guest board, dropped off their gifts, used the restroom if needed, gotten a drink of water or lemonade from a drink station and found their seats with about 10 minutes to spare before ceremony time. Win!

4. It's the safe way to go- Obviously if your guests are having a few drinks, it's safer to transport them back from the reception at the end of the night. It prevents anyone from drinking and driving, and completely eliminates the possibility of a DUI or an accident, which gives everyone peace of mind, including you. 

3. It encourages guests to stay the night- Along those same lines, if guests know in advance that there will be transportation to/from the event to the hotel, they're more likely to stay over and you're more likely to get some bonus time with them! This includes guests who live fairly close by, who may have been on the fence about staying or driving home. Initially, your guests may be hesitant to stay because weddings can be expensive for everybody involved and a hotel stay usually adds around $100-$200 per night per room, but oftentimes once someone decides to stay overnight, they embrace it and end up with extra time to enjoy the area and explore in downtime. They'll be happy they chose to stay, and you will, too! Win-win. 

2. It sets up a great after-party for you and your guests-  If you're having an after-party or you and your guests just want to hang out back at the hotel, you'll want everyone to arrive at approximately the same time. Transporting them all there together should help to achieve that goal and prevent people from arriving, leaving and going to sleep because nobody else was there. Extend the party, get everyone there and have fun! Oh, and speaking of getting everyone there...

1. ...It will give you (the bride and groom) and your families an end time to get out and back to the after-party (if you're having one) and you won't get stuck waiting at your reception venue (I see this almost every weekend). Furthermore, it will take you less time to leave because you'll be able to say "See you on the bus"! or "See you at the hotel!" to more of your guests, making for a faster and easier goodbye and a more manageable let-down when the reception is over. 

What are the options for transporting guests (and your wedding party)? 

Hotel Shuttle -
   Many hotels acknowledge that transporting wedding guests is a luxurious option that many brides & grooms want to offer, but aren't sure if they can afford. In order to bring in more business and increase the convenience level for overnight guests, your hotel may offer a shuttle to make trips back and forth at the beginning and end of your event. This is really nice, and you may want to take them up on it.
   However, if you have a lot of guests staying at the hotel, you may want to consider a larger option in order to get the most people there and back as quickly and efficiently as possible. Think about a hotel that is 10 minutes from your venue. A shuttle can usually hold about 12 people at the most. If you have 50 people going to your venue from your hotel, it'll take 5 trips to get everybody there. That's 20 minutes round-trip, and an hour and a half total that guests will be arriving at your venue. What will your first 12 guests do for an hour and a half? How will they feel at the end of the night, when they may have to wait another hour and a half to get shuttled back? Will they want to go to an after-party when they get back or go straight to bed?
   This is just an example, but consider how many guests you'll ideally have staying at the hotel, and how long it'll take the shuttles to go back and forth, then think about whether a shuttle is the best option for you.

- School Bus
- Luxury Motorcoach/Tour Bus
- Mini Bus/ Minicoach
- Party Bus

    A School Bus may not seem like the most elegant way to arrive to a wedding or leave from a wedding, but it'll get more people there faster, and that's the goal. Plus, as noted above, it's fun! It's the most basic and affordable way to transport your group. Oh, and their availability is often higher on the weekends, which could make for an even better deal for you.

   A Tour Bus or Luxury Motorcoach is a fancier, more comfortable (and often climate-controlled) way to go. Capacity can range from 35-60 people, and these buses are often equipped with a VCR/DVD player, multiple monitors, a stereo sound system and a restroom on board. This is nice if you have a slightly longer trip and want to play music and/or a special video for your guests. These buses may also have reclining seats, wi-Fi accessibility, and other equipment to fulfill your wishes and needs.

   A Mini Bus is a smaller version of a School Bus or a Luxury Motorcoach that may hold about 14-38 people at a time. This bus option is recommended for smaller groups and shorter distances, as it does not offer on-board restroom facilities.

   A Party Bus is something you may have considered for your high school prom or that you might prefer to reserve for your wedding party, because it's basically a dance party on wheels! It can usually hold up to 25 or 30 people, and often has lights, music, drinks, snacks, comfortable seating and space to get up and dance! Guests would probably be delighted to find out that they're traveling in one of these, as they wouldn't expect it and likely have never been in one before!

