- Wedding insurance, a rarity until the 1990s, grew more popular as events became more lavish and more venues required liability coverage.
- With the average cost of weddings running around $28,000, more people are buying insurance “just in case.”
- After the havoc wreaked by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, couples are increasingly turning to insurance covering postponements and cancellations, even though no wedding insurance covers lockdowns or pandemics.
- Even so, it may be smart to consider cancellation coverage if you’re making big nonrefundable deposits.
The night before you tie the knot, the cat has kittens on your bridal gown, the officiant calls to cancel, the groom needs emergency surgery and the venue is destroyed by an earthquake. The thousands of dollars in deposits you made were nonrefundable. Wedding cancellation insurance, anyone?
In 1994, the idea of wedding insurance was considered so wacky that The National Enquirer included it along with alien insurance in an article on weird types of coverage on the market.
“I have it framed in my office,” said Kerri McDonald, a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter for R.V. Nuccio Insurance Brokers Inc. in Toluca Lake, California, which pioneered wedding insurance in the U.S.
In the early days, R.V. Nuccio’s wedding insurance sales amounted to maybe one $129 package deal per week. As weddings grew more lavish, about 20 companies jumped into the market. Major insurance carriers now compete in the space, including German insurance giant Allianz, which backs Wedsure; Travelers; Aon, backer of WedSafe; and Brown & Brown.
Inside this article
How does wedding insurance work?
Wedding insurance for couples comes in two basic flavors: liability and cancellation or postponement, with an assortment of extras available at additional cost.
Liability insurance covers damage to a venue’s premises and injuries suffered by guests. Most venues will request for this insurance.
Cancellation/postponement insurance covers a wide range of unforeseen disasters that put the kibosh on the gathering, from rehearsal dinner to reception.
Here’s more detail about what each component of wedding insurance might cover:
- Damage to the venue (such as broken furniture and fixtures)
- Injuries to the guests (True story: a reception guest got food poisoning, which led to a rupture of her implants, a fall and a broken nose requiring plastic surgery)
- Venue rental
- Wedding planners
- Musicians or DJs
- Transportation for out-of-town guests
Many venues require liability insurance, but cancellation insurance didn’t really take off until the mass postponements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, which lasted for at least 14 months in many states.
“I never had a client use it until COVID came along,” says wedding planner Mary Thornton, owner of Party Party in Fairfield, Conn.
Some insurers offer extras coverage at an extra price for things like jewelry, gifts and dresses. For example, coverage for wedding attire probably doesn’t automatically include pearls and gems sewn onto a wedding gown.
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What does wedding insurance cover?
The key word here is “unexpected.” Coverage varies, but here are some things a policy may cover:
Serious injury, illness or death of a member of the wedding party or immediate family (some insurers have tightened up all coverage related to infectious disease)
Catastrophic weather conditions such as flood, earthquake, volcano eruption, tidal wave, tornado, blizzard or hurricane that made the venue unusable or unreachable
Venue declares bankruptcy
Caterer is a no-show
Officiant is a no-show
Wedding attire is damaged
What doesn’t wedding insurance cover?
No policy covers everything. A lot of things will be excluded, such as:
Circumstances that were known or expected at the time the policy was purchased (for example, the venue’s impending bankruptcy or the terminal illness of a wedding party member)
Government action (for example, a regulatory agency’s restrictions on public gatherings to control infectious disease)
Riot and civil disturbances
Strikes or lockouts (except if they take place at the venue and you can’t find an alternate place)
Injuries from bungee jumping, climbing, horse riding, paintball, skating, skateboarding or trampolines
Injuries brought on by insanity or general bad behavior
And much more, depending on the policy
Couples and families “really, really need to look at their contract,” says Party Party’s Thornton.
Do I need wedding insurance?
It depends on the size, cost and location of your event. The average 2022 wedding will cost $28,000, according to The Knot Real Weddings Study, but the bill can be well north of that.
The venues and vendors who got hurt during the pandemic are intent on protecting themselves, and they’re likely to insist on non-refundable deposits. Consider how big a hit you might be in for if you don’t get coverage. If you’re making substantial deposits, it’s probably smart to consider cancellation coverage.
If you opt for a quiet home ceremony and reception, your homeowner’s insurance company may have you covered. Check with your broker to see if you need extra coverage, especially if you’re serving alcohol.
And how much is this wedding insurance going to run me?
The cost depends on how many guests and what types of coverage you decide you need.
Julia Gray and her husband, of Greenwich, Connecticut, expect to spend $60,000 on their daughter’s wedding in rural North Carolina, with 100 to 150 guests anticipated. They purchased a $500 policy “just in case.”
The cost will increase if you decide to buy coverage for:
Change of heart
Loss of deposits
Photographs and video
Rented party supplies
Many wedding insurers offer online coverage calculators. You just enter the date, number of guests and type of coverage you want. Then, you’ll get an instant quote.
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Would wedding insurance have covered COVID-19 postponement costs?
Probably not. WedSafe’s website had this to say as of Aug. 7, 2022, more than two years after the pandemic hit: “It is uncertain at this point if every policy sold prior to the ‘known event’ condition has coverage.” Each claim would be reviewed, the company said.
For everyone involved in weddings, 2020 was a dreadful year. The number of U.S. weddings dropped 40% from 2019 to 2020, according to a June 2021 update of The Wedding Report. The 2020 Brides American Wedding Study found that 66% of respondents postponed their 2020 wedding.
Couples lost deposits. Countless small vendors that provide the trappings of traditional weddings lost business: florists, photographers, bands, venue owners, caterers, cake makers and dressmakers. Insurance claims adjusters took lots of calls from sobbing people.
A Lending Tree survey of 920 engaged couples from April 6-10, 2020, found that 56% of those who changed their wedding plans lost money by doing so. “On average, respondents who lost money said they’re out $3,320.50 due to nonrefundable deposits, payments and fees.”
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic debacle led many wedding insurers to tighten up on communicable disease coverage, some to the point of total exclusion.