Fantasies of the perfect wedding never included banquet halls going bust or lovebirds losing their jobs.
But a calamity can sneak up on you while you’re consumed with creating your dream day, especially during a recession.
For couples who plan ahead, there is a safeguard. Wedding insurance can cover costs when the unimaginable happens — the power goes out or the groom falls ill — and the party is over before it even began.
In the second year of this recession, more weddings are being protected by insurance, several insurers said.
“The economy is driving the sales because of the potential for job loss and the potential for vendors going out of business,” said Rob Nuccio, program administrator for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, who said policy sales are up about 20 percent this year. “With wedding insurance, you can get that money back and keep going.”
And as the financial markets have fallen like so many rose petals, there are about twice as many wedding insurance claims as there were two years ago, he said.
“They’re way up over last year because of the economy,” said Nuccio. “Two years ago we didn’t see it. Now we’re seeing it.”
One claim came from mother-of-the-bride Carol Carrier, who bought a policy from Travelers last year as she helped plan her daughter’s nuptials in Hartford, Conn. Six months before the Columbus Day weekend event, she learned that their venue, a restaurant with a banquet hall, had abruptly closed. The owner disappeared, along with Carrier’s $2,000 deposit.
She and her husband scrambled to find another location. They signed a contract with the new owner of their original venue, but the original deposit was not honored.
“That’s not a small amount of money to just throw away,” said Carrier, of North Granby, Conn. “Considering the stock market’s behavior of late, $2,000 is a significant loss.”
Carrier, who paid for the $25,000 wedding, had spent nearly $300 on the policy, which paid her back the deposit.
“The premium was pretty small compared to the cost of the wedding,” Carrier said. “We felt it was probably a good safety net.”
Nuccio, who has sold the insurance through RV Nuccio & Associates for Fireman’s Fund since the early 1990s, says many claims these days are because of job loss (if the policy owner qualifies for unemployment insurance), loss of deposits (if a vendor or location goes out of business), photography coverage (if pictures are lost or damaged), and brides and grooms changing their minds about tying the knot.
The Fireman’s policy offers “change of heart” coverage in cases where the bride or groom calls off the wedding more than six months beforehand and someone else, like a parent, is paying for it.
Another company, WedSafe, backed by Aon, says policy sales are up 50 percent this year, in part because of the economy.
WedSafe and Travelers, both of which began selling wedding insurance in 2007, said most claims come from problems with caterers, photographers, halls and other wedding businesses.
“This indicates some wedding venues and vendors are facing the same financial challenges as other businesses,” said Alan Tuvin, vice president of product management for Travelers.
A wedding policy can reimburse you for money you can’t get back if the big day is canceled because a storm shuts down airports or a burst pipe floods a hotel kitchen. There’s coverage for lost or stolen wedding jewelry, and damaged or missing gowns. If the photographer doesn’t show up or the pictures are damaged, policies may pay to reassemble the wedding party and restage the ceremony so new photos can be taken. There’s also coverage for military deployment and liability, which some venues require in case someone gets hurt.
Policies can be bought for as little as $95, depending on how much is being spent on the wedding. Nuccio says $250 would buy good coverage for a $30,000 wedding; about $2,400 for a $250,000 event.
WedSafe says fewer than 10 percent of weddings are insured. The Wedding Report, a market research company, estimates that 11 percent of the 2.1 million weddings in the United States last year were insured.
For some wedding planners, insurance is a must, and they see more couples at least asking about it.
“When I first heard of wedding insurance I was doubtful of its practicality,” said New York City planner Stella Inserra, who began recommending insurance in January. “Nowadays, it is a necessity.”
Melissa Wagner, a planner in Allen, Texas, bought a policy for her own wedding, coming up in October. “I am a very cautious person who does not like bad surprises,” Wagner said. “I’ve seen vendor issues no one could have predicted.”
While not everyone is sold, Nuccio says couples without insurance whose weddings get canceled usually end up eloping, not recreating their bridal banquet.
“Who should buy wedding insurance?” Nuccio said. “Whoever can’t afford to put on the same event twice.”
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