It has become increasingly popular to provide some sort of transportation for guests at weddings for many reasons. For some, it is because of a difficult parking situation, as we face at most of the San Francisco venues, or rough late night driving conditions, as in the wine country. Some venues even require transportation to venues, as there is limited parking at some of these small wineries we work at.
With that said, there are ways to do it that will save you time, money and anguish over it. It will also save you (or your planner!) from having to deal with angry guests at the end of the night who want to leave and cannot. Here are some tips to deal with scheduling and making sure your transportation situation works for everyone involved:
1) Provide information on your website, on an information card in the invitation or some other way that you will be providing transportation, and what that entails. Some have only provided it for the end of the evening, or some only have provided it only for out of town guests. It is best to keep everyone informed.
2) Once you have decided on the type of transportation you will provide, make a clear and precise schedule. Map out when bridal party, families, guests and even sometimes vendors will be being picked up and from where. I worked one wedding where we could only have eight cars on site and that meant everyone (including me) was on a shuttle.
3) An easy way to see how many guests would be utilizing the shuttle is simply to put it on the RSVP card. Many couples are using these cards to find out pertinent information, such as which hotel they are staying at and how many seats they need reserved on the shuttle. That way, you avoid over or under booking, plus making the schedule is much easier when you know how many guests are at each hotel or meeting location.
4) Place a shuttle schedule on the bar at the wedding. That way, guests that are planning on leaving early can map out their departure times. It isn't proper to have your band or djay stopping to announce shuttle departures every 30 minutes, and if guests don't know, they tend to assume it only leaves at the end, and then you have 180 people trying to get on two 38 passenger shuttles all at once. That is when the fun really begins!
5) Have someone speak DIRECTLY to the drivers once they are on site. Explain to them when they are scheduled to leave, and not to leave unless they have been released to do so. Put a point person (usually a coordinator) to have any emergencies dealt with. Of course, if someone becomes ill and needs to depart, we need to make arrangements for that, but sometimes if the hotel is far away, it can create a major delay with the final departure if a shuttle has left with only two people on board. This needs to be decided by the point person, and if there is another way to get the ill person home, that would be the ideal option. I carry an assistant at all weddings, as this has happened before, and we have had my assistant or a taxi take that person home or to a hospital.
6) Do a trial run during the time of day of your wedding to and from the locations you have mapped out, and add some time especially if you are reserving motor coaches (56+ passenger busses). This will help to avoid any major delays with not factoring Saturday traffic, or any community event that may be going on that day as well near your event locations.
Having shuttles should be a relief and not a burden, so just make sure you have prepared properly, and all should go smoothly. Guests are usually very appreciative of the thought of their well being by providing this service and don't tend to abuse it. There are some things that are beyond anyones control, like your shuttle being run off the road by another shuttle on the same private road, or your driver getting in a fight with a neighbor. These are all true stories, but it goes to show you that even the most precise planning can't avoid things like that.