Operations

How To Boost Wedding Service Revenue

Anne Daniells
Posted on April 12, 2016

Wedding celebrations are a lucrative business with an average wedding costing more than $30,000. Only five percent of that is spent on transportation, but that share is increasing as destination weddings become more common. According to the Association of Bridal Consultants’ breakdown of the average cost for a wedding, the total budget for wedding transportation is climbing steadily — now closer to $1,400. And CostofWedding.com’s breakdown of the average cost for U.S. nuptials shows fewer than 50% of weddings use any chauffeured transportation at all. It’s a market ripe for expansion.

Attending bridal fairs and wooing popular venues and wedding coordinators is important if weddings are a major target. But if you have limited resources, you can expand your wedding business simply by popping meaningful questions of your own.

The First Date

The bride calls to see what it will cost to get her guests to and from a wedding. Wedding transportation may be more common with couples selecting a separate reception site or with a lot of time between ceremony and reception. But it is still neither an expected nor a required service for wedding attendees.

For cautious couples concerned that a drinking incident will spoil their event, wedding transportation is an opportunity for all operators that a transportation network company (TNC) cannot fulfill. No one wants a festivities-related safety issue in a car, so reach beyond only what your caller asks for. Make sure you get every guest where they need to be. Bring in more revenue and make lifelong customers by providing a memorable, picture-perfect, and safe experience.

Before giving hourly rates, hold off and listen for what the couple is asking. Don’t jump to pricing estimates too fast. Often, they may not be sure what they want or need. It’s your job to understand and interpret their primary concern.

If it is safe transportation or getting everyone to various destinations, become the wedding transportation consultant who knows wedding needs. The client has likely never arranged a wedding before, so walk through the complete celebration — something more than just the wedding day — and highlight opportunities where comprehensive transportation would make the event more seamless and safe.

In Black And White

White stretch limousines may be favored by some because of their wedding allure, but don’t lose a sale over this small request. If you don’t have one, you can get one from an affiliate, or you can give all the reasons why a black limousine might be the better choice:

  • Black limos are usually a little less expensive because they are more available. White limos often command a premium price.
  • Black looks great in photographs and provides a perfect background contrast for a white wedding dress.
  • Like the dress, wedding flowers and ribbons show off very well if the vehicle is decorated. White flowers on a white vehicle don’t show well.
  • It’s classic — there is no new black. Black will never look dated in photos years later.
  • Black limos do not show quite as much dirt and mud splash if the day is rainy, or the venue has a rustic location. Since weather is something no one can control, manage the visual impact as much as possible by choosing black.

Getting Good Information

Along with getting the basics of dates and locations, congratulate the happy couple. Ask about the proposal and the size of the wedding. Be genuinely interested. And then get to popping some questions of your own. You will nearly always get more work if you help them think through the logistics. Some questions you might consider asking the couple:

  • Is there a rehearsal dinner planned? This is another important night for transporting key guests from a hotel to the wedding venue to the restaurant and back to the hotel (or the hotel bar). It’s another festive night that calls for sober driving. Getting attendees from a hotel to a restaurant and back will cost far less than the dinner and guarantee everyone is in one piece for the big day.
  • Is the bridal party having their hair done together? Could this be a special “girl time” trip getting the ladies to and from their nail and hair appointments?
  • Do you have special guests such as grandparents or others who would be better off with a chauffeur? Elderly guests or those who prefer not to drive at night or on unfamiliar roads might even pay their own way for the stress-free comfort.
  • Big day logistics might dictate smaller shuttles rather than a coach. Ask whether the wedding party will arrive first. Are the men separate from the women? And are they getting ready somewhere else? Or will everyone arrive on a coach that leaves a hotel at a specified time? Will there be any children who need car seats or boosters?
  • Is there a wedding coordinator to help with transportation? Depending on the complexity, perhaps a paid transportation coordinator can be added to the contract. Getting to the church on time does matter, after all.
  • What about the couple’s ride to the church? They are probably separate, so how will that work?
  • If the groom asks for a vehicle to move guests, one or two pick-up locations to get to the wedding might be perfect. Talk through timing in detail. Will a shuttle work or is a large coach or two better? If the reception is at a separate location, having transportation ready for guests is necessary while the wedding party takes photos. And then, how will the wedding party get to the reception? It could be that another vehicle is needed.
  • Is there anyone who will want to leave the reception much earlier than the group? A young family or an older guest may not want to stay until the very end.
  • Would you like a getaway car for your wedding night? Consider throwing this in as a freebie, or using a lucrative specialty vehicle that you have in the fleet.
  • And will you be taking a honeymoon? If a couple leaves from a hotel, they will need a ride to the airport if they are flying. Ask if you can help send them off together.

