With many operators calling for a “super-network” of real-time reservations, the founder of GNet updates the progress.
Get ready to shine, polish and tune up the big kids’ toys for the prom and wedding season. This year’s ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’, ‘what’s cool’ and ‘what’s not’ might surprise you.
What’s Hot for Proms
It’s All About the Wheels
In order to understand teens’ tastes, you have to know the subculture they’re living in. Influences like MTV and celebrities’ flashy style often determine what these high schoolers choose to roll in for their big event.
SUV stretches, unique limousines and those vehicles with a “bling-bling” or mouth-dropping effect will definitely be a hit, especially with the boys, notes Garfield Bowen, publisher and founder of Prom Guide magazine. “It’s the guys who go for the big and the bold,” he says. Anything from a stretch PT Cruiser to a stretch Volkswagen Beetle will be favorites with this generation. These two types of limousines serve teens that are a bit edgier, go against tradition, and like something cool and luxurious. And even though they are not drinking alcoholic beverages, Bowen says teens still like the concept of the wet bar, especially when it’s filled with their favorite sodas and snacks.
They also like the privacy factor – being separated from the driver – and being able to watch movies during the ride. Any amenity you can think of, they like, Bowen adds. The only time they pull back on the extras is when it starts to affect the cost, especially when parents are paying for the luxury.
Julie Herring of Julie’s Limousines in Clearwater, Fla., finds that prom goers like the smoke machines and strobe lights inside the vehicles. As for colors, Herring finds that black is very popular for SUVs.
Melanie Maloy of Le Grande Affaire Limousine Service, Santa Clara, Calif., agrees that black is popular for teens and says Le Grande also decorates the outside of the vehicle to compliment the school’s name and colors.
Smaller groups definitely go for Le Grande’s stretch PT Cruiser, and they love that Le Grande’s limousines offers complementary apple cider.
Robert Strauser, “Limo Bob” of Limo King Enterprises, Palos Hills, Ill., says SUVs, in general, are big this season. He says “everybody” loves the H2Hummer, Excursion and the Cadillac Escalade stretches.
“The thing about the prom is that it’s no longer just about being the king and queen, or getting on the court. It’s also about showing up in the best limousine and sparing no expense for it,” Strauser says. “The sky is the limit, and the more these vehicles seat, the better.”
Strauser even has what he calls a “Las Vegas light show” in some of his vehicles. These are double-lighted color disc wheels that change with multi-color lights.
Andy Torres of Ultra Coachbuilders of Corona, Calif., says that the prom crowd wants bigger and better stereos, televisions and anything that makes the vehicle higher end. Ultra Coachbuilders has “The Night Club” edition of limousines, which features lights around the interior floor of the vehicle, creating a disco club feel. The two most popular vehicles the coachbuilder are being asked for are the H2Hummer and the Escalade.
But Kevin Truitt of Tru Limousines, Trenton, N.J., has found that the stretch Porsche Cayenne is what’s really going to be hot for his prom sales. He says he’s already made $20,000 off of it in just five weeks.
“The thing about exotics is that they make money, but they always have to be changed [with something bigger and better],” he says. “It’s the exotics that set us apart from other companies. And if the clients can’t afford the exotics, then they go for the [sedan stretches].”
Andy Wagner of Ultimate Limousines and Royal Coach by Victor, Orange, Calif., notes that SUVs also can have 22-inch plasma television screens on the divider. Plus, since SUVs seat more, prom kids love being able to get of bunch of them together and go.
“They want all these amenities – disco lights, strobe lights, smoke machines and upgraded sound systems,” Wagner says. “They’re not old enough to be in a night club, but yet they can feel like they’re in one riding around in a limousine, sipping their sparkling apple cider.”
Prom Kids: What’s Cool This Season
Below are the top five most-popular limousines for prom season, according to Prom Guide magazine:
1.The stretch Escalade: It’s super-hot right now. With big celebs like Puff Daddy riding around in it, teens are ready to follow.
2.The stretch Navigator: This SUV is cool and super sleek to the prom crowd. Plus, it packs a lot of them in so a group can show up at once to the big event.
3.The stretch Lincoln sedan: These limousines are traditional, and teens can’t go wrong showing up in this type of vehicle because it suits just about everyone.
4.The stretch PT Cruiser: Although the interior is a bit smaller and seats fewer passengers, about six to eight, teens love that it is different and unconventional.
5.The stretch Volkswagen Beetle: The Beetle is in itself the epitome of high schoolers’ tastes. The stretch version plays of their spunk and uniqueness, making this one very cool.
What’s Hot for Weddings
Give Wedding Couples What They Want
“The biggest change that I’ve seen since I started is that brides are no longer about the cookie cutter wedding,” says Anne Renaud, private wedding consultant, Weddings and Special Events by Anne in West Springfield, Mass.
“They’re trying to be a lot more creative — writing their own vows, the style of their photos are more photojournalistic and candid, and even their wedding videos are more creative,” she says.
The problem with weddings is that people often times buy based on emotion, Renaud notes, without knowing the credentials or true nature of that vendor.
“They don’t see the value in taking a [non-emotional] look at what they’re getting,” she says, “And yet they’re still on a budget.”
