Before and After: Guest Transport

13 Nov

Double-Decker-BusLast week we shared the ins and outs of how the Reflective Couple settled on their wedding day transport for the bridal party, and how it all turned out. This time we tackle the next topic in big day transportation: shuttling around your wedding guests. Guest transport might not be something you need for your own nuptials, but here’s why it became a consideration for us.

It was clear to us early on that we would need to provide transportation for our guests to and from the ceremony.

First off, literally 90% of our guests were out-of-towners, many of whom would not have cars of their own with them, and who didn’t know the local area.
 With our ceremony taking place on the beach during a long weekend in a tourist destination, parking spots would be limited (even if guests had their own vehicles with them). What if guests had to drive around for a long time looking for a park and arrived late to the ceremony?
 Both our ceremony and reception locations would be a little difficult for our guests to find. A beach ceremony of course has no specific address (and Google Maps didn’t quite point to the right spot), and our festivities would take place on a small area of foreshore that even locals weren’t familiar with. Similarly, our reception would be in the main building of a resort, with a sprawling complex. We included maps to both locations on our wedding website, but we were still worried about people getting lost, especially with it being impossible to pull up or park right by the ceremony spot. What if people couldn’t find our ceremony at all?
 Our reception venue has complicated entry rules for cars, in order to minimize traffic noise disturbing neighbors. The entrance that is closest to our ceremony site is closed during the day (when our ceremony would take place), and the entrance that can be used is on the far side of the complex via a long winding back road. This doubles transit time from 5 to 10 minutes, and causes confusion for those not familiar with the rules.

Cape-of-Love_0105With all these challenges, hiring transport for our guests took a worry off our minds, by leading friends and family directly to the ceremony location, and then directly to the reception venue. The decision was made easier by the fact that, with our reception taking place in a resort that offered discounts to those there as part of a wedding, most of our guests were all staying in one place – so picking them up would be easy.

Type and size of transport
On to booking the transport! We knew from researching the transport for our bridal party that vintage school buses and the like were not available locally, so we would need to go for a standard bus or mini-bus. But what size bus would we need? And what size bus could get into the beach cul-de-sac by our ceremony spot? For the latter question we checked with the bus companies we had in mind; because they were local companies familiar with the area, they re-assured us that their buses could turn around fine in the area. For the former question, in the final months of wedding planning, we realized we would need to send our guests a survey. This would ask their dietary requirements and attendance at wedding events – so we would simply ask them at the same time if they would like to join a bus to the ceremony and/or from the ceremony. This showed us that 20 people wanted to join the bus to the ceremony (primarily those staying at the resort), but 45 people wanted to join the bus from the ceremony to the reception.

20 people and then 45 people? So… would we need to book a mini-bus and then a regular bus? Would we need two separate charter companies? We chatted it over with the mini-bus company we had by then selected. They suggested to go with the smaller bus, which could make two trips after the ceremony. As we had to book the bus for a minimum time period of 2.5 hours anyway, a second post-ceremony trip would still fit us in that timeframe and not cost us any extra.

coach_exterior_29-33_midi_01_560xnWith our 3pm ceremony scheduled until 3:30pm, and receiving line and photos likely to take us through until just before 4pm, we set 4pm as the departure time for the first post-ceremony bus. As it takes 10 minutes to drive each way, and possibly a little more with traffic, we set the departure time for the second bus as 4:30pm. Plenty of time to get all our guests back to the reception venue in time for our cocktail hour starting at 5pm!

Communicating it to our guests
On our wedding website, we simply added a page to our wedding website called Transport. Here we covered the details of the mini-buses, as well as websites for local public transport and taxi company phone numbers. With our ceremony set to start at 3pm, we advised on the website and invitation for all guests to arrive at the ceremony start by 2:45pm. (With a beach wedding, it’s not possible for the bride to hang around outside waiting for all the guests to get into place, as you’re not exactly out of sight!) As such, we set the mini-bus from the resort to leave at 2:30pm. Because there could easily be traffic down to the beach on a long weekend, we wanted to make sure latecomers didn’t cause the bus to delay until 2:35 or 2:40pm, so we said clearly on the website that this would be the time it departs, and not the time guests should meet up. We also explained that it would depart from outside the hotel reception – the building is marked very clearly, and anyone staying at the hotel would already have checked in and know where to find out.

Being a born worry-wart, I was still a little concerned about people finding the right place. Would everyone realize the mini-bus at a massive resort would be the particular one they’re supposed to take to reach our wedding? Tourist buses run day-trips all the time for visitors. And once guests get off the bus at the ceremony, would they be able to find their way the last fifty yards to find our rather hidden ceremony site? And on the way back, would people get out of the bus and be able to find their way into the main building and upstairs to our cocktail hour?

My first question was an easy fix. We chatted to the bus company about our concern, and they said they would pop a sign on the front windshield saying “Wedding”. As for getting guests the short distance from the bus to the ceremony and cocktail hour, I asked a friend to act as tour guide. She would be arriving in town early for the wedding, so would have time to make sure she knew the path from the bus, and – while not a local – she was also familiar with the area from numerous past visits to the area. Our reception venue also told us they would put up a sign in front of the hotel reception with arrows pointing our guests in the right direction, even with our names on it.

So how did it all turn out? The answer is a qualified “Great… I think.” Obviously I wasn’t joining the mini-bus to see how everything progressed, but a great sign is that we didn’t hear any guests complain about the transport or mention any confusion. Another awesome sign is that none of our guests turned up late to the ceremony, which was my biggest fear for the day! All of our guests who wished to join the group transport were able to do so.

Inside busIn hindsight, though, we did get a little stuck on logistics and didn’t think about how to make the bus trip a fun part of the wedding experience. The mini-bus was just a plain white vehicle, so it could have been fun to decorate it a little, even if was just to scatter some balloons inside. It also would have been great to set the atmosphere with some music, like “Going To The Chapel” or some Bruno Mars’ “I Think I Wanna Marry You”. The Reflective Groom and I did briefly discuss whether we could get someone to act as tour guide and point out some local sights on the way, but we ended up forgetting to come back to this. Snacks and drinks would have been a fun addition to the trip as well, and easy to pull off with something small like candy. I wish we’d seen Echo Limousine’s advice for wedding transport before we’d planned our own transportation!

Will you book transport to ferry about your guests on your wedding day? What kind of transportation have you chosen and why?

(First image from Serendipity Weddings, second image from Cape of Love, third image from Greys of Ely, fourth image from Pinterest, final image from I Do.)

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