Whether it’s your first wedding – or your fourth – it’s a time filled with hope and optimism. (Even some diehard cynics get swept up in the emotion.) But, having lived as long as we have, there’s a stubborn little voice that says, “Yeah, but what if something goes wrong?” Depending on how much money is at stake – for a modest get-together ora lavish event – taking out wedding insurance might bring valuable peace of mind.
From no-show vendors to bankrupt venues, and from ‘state of emergency’ weather to someone who gets sick, wedding insurance can cover many losses at a reasonable cost. But, like all insurance, the devil’s in the details: premiums, coverage, deductibles, exclusions and limitations. Situations vary. Let’s see how yours measures up.
- Covers weddings that take place outside the U.S.
- 15% discount on a purchase of both liability and cancellation coverage
- Policies upto $2 million can be purchased with deductibles of only $25/policy
Wedding insurance works for seniors much as it does for a blushing young bride, except for one thing: we are probably paying for our own wedding. So, depending on our financial circumstances and the amount of money at risk, a wedding insurance policy might make sense. (The average cost of a senior’s wedding is not published, but the average cost for all ages tops $30,000 today.)
Two out of three possibilities may lower the insurance tab, depending on where the wedding is being held:
- If at someone’s home, their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might cover any liability for injured guests or damage to the home. It might also cover stolen or lost gifts. That leaves you exposed to the costs of vendors, travel expenses and other incidentals, including ‘host liquor liability,’ which may be excluded from a standard homeowner’s policy.
- If at a traditional venue, like a clubhouse or banquet hall, ask to see their insurance policy to know what is already covered and what is not.
- If at a non-traditional private venue, such as a vineyard or ranch, you will likely need all forms of insurance, starting with liability against injury or damage.
The next step is to look at a complete list of possible expenses, figure out their cost and decide if you can shoulder losses related to them without insurance. Getting quotes for a policy from reliable insurers will help you make that decision.
No one likes to lose money, regardless of financial status. Add to that the emotional toll that comes from something going wrong around our wedding, and the loss feels even heavier. Being a little older, the chance of one of us – or someone else in the wedding party – falling ill or having a medical emergency is somewhat more likely. A forced cancellation or postponement could have considerable financial consequences. While an insurance payout would not erase all the inconvenience and disappointment, it would at least soften the financial blow.
Having a good wedding insurance policy means:
- Being protected financially against circumstances beyond your control – whether from extreme weather, illness or vendors;
- Knowing that you can relax because any liability issues – injury or property damage – are covered;
- Being able to tailor your policy to your exact needs, no more, no less; and
- Being free to enjoy your special day with total peace of mind.
As you research wedding insurance providers, you want to know the base cost (or premium) for the coverage you are seeking, the ease of taking out a policy, the range of coverages offered, any waiting period and the quality of their customer support team.
You also want to know about the different policies offered by the insurer, as well as the types of payment accepted. Lastly, but still of great importance, you want to know the financial strength of the company to be certain the company will be there to pay any claim you might have.
If you are thinking of taking out a wedding insurance policy, you should have your insurer selected before you begin writing checks for your wedding, whether as deposits or purchases, to protect those payments. Some aspects of insurance can be purchased later, such as liability insurance, unless the venue requires it in order to hold a reservation.
As you start to investigate wedding insurers, you will enter an insurance world that has some familiar aspects, but others that are totally unique to this specialty. To start, two types of coverage are available, offered together or separately, based on your need.
Liability insurance is similar to what you would purchase for your house or car: it covers any bodily injury, property damage or personal injuries to third parties for which you or your guests are responsible, plus any medical costs if someone gets sick or is injured. What is different is ‘host liquor liability’ insurance. This protects against bodily injury or personal damage suits brought by parties injured as a result of an intoxicated guest who was served alcohol at an event you hosted.
The limits of wedding liability insurance tend to run $500,000-$2,000,000 or more. A single liability policy may cover the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and reception.
Event cancellation insurance is less familiar. It protects you against losses related to the event not taking place as planned due to an occurrence or circumstance out of your control. It does not cover you if you change your mind, which seems to happen in about 13 percent of engagements. The reason has to be external and sufficiently disruptive to justify the cancellation or postponement.
What you need: Make a realistic list of all the expenses you want to cover, based on how you have planned your wedding. These can include:
- Cancellation or postponement, including anything paid as non-refundable deposits, catering services, venue rental, hotel and travel (wedding and honeymoon), rental of wedding-specific clothing and jewelry, among others. The insurance claim may be triggered by a venue or vendor not being able to fulfill its obligation or by a key wedding party member unable to be present.
- Additional expense upcharges, if you have to pay more for a substitute venue or vendor in order to avoid a cancellation or postponement.
- Photo/video failures, in cases of a photographer no-show or loss/damage to the product.
- Loss or damage to gifts, wedding attire and jewelry, where the loss is related to the wedding event.
Obtaining quotes: Once you have identified all of your financial exposure, an online search for ‘wedding insurance’ will provide a list of possible insurers. Check to see if you are contacting an agency or broker or if you are buying directly from the underwriter. Also, check with friends and family for referrals.
Wedding insurance is offered by providers that range from major national underwriters with well-known, household names to small specialized insurers or brokers we only become aware of when we decide to plan a wedding. As you request quotes from insurers, you will be given their coverage limits for the different aspects of the insurance. You are only looking to cover your actual exposure, which you identified above. Consider, however, that the different coverages may also have deductibles.