These are just the actual wedding weekend events. But wait, there’s more:

  • Do you plan to have engagement photo session before the ceremony? Couple photos often are used in save-the-dates, wedding websites or wedding displays. Photos can be staged all over town for a nice hourly trip.
  • Will someone be planning a bachelor and/or bachelorette party? These usually involve alcohol, so stress safety. Get the contact of the person planning those to follow up.
  • Are there many guests flying from out of town? These are possible airport transfers to offer. It allows the local family to relax a bit, too, instead of running a shuttle service in the family station wagon.
  • Will you have a wedding website? If so, as the favored transportation company, maybe a simple suggestion could be posted for out-of-town guests to call for airport and train station transfers. Incremental rides add up, and it costs the new couple nothing but shows they care about safety and the guests’ need to get around.

So many questions, but so many opportunities for revenue.

That Wedding Day Glow

With all the details of places and people, it is time to sparkle. Glowing recommendations come when the service adds to the wedding day luster. Make some suggestions that help set the tone. Specialty vehicles are popular, for example, and if you have them, they make for great photos.

If the getaway vehicle will be in photos, arrange for appropriate decorations or offer the florist or bridal party access to the car ahead of time to decorate. Even if local regulations and safety concerns require these items be removed for travel, they will add to the long-term memories in photographs.

Offer special little things like particular chauffeur attire or ties that match the wedding colors. Simple things cost very little, add to a cohesive look, and will be remembered in those photos, reviews and recommendations.

How about a CD of special songs in each of the vehicles? Couples often provide party favor CDs of “their” songs. If they make the CD, why not include these in the vehicles for guests on the wedding day? If the couple plans on providing different favors, ask if they have a particular CD or mix they’d like guests to hear during their rides. This helps avoid ad breaks on the car radio, and can set the tone for the celebration ahead with appropriate music for the day.

If one or more chauffeurs will be with the guests throughout the wedding festivities, give each driver a disposable camera. Guests can take “selfies” in the car, and you can print and share the photos with the couple as a thoughtful surprise after the wedding.

Ask the couple how they’re “branding” their wedding. Do they have their own hashtag? Did they create their own monogram? Offer to include those details on the complimentary water bottles. Does the bride have extra wedding invitations, with all the timing and location details? Stash a few in the cars so that forgetful guests can access all the information they need.

And last but not least, a little bubbly is a must for the wedding day. Accommodate your young couple within legal means. A special sparkling wine request can be arranged, perhaps. And a chilled bucket is a simple addition to the limos so guests can celebrate in style.

Happily Ever After

If you ask the right questions, there will be more than one long-term relationship created with each wedding. Offering the extras make the difference in customer commitment. As you fulfill wedding-day dreams of new couples, it creates trust that will mean referrals and repeat customers for other events and transportation needs.

Smoothing It Out

Estimates and rates may need to be sent for approval, but as with any large group, especially in the height of prom and wedding season, be thorough in your contract.

As with any large group, get all the details. First, take down names. Things go wrong on wedding days — it rains, Grandma is delayed, someone is late. Know the wedding coordinator, and if there isn’t one, ask for someone outside the immediate family who can act on behalf of the bride. Without a doubt, it will be better to have a bossy aunt ask the minister to delay for 10 minutes due to a traffic jam — keep the immediate family out of those types of logistics changes.

Of course, for weddings, a single contact person may not be enough because people are in different locations. A coach for guests may only need the numbers, but these need to be accurate — so call each ahead of the wedding weekend, and confirm they’re comfortable being your contact. If the invitations have not gone out yet, ask if the couple can provide a finalized list of RSVPs to ensure you have enough seats.

For the wedding party shuttles or specific family vehicles, the respective chauffeur needs to know exactly who is supposed to be in his or her vehicle. If someone on a wedding party or smaller vehicle is left behind, the only one who will be blamed (and not paid) is you, the operator. Do not let this happen. Ever. It’s too emotional a day for your client for you to be unprepared. You never want to bring out the Bridezilla.

Related Topics: group transportation, group travel, How To, operations, wedding planners, weddings, working with wedding planner

Anne Daniells contributing writer
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