Top Tips For Planning Your Wedding Transportation

Study up on the basics of wedding-day wheels.
Bride and groom in a party bus
Photo by Yellow Feather Photography

Like the song says, you're going to the chapel to do you-know-what. But how's Mom getting there? Or your bridesmaids, or for that matter, your fiancé? And just as important, how's everybody getting from the ceremony to the reception… and then home? Unless you plan on beaming up to your destination, it's time to work out some wedding transportation logistics. Start with our expert guide.

When to Book Transportation

When there are about four months to go, it's time to think about your transportation, when you've long settled on your date, ceremony and reception sites and wedding party size. If you're marrying in April, May, or June—prom and graduation season—high-class vehicles will be in high demand, so you'll need to book your transportation even earlier.

Who to Transport

Your first step is to take a head count for immediate family and VIPs. For many weddings, that means the bride and groom, their wedding party, both sets of parents, siblings not in the wedding party and grandparents. Some couples also provide transportation for close relatives, out-of-towners or all guests, if there's extensive transportation from the ceremony to the reception. So where do you draw the line? The decision will probably come down to budget (but don't leave your fund entirely bare). Know that you're not required to provide transportation for the entire wedding party for the entire night—you just need to make arrangements so no VIP gets stranded. If you're nervous about guests getting lost (or enjoying themselves too much to drive home safely), a party bus can be a fun and practical option.

How to Get There

There are actually three routes to consider besides your walk down the aisle: the trip to the ceremony, the ride between the ceremony and the reception (if they're not in the same place) and the getaway. You'll need to figure out who needs transport where.

The ride to the ceremony: Brides and grooms often travel separately to the ceremony with their respective attendants in tow, though you may opt for a ride with your parents, or to rent a trolley or shuttle for the wedding party to ride in together. The average stretch limo seats 8 to 10 people, limos seat about 6, and most town cars hold 4, including the driver. (A full-sized coach, on the other hand, has room for anywhere from 52 to 59 passengers!)

The ride to the reception: After the vows, it's traditional to duck into a dream ride for the jaunt to the reception, either à deux or with the honor attendants. Meanwhile, your parents, wedding party, and anyone else who hitched a ride with you earlier in the day will also need a lift. If your budget allows, parents and attendants can ride to the reception in the same vehicles that brought them to the ceremony, while the bride and groom take a private car. The whole group (or select members) can also pile into a guest shuttle, if there is one. Otherwise, parents and attendants can ride to the reception with relatives or friends. Just make carpooling plans well in advance, and communicate with everyone involved.

When to Arrive

Next, determine your travel times before you start making calls. Figure out your itinerary by taking a test spin of the three routes to approximate driving times. To estimate an ideal pickup time for the ride to the ceremony, for example, plan to arrive 15 minutes early, then work backward: ceremony time, minus 15 minutes (or possibly even more if you're planning to get ready at the site), minus drive time, minus 10 minutes of "padding" for traffic, unexpected delays, and getting excited people into multiple cars.

How Much it Costs

Once you've established your needs, start inquiring about rates and availability. Most rental companies charge by the hour and require a minimum time period: typically three hours. Calculate the duration from the pickup time to the end of the reception to determine if it's worth it for your wheels to wait. Expect to pay between $50 and $150 per hour, plus a 15–20 percent tip, which is usually included in the contract (sales tax may also be charged). If it's not included, a $20 tip for each driver is appropriate. Some ways to save:

Shop around: Call multiple car companies to compare quotes and packages.

Ask for freebies: Rental companies often throw in extras as part of a wedding package.

Ask for pickup and drop-off service: Your rental service may let you choose how to use your minimum number of hours. It's smart to have cars wait during the ceremony, then drop people off at the reception. The cars can return later in the evening for a pickup.

What to Watch For

Overcrowding: Billowing skirts and nervous excitement call for more space. Don't try to fill every car to capacity—allow an extra person's worth of breathing room.

Drivers without maps: On the day of the wedding, a wedding party member should hand each driver a sheet with detailed directions, maps and contact numbers.

Vague or verbal contracts: Be sure to get all of the details in writing with your rental company. These points should be included:

  • date, time, and locations of pickup and drop-off points
  • type and number of vehicles rented
  • exact hours each vehicle is hired for
  • amenities supplied in each vehicle
  • total cost including gas and mileage
  • overtime fees and gratuities
  • deposit amount
  • cancellation and refund policies

What's New on The Knot