That is the question!
Often times the most frustrating and challenging part of a wedding is the part that people think about last. After all the fabulous vendors from photographers to cake bakers to lighting designers have been booked, one question still remains? How the heck are we, and all of our guests, going to get to and from the ceremony and reception? If you have a lot of guests coming from out of town- this is an especially important question to ask yourself! Out of town guests or not, if there is an open bar being served, it is a serious consideration for all of your guests safety.
Figuring out the transportation for the bride & groom and their wedding party is not so bad. In fact, it can be fun! Are you thinking a romantic antique car like a Bentley or Rolls Royce or luxury exotic like a Porche or Jaguar? The options are endless for that fabulous “get away” car at the end of the night! And the options for transporting your bridal party to and from are just as vast…everything from stretch Cadillacs for 18 people to traditional 10 passenger limos or (watch out!) the stretch Hummer.
Now onto transporting your guests! This is the potentially not-so-fun-part, as it takes some thought and planning.
These are the most common questions I get along with my “usual” answers:
Q: How do I know how many guests will take advantage of the shuttles I offer? Can I ask them ahead of time to let me know?
A: There is no way to be 100% sure- an educated guess (on the high side) will have to suffice. Take a look at your guest list and make a list of who is coming from out of town. Of those who are NOT local, who do you think will not want to give up the freedom of driving their own car AND who are not big drinkers? All of these people will probably not use the shuttles, so cross them off your list. For everyone else left on this list, take 75% of the total and assume they will all use the shuttles. And no, it is usually not appropriate to ask guests to commit ahead of time to a shuttle. Be sure to include the information on the “directions” insert of the invitation, list the info on the wedding website, and then include again in your welcome bags at hotel check-in.
Q: Do I need to get one big shuttle bus for everyone or can I have a smaller shuttle bus do trips back and forth between the hotel and ceremony? And if I do that, how will I transport everyone once the ceremony is over?
A: The answer to this is not simple and it usually depends on your budget. It is most cost effective to have 1 large shuttle for an hourly contract and have that shuttle go back and forth, once or twice, to collect all of the guests from the hotel to bring them to the ceremony. However, this assumes the hotel and ceremony are fairly close to one another (no more than 15 minutes driving). You also need to add at least 15 minutes onto each pick-up/drop-off to allow plenty of time for guests to filter on and off the shuttle and to allow for any traffic on the roads. This means that your first group of guests arriving at the church will be quite early for the ceremony and your last group will arrive just before the ceremony begins. Not necessarily a bad thing but something to consider when factoring your timeline. If money is no object (!), than booking a few smaller passenger shuttles, who can all be on stand-by is the best option. This allows shuttles to leave on cue, as guests fill them up, from the hotel and bring them to the ceremony. All of these can be waiting at the ceremony site to then transport guests to the reception at once.
Q: I think the hotel has a free shuttle bus- can I just look into that for my guests?
A: Yes, but usually this shuttle bus just provides pick-up and drop-off transportation and will not be on “stand-by” during the ceremony. This may mean it can leave the ceremony once it drops off all the guests and do another pick-up and possibly not be back at the agreed upon time. This delay will hold-up the cocktail hour and the rest of the events for the evening. Not usually the best option, even if you are on a budget. I suggest leaving the free hotel shuttle as an option for any guests who want to leave early OR for those that miss the last call for the charter shuttle.
Q: How do I handle guests who want to leave early? I have some older guests who would like to use the shuttle but dont want to stay until the end of the reception.
A: Having multiple smaller passenger shuttles solves this problem nicely, as the shuttles can leave as needed and there will always be one left behind at the reception site for the next group of guests to use. Charter transportation at its finest! However, even if you have only one large shuttle, this “problem” can still be fixed. Schedule the shuttle to have two departures from the reception with the first being 1 hour before the scheduled end time of the reception and the second 15 minutes after the scheduled end time for the reception. Have the shuttle double back after the first pick up to be ready to go for the big wave of guests at the end. But be sure to include this information in both the welcome bags at hotel check-in AND in the ceremony program-guests need to be made aware that this option is available for them!
The moral of this story is THIS: do your homework, think it through, and shop around for the best deals. And if all else fails, hire a professional planner like a Polished plan to take care of this detail for you!