It's your big day - so pick a wedding car with the vow factor - PETER EVANS
THE bride's dress is bought, the groom looks the business in his kilt, the cake's on order and the reception's booked. Now what about the car?
Weddings are costly occasions, with brides in particular wanting everything to be just perfect so treasured memories can be preserved for years to come, when the photo album is thumbed through.
The right transport completes the picture, and many couples are moving away from the traditional white limo and going in search of something out of the ordinary. It's their way of stamping the day with individuality. So it's out with the white Roller or Mercedes and in with a Beauford, an E-Type Jag, or even a convertible Beetle.
For Tanya Worsfold and Alex Stewart, who run Caledonian Classics, the popularity of their 1972 Beetle for wedding transport took them by surprise when they introduced it to the range. Alex, 44, a mechanic by trade, said: "I bought the car as a present for Tanya's 40th birthday. It took about six months to rebuild because it was in boxes when I got it. We put it on the website as a bit of a joke and now it's out almost every weekend." The couple returned from Hong Kong after spending ten years there with the intention of starting a classic car hire business, but found they were getting a lot of calls from people asking to hire out the cars for weddings. Alex says: "I think a lot of people these days seem to be moving away from the idea of the white Rolls Royce. That's what their parents got married in. Our customers are looking for something different."
The company, based near Dollar, in Clackmannanshire, offers the option of a chauffeur driven vehicle, with Alex performing the honours, or a hire-out service for those who prefer to do it themselves - an increasingly popular choice.
The cars on offer, in addition to the Beetle, include an Inspector Morse Mark II Jaguar in British racing green, a stunning bright red E-Type Jaguar, a Triumph TR6, an MGB and a 1972 Porsche 911 - the car Alex had shipped back from Hong Kong that helped launch the business.
"It's a certain type of person that hires the cars," says Tanya, 42. "They don't want the norm. They tend to be independent people - young, successful professionals.
"The only comment we get from brides if they take the E-Type is that the men are more interested in the car than in them." With most of the attention in weddings given to brides, the car is one thing the groom can get involved in, adds Tanya.
"Sometimes the bride hires the car as a present, so we take it outside the groom's home or the hotel where he's staying so he can drive it to the church.
"Often we'll get the groom and the best man taking the car out for a couple of days before the wedding so they can have some fun. They've taken the Porsche, the MG and the E-Type."
Alex mentions a bride-to-be who rang up to hire the Mark II Jaguar. "The whole idea was that her mother had died, so it was just her, her father and her brother," he said. "She thought 'We can all go to church together', so the brother drove and the father and bride sat in the back.
"She was overwhelmed that they could make it so personal, rather than her and her dad in the car with a chauffeur and her brother at the church."
Up in Carnoustie, Angus, High Society is another company specialising in wedding cars, though all of theirs are chauffeur driven. On offer here are three 1930s vintage-style replica Beaufords, oozing class and great character, straight out of a Bonnie and Clyde movie. These are cars any bride would be proud to be seen in, with their running boards, lots of chrome and head-turning appeal.
"The customers we attract are looking for the retro-styling of our cars," said Angus Gellatly, standing in for owners Colin and Aileen Jackson while they were away on holiday, adding that the Beaufords were popular with young people.
A lot of business was generated through wedding fairs, with presentations given to families going through the process of organising weddings, Angus said. The firm's website has also led to calls.
"After the initial inquiry they like to come to the showroom and have a look at the cars, just to make sure they are as good as we say they are," he added.
On a parallel with the convertible Beetle, quirky tastes are catered for here with a 1931 Model A Ford - an ex-Chicago police car nicknamed Clyde, with its sirens still fitted to announce the bride's arrival.
Depending on the chosen model, the cost of a day's hire with High Society ranges from around £400 to £600. At Caledonian classics, a weekday hire of the Beetle costs £120, with a Saturday hire of the E-Type setting you back £230.
It's never a dull moment for the hire companies, who have to cater for unusual requests in a business inextricably linked to generating happiness on the big day.
And while most calls will be straightforward enough, there's always the unexpected. Tanya says: "Once we had a call from a father in Perth, Australia. He was a lorry driver there and didn't get to see his daughter much but she was getting married in Manchester and loved Beetles.
"He had been searching through the web and saw ours, so he flew up and picked it up as a surprise with his daughter. They took it to Manchester for five days - that was a really nice story."
In the garage Alex revealed his next project - a white three-litre Austin Healey convertible. "I guarantee this will be our most popular car when it's finished," he said.