A beautiful horse drawn carriage can be a fantastic addition to your wedding day, providing beautiful photographs to treasure and a stunning arrival to really make your day extra special. Having driven horse drawn carriages for HRH The Queen at Buckingham Palace, Marc Lovatt, Director of The Cavalry of Heroes, has suggested a few questions in this free guide, that you can ask your Wedding Horse and Carriage Company to help ensure a safe and enjoyable day:
1. How far is the company willing to drive their horse and carriage in a day?
This is an important factor in ensuring both your safety and the safety of the horses. It is usual to drive horses for no more than 6 miles a day in total unless the horses are very fit, are pulling a light-weight carriage or travelling over flat smooth terrain. An experienced company will be able to tell you honestly whether your route is suitable for a horse and carriage and will recce the route before your big day. Some companies don’t recce the route preferring to chance that everything is ok – please be careful regarding any company that doesn’t recce their route. Tired and overworked horses who have been asked to pull a carriage for too long in a day can put your safety at risk – a little like an uncared for engine in a car, so an experienced company will also be able to tell you about their horses and will have ensured that they are fit and able to work.
- Who will be your coachman on the day and what is his/her driving experience?
See if you can meet the person who will be your coachman on the day and ask them questions about his/her experience. Driving isn’t easy and takes a lot of training – primarily how to act and make sure people and horses are safe if the unforeseen happens (this can only be gained through years of experience driving). Sometimes the person you are speaking with isn’t the person who will be with you on the day as some companies have more than one coachman, and some will have trainees with less experience, so best to know who will be in charge of your safety on the day. You can also check on the British Driving Society Commercial Register the experience of your coachman although a quick check is to look at photographs and see whether the person is driving with one rein in each hand or is driving in traditional coachman style (both reins in one hand). Traditional coachman style is the way professional carriagemasters are trained to drive.
- How many footman will be present on the day?
I often get asked how many footman should be present on the day and I would suggest that the absolute minimum is one very experienced footman (plus the coachman) for a pair. When you consider a team of four horses then more footmen are required. The footman plays a vital role in keeping control of the horses from the ground and under British Driving Society rules no carriage should operate without a footman.
- What insurance do they hold?
I sincerely hope that you have the best possible experience with your horse and carriage ride on your wedding day however if the worst should happen, it’s better to know up front rather than afterwards what insurance is in place. I won’t bore you with details about inadequately insured companies! Often this is what a disreputable company will cut back on in order to give you a really cheap price (I’d say sub £500 in the current market). I would never undertake an event without being fully insured.
- Do they have a WATO certificate to transport horses safely?
It is a legal requirement that if you are transporting horses commercially (horse and carriages for hire are a commercial activity) then the driver needs to have a certificate to prove that they comply with the Welfare of Animals in Transport Order. Just ask to see a copy, that way you know that the company isn’t putting the welfare of the horses at risk when they are travelling to you.
- Are they a part of The British Driving Society Commercial Register?
It isn’t essential to be a part of The British Society Commercial Register however I find it a very useful list to belong to. To be part of the register each coachman needs to have provided certificates of their competency to drive a horse and carriage, insurances and WATO certificate to the BDS in order to be added to the list.
- Can you visit their yard and meet their horses?
This is a request that can normally be complied with, within reason, and it is often good to see the standard of the environment where the horses live daily and how well the carriages are kept. Also to see your horses – I’ve heard tales of people expecting horses to arrive to see small ponies on their big day. Also that the carriage was a lot smaller than they expected. I normally try and accommodate people where I can to visit our yard, however when we are very busy this may not be possible.
- Are you the only event that they have booked for that day?
I am pleased to say that I have only ever booked one wedding on any one day however, unfortunately, it can happen that a company will book more than one wedding on a day, so can appear rushed and distracted. This is not a good position for either party to be in, so just check that you are the only event booked for your big day.
- What happens in the event of bad weather?
Horses are waterproof but brides often are not! So I would encourage you to find out what your chosen company’s bad weather plan is just in case the British weather is it’s normal unpredictable self. Also, what happens if the event venue is changed or the carriage ride can’t happen because of extreme bad weather (expect for the best, plan for the worst).
- What extras are included and are you going to be charged anything on the day?
I think that this applies to most suppliers, however best to find out all the charges in advance. You don’t want to find out that the champagne you are drinking is a hidden extra charge (with us it certainly isn’t as it’s our gift to you on your Wedding Day to wish you a happy ever after as we love being a part of someone’s wedding).
We really hope that this guide has been useful in making you feel more secure and knowledgeable in booking your Horse and Carriage for your big day. If you have any other questions or are at all concerned about any part of hiring a horse and carriage for your big day, then Marc has kindly said that he will answer your questions, so please don’t hesitate to contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.