By Natasha Burton
May 15, 2014
Look at any wedding planning checklist for just-engaged couples and you’re bound to see tasks like “get a manicure” and “buy bridal magazines to get inspired.”
What you probably won’t find?
Anything related to what to do if, for example, your chosen locale floods five days before the big day, or your seamstress accidentally massacres your dream wedding dress.
That’s where wedding insurance—which can protect you against a slew of nuptials-sabotaging mishaps like natural disasters, illness and vendor issues—comes in.
But is it something that every couple should consider?
To find out, we asked insurance experts, wedding planners and even real couples who’ve purchased coverage for the 411 on these policies—and if they’re really worth the expense.
The Back Story on Bridal Insurance
Given that the average wedding bill comes out to $30,000, protecting such a costly investment is, understandably, becoming more and more popular these days. According to USA Today, the event-specific insurance company WedSafe alone has seen a 60% bump in wedding insurance policy sales since 2007.
And not only are more couples—as well as their check-writing parents—opting to buy wedding insurance, but venues are increasingly requiring it, says Robert Nuccio, president and founder of Wedsure, which exclusively insures events and weddings.
“Events are getting bigger,” Nuccio says. “And more and more facilities want proof of insurance, so you have your own liability.” According to Nuccio, vendors are increasingly requiring a cancellation limit equal to the cost of your wedding, which can include everything from catering to rentals, as well as other components of a wedding if the venue is full-service.
Most venue contracts stress that there are no refunds, and Nuccio says it’s because they don’t want to deal with the headache of complaints and challenges to the contract in the event of a cancellation. Cancellation and postponement wedding insurance protects them—and you—from that.
So if you’re about to sign on the dotted line with a venue, be sure to read the contract carefully—before signing!—to find out if you’re required to purchase wedding insurance. ”Typically, venues request the certificate of insurance 30 days prior to the event,” says wedding planner and designer Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction. “If you do not provide the certificate, you risk forfeiting your event site altogether.”
If your venue requires you to purchase liability insurance, or you’re debating taking out a policy for your upcoming nuptials, it’s important to do your homework because, like everything else with weddings, there are a lot of details to consider.
What Do Wedding Insurance Plans Cover?
According to Nuccio, there are three coverage types that couples should consider:
- Liability This is often required by venues and covers damage and other unforeseen accidents, such as bodily injury.
- Cancellation If you opt for this, you are covered in the event that the venue is destroyed by a natural disaster, or you postpone the wedding due to illness.
- Loss of deposits This coverage type protects you if, say, your limo driver goes out of business once you’ve already paid him.
Most plans, either through such specialized brokers as Wedsure or general insurance companies like Travelers, allow you to tailor a wedding insurance policy to your needs.
Take Karen Tims*, a 28-year-old MBA candidate based in New York City, who took out a policy with Wedsure for her nuptials later this year. Tims purchased a package that covers cancellation, liability, loss of deposits and the photography, protecting her in the event that her photographer’s camera is stolen or the pictures don’t turn out correctly.
“The main thing I was worried about was the death of a family member,” Tims says. “I have a grandmother who is very old.” Insurance would allow her to reschedule her almost $200,000 wedding for roughly $1,200—without extra additional costs after paying her deductible.
Another bride-to-be, Joy Yearout, a public information officer in DeWitt, Michigan, purchased insurance that covers postponement and rescheduling (for just under $200) through WedSafe for her January 2015 wedding.
“We’re having a winter wedding, with the vast majority of guests traveling from out of state,” she explains. “So we are protected if the wedding party or immediate family cannot make the ceremony due to a storm. Plus, my fiancé is in the Army Reserve, so we are also protected if he is mobilized.”
Since these plans are so customizable, costs can range from $40 to more than $1,000, says C. Mario Jaramillo, Esq., of RocketLawyer.com. So what you pay depends on several factors, from your overall budget and location to the type of insurance you elect and how much coverage you want. For example, a policy for $40 may just cover liability insurance for an event for 40 or fewer guests, while $2,000 could protect you from loss of deposits for a $25,000 soiree.
