Over the years people's tastes have changed considerably. The traditional view of a wedding car was a chauffeur driven limousine from Rolls-Royce, Bentley or similar. A whole new market then developed with people using chauffeur driven modern stretched limos both in the US and in Europe where the American limos have been imported in large numbers.
For those that think a white Rolls is too traditional and a stretched limo is too vulgar, a third alternative has developed over the past ten to fifteen years. Many people are now hiring classic cars for their weddings.
Renting a classic car for your wedding requires a lot more thought and planning than using a standard chauffeur driven hire car.
The most popular classic cars are open top sports cars which by their nature are virtually all two seaters, unless you are lucky enough to find one of the very few open topped four seaters: Triumph Stag, Alvis TE21 or Ferrari Mondial. This makes chauffeur drive impractical as normally it would be just the chauffeur and one passenger. The bride normally wants to travel with her father and maybe her bridesmaids so that wouldn't work. Part of the role of the best man is to make sure the groom arrives on time, difficult if they can't fit into the same car.
So whenever classic sports cars are used, a chauffeur isn't used and they are rented on a self drive basis. That way as a minimum a car can carry the groom and best man or the bride and her father. Self drive hire can impose a few restrictions on the use of the cars. Most insurers set the minimum age for the driver at 25 for standard classic cars but some set it at 30 for higher performance sports cars. Clearly the age of the groom isn't an issue if he is being chauffeured but I have had to turn away customers who want to marry before their 25th birthday.
While chauffeured cars are available by the hour or half day, most classic cars are hired out for a full day at a time, and are normally collected from, and returned to the hire company by the hirer. Clearly for a wedding the groom is not going to return a car during the evening while everybody else is at the reception. He probably also won't be able to return it first thing the following morning as he could be either on honeymoon or drunk, or both.
There are a couple of easy solutions to this conundrum. Most classic car hire companies will allow more than one driver to be added to the insurance allowing the car to be returned by the best man or another friend or family member after the wedding. Alternatively some hire companies will arrange for the car to be collected from the wedding venue. Often their insurance will cover them to drive customer's cars, so the best man, or groom can leave a car with the rental company. They then drive that to the wedding venue and swap it for their own car.
There are other things to consider when renting a classic for a wedding. The men normally take the 'boys and their toys' approach and look for something fast or stylish or both.
The ladies take the more sensible approach and two things are much more important to them than either speed or style: colour and practicality.
The car must not clash with the colour scheme chosen for the bride and bridesmaids and some people consider particular colours to be unlucky, green among them. Arriving in a British Racing Green sports car as a surprise may not be a brilliant idea!
A man in a suit, even a morning suit, can generally get in any car and drive it, but a bride in heels and a full meringue may well struggle.
Most British and European classic sports cars are relatively small, but not necessarily American classics like the Corvette, Ford Mustang or Thunderbird, which while described as compact are easily big enough for the average bride in all her finery. The problem here is when the groom comes up with the brilliant idea of him and the best man arriving at the church in something fast and stylish like a Jaguar E-Type, and then the groom expects to drive the bride from the church to the wedding reception. Most people tend to think that an E-Type is a large car mainly because of the length of the bonnet. Certainly it is bigger than the two seaters from MG and Triumph and it is longer that Porsches and Alfa Romeos. But park it next to a modern car, even a modern sports coupe and you will see just how low and narrow it is.
Tradition dictates of course that the groom won't know what the bride will be wearing, therefore he cannot know whether or not she will even fit into the car. Therefore a groom should not arrange this as a surprise for the bride and should involve her in the decision as to which car to rent. Some companies, my own included, offer what we term a 'wedding fitting' service. No we won't make the dress for her, but we will certainly allow them to come and inspect the car and make sure they will both be able to enter and leave the car, elegantly and then drive it comfortably.
Having said that the groom should not surprise the bride with such a car, we regularly have brides booking cars as surprises for the groom.
The next practical aspect that will concern the bride, that the groom probably will not have thought about at all, is her hair and headgear. The bride will probably spend more on her hair than the groom will on his suit, so she may not be impressed with the idea of driving away from the church in an open topped car, even if the weather is perfect.
The solution for this is easy. Whatever car is chosen, the object of the exercise is to be seen by everyone and look good in the photos afterwards. So drive away from the church with the hood down by all means, but if the reception is some distance away, just drive around the corner, stop and raise the hood again. Then stop around the corner from the reception and drop the hood and be seen to arrive in style with expensive hairdo intact.
If this approach is planned then you need to make sure the car has a hood that is fairy easy to erect. Some of the early British sports cars including Austin Healeys, MGs and Triumphs had hood kits which were a set of stays and what seemed like a sheet of canvas that would take a couple of minutes to erect, if you know what you are doing and much longer if you don't.
Two more practical points which are potentially of more concern to the rental companies and car owners than the hirers, but may affect the day.
Many of these cars were manufactured in the days of cellulose paint, which is much softer than modern lacquered paint finishes, and wedding ribbon will scratch and wear away the paint. Most hire companies have some restrictions on what decorations if any can be used.
And finally, after arriving at the reception and having all the photographs taken, remember to raise the hood, wind up the windows and secure the car before the revelries commence. This is important for two reasons:
1) You won't notice when it starts raining.
2) You don't want the car hire company to charge you for drying out the car, cleaning up the mess, re-treating the leather seats etc.
So by all means pick something different from a traditional white Rolls and better taste than a stretched Hummer. Treat yourselves to a classic car for your wedding day, just put a little effort into the planning, pick the right colour and make sure the bride, in all her finery will fit.