insurance

Wedding insurance: Help for bridal 'fails'

Wedding day disasters come in all sizes, from lost rings and ruined bridal gowns to slip-and-fall and alcohol-related personal injuries to unpredictable weather events to plain old cold feet that can shut down a once-in-a-lifetime celebration faster than you can say "I do."

Fortunately, wedding insurance can help you absorb the financial hit should your big day suddenly veer off course.

Policies cost as little as $95. Couples can insure against financial losses due to:

  • Wedding cancellation or postponement because of severe weather, sudden illness within the wedding party, or unforeseen military deployment of the bride or groom.
  • Loss or theft of wedding attire, gifts, jewelry and luggage.
  • Mishaps or no-shows involving the florist, caterer, limousine service, photographer/videographer, disc jockey/band or officiant (the person officiating the ceremony).
  • Sudden closure or unavailability of the wedding venue.
  • Personal liability should guests fall ill, become injured or cause property damage. (There's typically "host liquor liability" in case a guest becomes inebriated at the wedding and causes an auto accident or similar harm.)

Help with 'knotty' problems

Wedding insurance can't recreate that special day exactly, but it can reimburse you for the nonrefundable deposits you paid to vendors, pay for reassembling the wedding party with all the trappings for a photo/video reshoot and provide deposit money to line up new vendors for your rescheduled nuptials.

It wasn't always easy or affordable to insure a wedding. Among the three major wedding underwriters, Fireman's Fund started offering wedding coverage only in the 1990s, Aon entered in 1999, and Travelers followed in 2007.

But interest in wedding insurance grew as the price of U.S. weddings rose. In 2012, the average U.S. wedding cost $25,656, according to The Wedding Report, a research firm that tracks nuptial numbers. Reality TV has helped popularize wedding insurance, too, thanks to the matrimonial mishaps sometimes portrayed on bridal shows such as "Bridezillas."

'I do -- want insurance'

"Wedding insurance has definitely become more popular," says Fireman's Fund spokeswoman Janet Ruiz. "People are planning further out for weddings, some as long as a year ahead, so they're aware of making and protecting their deposits."

Chantal Cyr, vice president for Travelers' wedding insurance unit, agrees. "It's a significant investment -- the cost of a new car," she says. "You'd never buy a new car without insuring it."

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Worried that something will ruin your picture-perfect wedding that you spent your life savings on? Wedding insurance can help absorb the financial hit should your big day takes a turn for the worse.

From lost rings to unpredictable weather and just plain-old cold feet, there are a number of things that can shut down a celebration faster than you can say "I do."

Wedding insurance policies cost as little as $95. They cover things like weather or sickness that cause wedding cancellation, loss of wedding attire, and no-shows of important bookings like the florist and photographer. It also covers personal liability if guests get sick or injured or cause property damage.

While wedding insurance can't recreate that special day exactly, it can reimburse you for the nonrefundable deposits you paid to vendors and provide deposit money to line up new vendors if your big day gets postponed or rescheduled.

In fact, Cyr says some couples today may have no choice but to insure their wedding.

"We've seen a growing demand from venues asking the bride and groom to buy wedding insurance," she says. "Venues would have their own (coverage), but it may be subject to a deductible and potentially a rate increase. They want the bride and groom to carry that coverage."

What the policies can cover

Today, all three major providers of wedding cancellation and liability coverage offer the convenience of buying a policy online: Fireman's Fund at Wedsure.com, Aon at WedSafe.com and Travelers at ProtectMyWedding.com. Couples can purchase coverage as early as two years before and as late as the day of the wedding, depending on the carrier.

Most policies cover the entire wedding event, from the rehearsal dinner through the wedding ceremony and reception. Policies typically extend to destination weddings in Canada, the Caribbean, Great Britain, Mexico and U.S. territories, though specific locales vary somewhat by insurer.

Each major carrier offers a signature feature in the wedding niche. Travelers policies have no deductible. Aon offers the highest liability limit at $5 million. Fireman's Fund is the only insurer to offer "change of heart" coverage, though it compensates only the wedding's financier (i.e., mom and dad), not the couple, and the cancellation due to a bride's or groom's cold feet must be made at least a year before the festivities.

Don't walk down the aisle without it

Not long ago, Master Bridal Consultant Mark Kingsdorf of The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia would never have suggested wedding insurance to his clients for fear they might take his advice the wrong way.

"It's a little like asking, 'Have you guys thought about a prenup?'" he chuckles. "It sort of gives couples the creeps."

Today, part of his job involves collecting certificates of insurance from each of the vendors that will be on-site for the big day.

And Kingsdorf strongly recommends that all couples obtain liability coverage, either as an event rider on their (or their parents') home insurance, or through a wedding insurer.

"Even when you know 'almost everybody' there, there's the date du jour of that girl you went to school with who gets drunk at your party and kills somebody driving home," he says. "By the same token, if you're hosting a reception at the Pennsylvania Museum and somebody gets drunk and falls into a sarcophagus, you pray that you've got that $1 million liability insurance."

For those whose wedding budget is close to or exceeds the $25,000 national average, Kingsdorf says wedding insurance is a classic no-brainer.

"A couple hundred bucks here is a really minimal investment to make sure things go well," he says.

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