Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Vendor - Absolutely Charleston

Recently I began a series of features on my blog to highlight the great vendors I have had the pleasure of working with.  I would like to continue this with an amazing transportation company in Charleston, SC, Absolutely Charleston.  

In working with Absolutely Charleston I have found their service to be impeccable and their equipment top notch.  Recently I had an opportunity to tour their facility and see how they reconstruct and maintain their trolley fleet.  I was truly impressed and can see why they are so successful.  

So, I took the opportunity to ask them questions about not only their business, but also about transportation in Charleston and general information for brides.  Below you will find some great information that is useful for any bride, not just those coming to Charleston.

SR - Tell me a little about how Absolutely Charleston came to be?

AC - In the mid-1990s, Linda Wohlfeil Jones, a native of Charleston, launched the beginnings of Absolutely Charleston as a tour company with a few vans to assist with tour transportation.  In 2000 she sold the transportation side of her company to Walt Thorn. Walt 
took those few vans and started offering transportation services.  Eventually the fleet grew by adding minicoaches, trolleys and a vintage style bus.  Absolutely Charleston quickly started filling a need for Brides in the area for unique transportation and today we are a premier transportation provider, specializing in Weddings, and have the privilege of working with the area's top planners.  The current version of Absolutely Charleston is an organization comprised of City of Charleston-licensed Guides, a full service destination management company, and full service transportation provider who operates our own fleet of vehicles to accommodate weddings, corporate clients and social groups.

SR - What would you say sets you apart from other transportation companies in Charleston?

AC - The level of service and planning that we put into our events is unsurpassed. We go way above and beyond the average transportation provider when planning an event.  We spend a lot of time organizing the schedule so that there is a plan in place that really works day of.  We also stay informed of City policies and regulations that affect transportation so there are no surprises on event day.  In addition to the logistical planning that goes into preparing for an event, we also have an amazing fleet of vehicles that we are constantly maintaining and improving and even more importantly a team of drivers who are hires with a strong customer service focus, and trained specifically to work for our high end clientele. To ensure great service we also have onsite coordinators on our team that we dispatch out to large events that manage transportation specifically, so we take that whole worry off the planner, or bride's, mind, so they can focus on the more important details of the day. Lastly, we also prepare for any possible vehicle issues by having an emergency dispatcher with a standby vehicle at the office on busy event days, so in case any emergencies arise, we are prepared to solve the problem and ensure that there is not a service failure. 

SR - What are some of the challenges you face when getting around Charleston.

AC - Transportation in the Holy City is tricky for a few reasons:
1.  There are transportation restrictions, put in place by the City,which protect the residents in the historic district, that limit where large vehicle can go, and where they can pick up and drop off.  We must use city approved loading zones and there are specific areas we can't drive through or stop in.  All of this needs to be factored in during the planning process.
2.  We have many one way streets and even some cobblestone roads, which we have to plan for when working out a transportation route.
3.  There are many roads that are too small to travel in a large vehicle, or that you can't turn on to, of off of, due to limited turn radius in a large vehicle.
4.  We are such a busy tourist destination that there is vehicle and pedestrian traffic to consider, which needs to be factored in when planning a transportation schedule.

SR - What are some of your favorite wedding locations?  How about locations for photographs?

AC - Some of my personal favorite wedding locations are Lowndes Grove Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation.  Both of these venues are beautiful and have wonderful outdoor space with gorgeous scenery.  They give you the opportunity to have a traditional Southern fête with all of the historic charm of the plantation, complete with the old oak trees and the marsh in the background, and they can be dressed up so that each event there reflects the clients individual tastes!  Photos at these locations are beautiful as well, but many Brides like to travel into the historic district to get some unique photos.  I think Washington Park is the best location Downtown for photos, as it has brickwork, rod iron gates and a cobblestone street that runs just behind it.

SR - What's the craziest and most outrageous request you have ever had?

AC - That’s a tough one…  I don’t really consider any request too outrageous to try and accommodate!  I will say that we have had requests to travel as far as Virginia with our trolleys to help with a wedding, and that we often get requests to transport pets, and have even had to pet-sit on a few occasions after the transfer.  As a team we are very customer service oriented and we will do almost anything to keep our clients happy on their big day!

SR - What changes have you seen in use of wedding transportation over the last few years?

AC - In the recent years I have found that more Couple’s are providing transportation for their Guests.  The focus used to be more on getting the Wedding Party where they needed to be, but in recent years, the Couples are really putting thought into getting their Guests moved around safely and efficiently.  This is so important in a city like Charleston where getting around, and parking can be complicated.  And of course, safely accommodating friends and family after a festive reception is a huge concern.

SR - What are a few things brides should ask when selecting a transportation company?  What a few things brides should ask that they don’t?

AC - I think when choosing a transportation provider, it is important to ask:
1.  How they prevent and plan for vehicle breakdowns?
2.  What is the driver's attire?
3.  Will the vehicle they book be taking other groups on runs during the down time on their event?
4.  Do they have a good working relationship with local planners?

The answers to these questions will give you a good idea if the transportation service is professional and reliable enough to trust on your big day!

SR - Any advice for brides and grooms during the planning process?

AC - I recommend getting transportation booked early!  If clients wait too long to secure transportation the top providers will be out of vehicles.  Transportation, while not one of the more glamorous aspects of an event, is so important to the flow of the day.  Transportation delays or mistakes, or poor scheduling, can result in ceremony delays, guest missing parts of the event, and stress for all parties involved.  Having a dependable and professional provider will make all the difference in client, planner and guest stress levels on the day of your wedding.

SR - What's the best possible advice you can give to a couple on their wedding day?

AC - Be in the moment once the day arrives.  At this point don’t stress over details, leave that to the professionals you have hired.  Really enjoy the day that you have spent so long planning; it is over in the blink of an eye!  No matter what happens, at the end of the day you will be married to the person you love!  

SR - How can brides and grooms find you? 




Thanks to Absolutely Charleston for their great insight. Until next time...


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