Auto Show—and Tell
For the bride who has brushed up on her road rules, the standard stretch limousine or Rolls just won't do. "I've worked with clients who've made their exits in hot-air balloons, helicopters, antique fire trucks, and even a Ferrari," says DeAnna Morgan, a Birmingham, AL, wedding planner.
Recognizing the trend toward over-the-top transportation, many limousine companies are offering more eclectic options. The most in-demand motors? Extended SUV limos like the stretch Lincoln Navigator and the 20-seat Humvee, along with retro classics, such as the 1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Cadillac Escalade.
"Eighteen- to twenty-three-passenger limousine coaches and buses are being utilized more and more today," reports Jack Gardner, president of CEO Transportation (ceotrans.com) in Boston. "Bridal parties love them because they can stand up en route to the church so they don't crease their dresses. Plus, getting in and out of them is much easier—I've seen women put a heel through a gown getting out of a limousine."
Before you decide that bigger is better, consider the size of your wedding party—it will be the determining factor in the type of vehicle you choose. If you're only having two bridesmaids or it's just going to be you and Dad, forget the multiseater in favor of a luxury sedan.
If you're expecting a large number of out-of-towners, if your site has limited parking, or if you're planning a destination wedding, you may need to provide transportation for most—if not all—of your guests. "It's just good manners to make sure your guests are taken care of," says New York wedding planner Kate Edmonds. Shuttle buses and vans do the job best.
Expect to pay about $75 to $100 per hour, which is standard. To find a mobile built for many, search Internet sites of professional organizations like the National Limousine Association (limo.org/vnla/ScriptContent/t_home.cfm).
Driving Costs Down
Once you've decided on your ride, shift into high gear and start contacting rental agencies. Try to book your car at least six months in advance to ensure you get what you want at a reasonable price. Most limos have to be hired for a three- or four-hour minimum, so if you're looking at a single 15-minute trip to the church, consider a less expensive option, like a sedan.
"Some of the bigger companies will allow you to use the limousine as a getaway car at the end of the night for no extra charge, so it could be worth it even if you hadn't planned on having it for the entire event," explains Edmonds. Holding your celebration at a hotel? Check to see if they offer limo service from the church to the reception site for a small fee.
Most transportation companies offer wedding packages that include limo rentals. (All-inclusive deals for shuttle vans and other luxury drives are harder to find.) CEO Transportation's Gold Package ($350) includes a three-hour rental of a non-SUV limousine, a bottle of champagne, and chauffeur service; the Diamond Package ($550) adds upgraded champagne and round-trip honeymoon airport service via luxury sedan.
At Carefree Lifestyle (carefreelifestyle.net) in Miami, you can procure a 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud—and the star treatment—for three hours. It comes with a chauffeur, champagne, and a red carpet rollout, for $306.
Things to bear in mind before signing on the dotted line:
• Scrutinize your contract from the rental agency. It should clearly state total costs (including deposit, balance, and payment schedule), the date and hours of the wedding, pickup locations, destinations, amenities, the driver's name, his attire and duties, plus cancellation and refund policies.
• Place the smallest deposit on the bill—20 to 25 percent—to minimize your loss if the service is unsatisfactory.