So what does wedding insurance not cover?
While some companies offer coverage for “change of heart,” Nuccio admits this is more of a novelty add-on. “Change of heart is very restrictive,” he says, explaining that it’s not considered an unexpected event. “So it’s hard to qualify for it.”
Under Wedsure’s “change of heart” option, for example, a wedding must be canceled over 365 days in advance for the policy to pay out. The reason, Jaramillo explains, is because the risk has to be truly calculable to be insurable. “If the insurance company can’t calculate the risk, they cannot assess a cost for that risk, and thus, they cannot offer insurance,” he says.
But when it comes to incidents that are calculable—unforeseen events like sudden hospitalization—wedding insurance protects your investment. And while most couples will never use their wedding insurance, disasters do happen, says Emily McCollin of event planning company Occasions by Emily.
“I had clients whose venue burned down a few months before their wedding,” she says. “The venue refused to give my client her money back, and told her that she could have her wedding on a part of the property that wasn’t burned to the ground. However, the venue’s charred remains were not her ideal wedding photo backdrop.”
In this case, having wedding insurance could have come in handy. Luckily, the client chose to pay her deposit via credit card and worked with the credit card company on a stop payment to the venue.
How Do You Purchase a Policy?
There are a couple of different ways to buy wedding insurance. For liability, one option is to go through your homeowners’ policy, Becker suggests. “Typically, your homeowners’ insurance will cover you under a ‘one-day umbrella’ policy,” she says. “And, usually, the [cost of insurance] isn’t extra.”
Chris Testa, a 29-year-old IT and medical equipment leasing specialist in Newport Beach, Calif., took advantage of this benefit for his big day last August. “My parents asked their State Farm agent, and it turned out that the company would add a $1 million liability waiver for our event at no cost,” he says.
However, some insurance companies, Nuccio says, won’t cover an event held somewhere other than the policyholder’s home or at an event where alcohol is served. In other cases, they will not allow policyholders to “name” a wedding venue as one of the insured parties on the policy.
Additionally, some people may not want to put their homeowners’ policies in jeopardy by using it to insure a wedding. If, for example, someone drank too much at the wedding and got into a car accident, the homeowners’ policy covering the event could be affected with a rate increase.
If the homeowners’ policy route isn’t an option for you—because it’s either not worth the risk or you require more than just liability insurance—you can buy a policy through an event-specific company or an insurance company that offers separate wedding coverage, like Travelers. (Check out International Special Events Society‘s website for more references.)
Another option: Some venues may have their own insurance, so you can ask about purchasing additional coverage through them. But regardless of the option you choose, be sure to read the entire contract so you’re clear about the type of coverage you’re purchasing—and whether it’s truly a smart investment.
Who Really Needs Wedding Insurance?
In many cases, a venue will require you to have liability insurance (typically for coverage up to $2 million), so your choice to buy or not is made for you.
Beyond liability, Becker doesn’t think purchasing additional policies is necessary—ifyou choose your vendors wisely and make sure they have their own insurance. But beware: According to data presented at The Special Event 2008, a conference for people in the event industry, up to 45% of vendors don’t have insurance.
Plus, nearly one-quarter of wedding insurance claims are, in fact, due to vendor issues, according to data compiled by Travelers Insurance, with 58% of them related to photographer issues.
Nuccio points out that photography coverage can cost around $50. And with a large-enough limit, an insurance company will actually pay for a wedding do-over (flights and lodging for all of your guests, venue rental, clothing for everyone and so on) if, say, your photographer’s camera card erases all of the images from your big day.
In the end, the cost of insurance is a relatively small price to pay, and it gives you one less thing to worry about. Danni Hemberger, 30, who plans events for a living in San Francisco and got married in November 2013, says that buying liability insurance for $100 really enabled her to enjoy the moment for “such a small fee.”
What’s more, the sense of relief will extend to your vendors, McCollin says. “It is impossible to fix everything, and if clients have another recourse for resolving the situation, it removes a great deal of anxiety for everyone involved,” she explains. “It is the best way to protect the money you are spending.”