Renaud, who also has chauffeured for Limo Connection, Springfield, Mass., notes that when she first began as a wedding planner 16 years ago, white limousines were what every bride had to have. That’s changed a bit – brides are now more accepting of black limousines.
“I sell a package where there is one black and one white limousine, and the bride will get into the white and the groom in the black,” she says. “Also, black limousines look great for evening weddings.”
While sedan stretches are still fancied by many wedding couples, SUVs tend to be more popular with younger brides, Renauld notes. Brides in more formal, very traditional or upscale weddings, meanwhile, lean toward vintage vehicles.
In her area, Renaud says the total cost of a wedding usually runs more than $30,000. This cost varies with in local markets such as in New York, where it’s typical to have a wedding cost well more than $100,000.
“Brides in metropolitan areas tend not to go for limousines, but more classic cars or horse and buggy rides,” Renaud says.
And overall, popularity among brides for the horse and buggy is rising. But Renaud says that doesn’t mean a couple isn’t going to need a limousine, especially when transporting other members of the bridal party.
Renaud recommends operators have the bride and the groom come to the limousine facility and sit in the limousine before they book so they can visualize what the actual wedding day will be like. About 90% of the brides she works with book all their wedding services in person.
“A lot of brides want to cram 14 people in a 14-passenger limousine,” she says. “This way they get the feel of what that means, especially since they are in their wedding gowns.”
While silver limousines are typically not used for weddings the Renaud works on, Julie Herring of Herring’s Limousines says this car color for weddings is becoming more common in her area. She just purchased a 20-passenger H2Hummer in pewter to kick off her wedding and prom season.
In California, Melanie Maloy of Le Grande Affaire finds that the Escalade ,as well as the vintage Rolls Royce, are very popular with wedding clients.
“Brides and grooms like classy cars like the Jaguar and the Mercedes stretches, too,” she adds. Robert Strauser, “Limo Bob” of Limo King Enterprises notes that the stretch Excalibur and stretch Ferrari are really hot with brides and grooms. “The guys really love the Ferrari,” he says.
Renaud, Herring, Maloy and Limo Bob note that despite interest in black and silver limousines, white stretches still dominate the wedding market. Still, Herring pushes to sell a black stretch to brides, pointing out that the contrast of their bridal gowns with the black vehicle is perfect for wedding photos.
Despite brides becoming more creative, they still are traditional. “Especially in New England, it’s very traditional, and it’s hard to break the mold here,” Renaud says.
Brides and Grooms Focus on the Service
The amenities brides and grooms want mostly revolve around red carpet treatment. They want the red carpet rolled out, some wedding decorations like a “Just Married” sign after the ceremony and champagne for a toast.
“They also want air conditioning,” Renaud laughs. “Especially here in the summer time. If someone mentions that, then you know they had a bad experience before.” She points out that with everything going on that special day, brides and grooms tend not to care about a car’s television or DVD player, but rather enjoy the lights and the music, as well as the wet bar. Certain wedding couples will want the limousine decorated inside or out with the colors of their big event.
Renaud points out that the vehicles’ interiors and exteriors must be cleaned and detailed. In addition, chauffeurs must be trained to help the bride in and out of the limousine and ensure that everyone sits in the correct order for the procession: mother, bridal party, father and then bride.
She notes that chauffeurs at the Limo Connection even help ready the bridal party for the procession down the church aisle, and are ready to do whatever else it takes to make the couple happy.
While the ceremony is taking place, Renaud says Limo Connection chauffeurs roll out a red carpet, and set up a little table with tablecloth and champagne for a quick toast in front of the limousine. “It’s a great photo moment,” she says.
And when a bride thinks that one limousine is enough, Renaud says she tells the bride and groom that not everyone will fit in one limousine, which may delay the picture session. “I let her know it’s just better to keep everyone together,” she says. “Otherwise, people get lost or stop for something really quick and it takes even longer for the pictures.”
While most bridal magazines and bridal Web sites advise brides and grooms to book their transportation three to six months before the event, Renaud thinks this is not enough time, considering that in New England there are only 30 weeks of great weather and if you break that down into the number of weekends, everyone is trying to get those few days.
“I have weddings already booked for 2005 and the transportation is included in that,” Renaud says. “The majority of brides are doing this because they hear about bad experiences from other brides.” She recommends that brides, if possible, book a year in advance for their transportation, especially if they are asking for a prime wedding date.
Operators should be ready for this. They should anticipate being interviewed by the bride and groom, being able to explain the service they will provide, what that comes with, proof of adequate licenses and insurance, and a written contract for them and the client.
Renaud finds that brides tend to be more focused on getting better service, on how well the vendor does the job. “A lot of brides want the full service; they’re not happy with curb service. “
But, she adds, the personality of the chauffeur is the most important thing.
To make sure the couple stays happy, Renaud says gratuities are extra for any chauffeur who does a wedding for her. She feels that this ensures chauffeurs will earn their tip. “I don’t want to breed lazy drivers,” she says. “And my brides and grooms appreciate that.”
Editors note: Operators should be advised that the law requires that all coachbuilders must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations, and be registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration. All FMVSS certified vehicles have a sticker inside the drivers' door. Any questions or for verification of a coachbuilders' certification, contact NHTSA at (888) 327-4236 or www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
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