Creative transportation adds style to nuptials

Trains, planes and automobiles are all perfectly fine modes of transportation, but they're a bit tame compared to Cinderella's coach, a hot-air balloon or even a motorcycle when it comes to creative wedding getaways.

As the average American bride is now 26 years old, wedding plans, including transportation, have become increasingly more sophisticated.

Sure, you can still hear the clanging of aluminum cans tied to the nuptial couple's bumper. But today more elegant — and sometimes more offbeat — vehicles are carrying the bride and groom away to their storybook ending.

Having a Wild West-themed wedding? Why not rent horses and gallop off into the sunset together? Tying the knot at a yacht club or harborside venue? Cruise off in style on a 30-foot sailboat.

In Coronado, wedding consultant Helen Walker says most of the brides she works with like the idea of a horse and carriage.

Traveling in such fashion makes them feel like "stars," she says. "People on the street wave at them, stop them and offer congratulations. It's very grand."

Some couples rent English-style double-decker buses.

Anything is possible with some imagination, the appropriate budget and, of course, good planning. The easiest way to approach the issue is by working with a wedding consultant.

"Every good wedding consultant should have a list of every type of transportation in the area," explains Walker, who owns two consulting businesses.

If, however, you are planning the event yourself, Walker suggests that brides attend bridal shows and pick up brochures about different transportation companies, ask friends and coworkers for referrals, research local magazines and even scan the yellow pages.

Many couples love the idea of riding off in a vintage car.

A San Diego company called Simply Elegant rents out a 1941 Packard, a 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and a 1953 Austin Princess limousine that was used at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.

Other cities, however, may not have a vintage car rental company, but perhaps the area has a car club of some kind. One or more of the members may be interested in renting theirs out. If you do deal with a private owner, be sure you have the car's condition checked out, find out what kind of insurance is necessary and put your agreement in writing in advance.

In some cases, the ideas and their solutions are obvious. Couples, for instance, who wed at Disney World can get the works Magic Kingdom style. The bride can arrive at the ceremony carried in Cinderella's elegant glass coach led by six white ponies and the groom on horseback — while a trumpeter announces the party's approach.

If the groom is a farmer, he can carry off his bride on a tractor.

One wedding guest recalls the bride and groom bidding farewell on their Harley-Davidson: The bride's outfit was replete with a white lace-trimmed-and-veiled helmet.

How much do these trappings cost?

In San Diego, the use of a small yacht may run $600 an hour, while renting a small sailboat would cost only $30 to $40 an hour.

In San Jose, AAA Limousines rents Lincoln Town Cars in several different sizes. The package includes champagne or cider, a wedding-balloon bouquet, keepsake photograph, red-carpet service and a tuxedoed chauffeur.

If the cost of transporting the entire bridal party from synagogue to reception is prohibitive, or if you are holding the ceremony and reception in the same spot, consider taking a short excursion between the two events.

Sharon Hoffer, wedding consultant for the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, says her clients often ride a horse-drawn carriage around the city's picturesque districts while the guests are drinking cocktails. It creates a special moment for the bride and groom before the hubbub of the reception.

However you choose to make your getaway, make sure that in your dealings with the vendor you find out what is included in the package, what the price is, when you have to pay the deposit and whether or not it goes toward any kind of cancellation penalty.