The coverage levels you select are what will determine the cost of coverage and, if you find the total is too high, you may have to revisit the coverage you have selected for each aspect and lower it on the items you feel are less likely to occur.
To help with that decision, here are the most common wedding insurance claims paid by one major wedding insurer: vendor issues represent 30 percent of the claims paid, followed by illness or injury at 29 percent and extreme weather at 16 percent. ‘Vendor’ issues include problems with the wedding or reception venue or vendors (photographers, florists, limo service, etc.) that go out of business or do not show up.
Responsibility and reputation: Once you have received quotes from 2-3 insurers, be sure you have a copy of each company’s contract, so you can inspect the fine print for exclusions or limitations you may have missed in conversation. Pay attention to how the company treats you during this initial phase as it is a pretty clear indication of what you will experience if you ever file a claim.
Before making a final decision, look up each company on the Better Business Bureau website to see how many complaints it has received and, more important, how it resolves issues. (Large companies will have more complaints than small ones.) Read responsible online reviews. Keep in mind that consumers rarely write to praise a company. You are looking for trends.
A critical decision-making factor is the financial stability of each company: you want to be sure the company will be there should you ever need to collect.
Decision-making: How much insurers collect as premiums compared to what they pay out as claims is an indication of how frequently weddings area canceled. Compared to other insurances, wedding insurance does not pay out that often. An industry reference indicates that underwriters in this specialty expect to pay out about 40 percent of the premiums they bring in. Compare that with the health insurance industry where regulatory bodies manage health care costs by setting the required loss-to-premiums ratio at 80 percent.
Only you and your partner can decide if wedding insurance makes sense, based on so many factors specific to your wedding and your circumstances. Ultimately, how much peace of mind will that additional expense bring?
Two areas differentiate what seniors prioritize from what others do when buying wedding insurance: age-friendliness and health-related value.
Age friendliness: The older you and your wedding party members are, the more likely someone will not be able to participate, maybe forcing the wedding to be canceled or postponed. On the other hand, later-in-life weddings are often less costly events than those our fathers (hopefully) paid for when we were just starting out in life. In any case, the value of wedding insurance will reflect the impact on us of something going wrong on our wedding day, and our ability to spring back financially.
Health-related value: As our health becomes more precarious, it becomes more likely that we will need to cancel or postpone a wedding. If we are committing great expenses to the event, wedding insurance may have a role to play.
Despite the handsome margins made by wedding insurers, wedding insurance is not particularly expensive. However, this can fluctuate with the coverage limits you select. One source quotes about $250 for a policy covering $25,000 of cancellation and postponement costs, or one percent. However, as the coverage amount increases, the percentage represented by the premium decreases, so a $10,000 wedding might cost closer to two percent.
Those prices do not cover liability insurance, which for different underwriters starts at between $70 and $170 and may or may not include ‘host liquor liability’ insurance. Liability insurance coverage can go to $2 million, and even $5 million with some insurers.
One resource indicates that coverage limits for cancellation and postponement range from $7,500 to $175,000. Additional expense upcharges have coverage limits between $1,500 and $35,000. The coverage limits for the other various coverages (photo/video, gifts, special attire, etc.) tend to run between $1,000 and $10,000.
As with any contractual agreement, good practices imply reading the fine print to be certain there are no hidden exclusions or conditions.
As indicated earlier, in assessing wedding insurance options you want to look at the cost, the ease of obtaining a policy, the coverage offered, any waiting period and the quality of customer support.
Cost: The cost will reflect the amount and types of coverage you want, based on your wedding plans and the amount of risk you want to take, or not take. As an example, one insurer offers a comprehensive plan (but without liability coverage) that starts at $160 and covers losses related to cancellation/postponement, gifts, attire, jewelry photos/videos, entertainment, cakes and catering, all with no deductible. As with any other kind of insurance, you need to do a risk/benefit calculation.
Ease: Ease of access is important, as someone planning a wedding is already likely to have a long list of tasks to handle. Insurance should not be a time-consuming one, although it has to be thought out carefully. A policy can usually be set up through an 800 number or online through the company’s website.
Coverage: The typical forms of wedding insurance are liability insurance (with or without ‘host liquor liability’ insurance) and losses related to cancellation/ postponement or failed wedding-related services.
Waiting period: The greatest timing issue with wedding insurance is to purchase it as soon as you start writing checks, not so much because of an actual waiting period but because you want to be certain that any expenditure is covered, should something happen between the time of purchase and the wedding day. The 90-day mark is critical as many wedding planners and reception spaces require 50 percent of their fees at that time. Some venues may require liability insurance to be in place 30 days before the event, and coverage for extreme weather claims should be in place well before the weather event could have been predicted.
Customer support: Once you have your wedding insurance policy in place, the only time you will likely contact the insurance company is if you have a claim. This means something upsetting has happened on what is supposed to be a special day. That highlights the importance of having quality customer service representatives available to you to report a claim. Most seem to be available by phone Mon-Sat during daytime hours; some are available by email or by online chat anytime.
If you have decided to take out a wedding insurance policy, it appears most companies offer no option of canceling the policy once the premium is paid. Those that do may charge a refund fee.
However, if you have not purchased a policy and find yourself with a canceled wedding, the internet provides a possible way to minimize your losses: you can sell your wedding plans. An online marketplace called ‘CanceledWeddings’ allows couples to recover some of the non-refundable costs paid out. Other couples might get a pre-packaged wedding, or non-couples might get a last-minute dream vacation at a bargain price.