   A Trolley is a fun way to transport your wedding party and/or guests around an area with lots of sights to see and give it a tour-like feel. With lots of windows, a sweet design, an accessible (and often friendly) driver, seats and space to stand, trolleys today are also often equipped with a sound system and may even be decorated for the occasion. They often hold 22-30 passengers, and may include heat and air conditioning options. There may be a "politician's platform" or balcony on the back, which can make for a great photo op!

   Luxury Sedan or SUV-
  If you do not have many people to transport, you may consider hiring a driver in a luxury sedan to take 3-4 passengers to and from your special event. This is a luxurious and non-stop option for just a few people. Some companies now offer Luxury SUVs to transport 4-6 guests at a time.

   Limousine/Stretch Limo- 
   This vehicle, often reserved for the bride and groom and their wedding party, typically seats 6, 8 or 10 passengers, who are partitioned from the driver. Most limos have leather seating, a wet bar with champagne glasses, other refreshments and snacks, lighting, and the latest music/AV technologies. Stretch Denalis, Stretch Hummers, Stretch Escalades and more options may be able to seat 16+ passengers, and provide a very unique experience.

Final Notes- 
Pricing for transportation depends upon location, season, date, number of hours, number of trips, mileage, etc. You'll want to reach out to a few different companies and get quotes, then decide what is best for you.

Whatever you decide, it's SO nice to arrive at a hotel as a guest, look through an Out of Town bag and find out that there's a vehicle coming to transport you to the wedding and back. My biggest tip to brides and grooms is to consider providing transportation early on in the planning process. Once a decision is made, communicate it to your guests ASAP (especially if you anticipate rooms booking up at the hotel quickly) and share information on booking rooms right away.

The day of the wedding, there should be multiple vehicles and multiple trips to and from the event, and you should communicate those times with guests. If you have two buses going over and 2 coming back, you may also want to consider having 1 of them do a later pickup from hotel (for any guests who are running behind or couldn't get there in time for the first) and an early pickup from the reception. This gives guests a little peace of mind, if they may want or need to leave early!

If you use a hotel shuttle, it is often only for hotel guests. If you hire your own transportation, you could potentially tell guests who are not staying the night that they can park at the hotel, take the bus over and back, and be there for the after-party (leaving when they are ready, a little bit later in the night)

Why NOT provide transportation?
If you're getting married on a Saturday and you want guests to stay through the very last song... you SHOULD definitely consider providing transportation.
If you're getting married on a Friday (and guests are coming from work) or a Sunday (and guests are planning to leave early to get home and get ready for work the next day), you may want to stick with the hotel shuttle.
If you have a lot of guests staying at the SHOULD definitely consider providing transportation.
If there aren't many people staying overnight, you may want to stick with the hotel shuttle.
If your ceremony, reception, after-party and overnight rooms are all in the same place (or within a walkable distance), you should not need transportation for guests at all.

If you have guests who cannot easily go up stairs to a bus, you may want to consider hiring a bus with a ramp or wheelchair accessibility. 

If you hire your own buses for most of your guests, and your hotel has offered a shuttle, you may be able to arrange it with the hotel to use the shuttle to get your wedding party to the venue earlier in the day! That way,  they can all come back to the hotel at the end of the night on the bus!

Make sure you have a phone number for the driver(s) of your vehicles, so that you can contact them if you need an additional trip made at any point. Make sure they have somebody's contact information on your end as well in case they are lost or have any questions.

This post was born because I've seen SO many weddings where transportation wasn't well planned, and at the end of the night, guests were left waiting, and even more often, the bride and groom and their parents were left waiting. Often times, a venue will ask that the bride and groom take things that they brought in with them at the end of the night. This can add a significant amount of time, when combined with all of the goodbyes and all of the last-minute To Do's. Split up the tasks, have a large car there and ready to load everything (ask parents or a close family friend for help with this), then GET YOURSELVES ON THE BUS/SHUTTLE and get back to the after-party asap! I hope that this post is helpful to prevent any Transportation conflicts at your wedding/party.

Leave a comment if you have additional Transportation tips, questions, or situations you've encountered for future brides & grooms to plan to avoid! 

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