Pandemics are hardly romantic, but the end of this one may just spark a flood of wedding bells across the country.
COVID-inspired stay-at-home orders and limitations on gatherings have meant that couples put more than a year’s worth of planned nuptials on hold. Sure, some people opted for quick private ceremonies, but once vaccines are widespread and pandemic restrictions are lifted, a tsunami of wedding backlogs is likely to crash on the wedding industry, whether that is at the end of 2021 or in 2022. Big weddings will be back.
When they return, one of the biggest lessons the pandemic has taught spouses-to-be is that their plans can be interrupted by things completely outside of their control, which should prove to be a boon for the wedding insurance industry.
What Is Wedding Insurance?
Pre-pandemic weddings cost more than $33,000 on average – which is more than many cars. Nobody would dream of driving without car insurance, and so it seems silly to invest that much money in a wedding without buying a little protection in the form of a wedding insurance policy.
Wedding insurance policies come in many different types. And for people planning their wedding, it is comforting to know that while there will be limitations on wedding insurance that we will cover in a minute, policies are still available to purchase despite the pandemic — presuming the ceremony is allowed by state and local COVID restrictions.
The primary things wedding insurance policies cover include liability, cancelation, and event risks — including in some cases the risk of getting cold feet.
The liability portion is meant to protect the couple in case something goes wrong during the ceremony or reception. Say someone tips a candle over in church causing a small fire, or if a waiter trips over someone’s purse and breaks a leg, the liability portion of the wedding insurance policy would kick in and protect the couple financially.
In some states the person who throws a party can also be held responsible if a guest overindulges and gets into a drunk driving accident — something else a wedding policy can cover.
The cancelation policy is meant to protect the couple against something happening that is beyond their control or ability to predict. Say there is an ice storm or a hurricane the day of the ceremony — the cancelation policy would kick in to pay for rescheduling the event to a safer date. Cancelation policies can also help if a key member of the bridal party falls ill or can’t travel because their flight got canceled.
Be sure to ask about cancelation policies when you are buying your policy, though, because not every policy includes cancelation provisions. The day-of risk portion of some policies is meant to protect the couple in case some key element of the ceremony or reception goes awry — say a key vendor, such as the photographer or the band has to pull out at the last minute and you have to scramble for a replacement, or if the gifts are stolen, or if the wedding dress tears.
Those could all be covered, depending on the policy. When it comes to cold feet, the couple would have to buy a specific rider, known as a "change of heart provision", but there are providers who do offer that option.
How COVID Factors into Wedding Insurance
Just as it has upended so many other parts of our lives, the pandemic has also changed many aspects of wedding insurance.
The biggest way it has changed things is in the premium. When couples are shopping for wedding policies, be prepared for them to come in more expensive than before. Expect to pay from a couple hundred dollars for a bare-bones liability policy to nearly $1,000 or more for a more all-encompassing package.
Also, just plan on COVID-19 not being covered. Most policies now will have riders excluding pandemics, epidemics, or communicable diseases — the potential losses are just too big to cover. But even if you do have a policy that would cover potential pandemics, COVID-19 is considered a “known event,” so it would be automatically excluded anyway.
Be prepared to shop around because, while there are policies to be had, they are going to vary greatly — and some insurers still aren’t writing them yet.
Other Ways to Mitigate Wedding Risks
Insurance is a terrific risk management tool, but couples planning a ceremony have other tools to use as well. Make sure to ask the venues and vendors about their cancelation policies, deposit rules and any time restrictions involved.
Some may refuse to return deposits under any circumstance, while others just require a couple weeks’ notice. It’s best not to be surprised in case of disaster, so make sure to ask before placing a deposit.
When it comes to flights, most airlines are waiving change fees, limiting the risk involved in booking a trip in advance.
While we are all excited to see vaccines rolled out, they aren’t universal yet, and a lot can go wrong between now and when shots are in everyone’s arms. So, it may be tempting to start booking late summer or fall ceremonies, taking advantage of great prices from venues eager to get their businesses back off the ground, make sure to plan for those worst-case scenarios.
Be prepared for outdoor seating, distanced dancefloors, single-serving food, hand sanitation stations, and all the other realities COVID-19 has thrust upon us. Whatever you do, make sure to follow city, state, and federal guidelines and best practices to keep your guests safe (and you protected from liability if something goes wrong.)
What About Insurance for Wedding Venues?
Wedding parties need to have liability insurance to protect them from worst-case scenarios, but so should venues. It is a best practice for them to not only require everyone who books an event to carry a liability policy, but to have business insurance as well. Requiring vendors to be individually insured isn’t a bad idea, either.
One of the biggest challenges for venues in the pandemic is that they are at the same time liable for their employees’ safety, but also limited by employment law in whether they can force those employees to prove they were vaccinated as a condition of employment. And let’s not talk about trying to force guests to show they were vaccinated as a condition for holding their event in the first place.
Until states or the federal government pass comprehensive liability shields for businesses, the best defense a business owner has is to religiously follow CDC and local guidelines for holding safe events.
While on the Subject of Weddings and Insurance...
Wedding insurance isn’t the only risk management tool couples should be aware of. There are policies to protect the honeymoon, the rings, and even a dreaded divorce. When it comes to honeymoon insurance, couples could opt for a separate travel insurance policy, or see if their wedding insurance plan offers a rider to cover their trip.
With the full understanding that no policy would cover COVID-19 at this point, travel insurance can be a good bet if you have to put down large un-refundable deposits. But before locking in a policy, see what other options might protect you first. Because many places are dying for a return to business as usual, many are simply waiving cancelation fees and deposit restrictions.
Credit cards might also offer some automatic trip protection as a cardholder benefit. Because of COVID-19, international travel has slowed to a trickle at best. In response, many travel policies that used to cover health and medical emergencies are instead focusing on cancelations. But if your trip takes you outside the U.S. borders, make sure to check your health policy to make sure you are covered, otherwise you will need to get covered elsewhere.
When it comes to the rings, homeowners’ coverage would protect them, unless they are particularly valuable. If that is the case, it makes sense to purchase an additional rider for the jewelry to make sure the future heirloom is well protected. And as for if something goes south and a divorce happens, there are even policies for that.
Divorce policies, known as marriage settlement agreement insurance, are a new line of insurance that are still relatively rare, but they are meant to help cover child support or spousal support in the event of a divorce. They only kick in after the divorce is finalized, and then only after a waiting period of say, four years. So, if you feel like you might need this, make sure not to wait until the marriage is on the rocks before buying it.
Things to Consider When Planning Your Wedding
We are all in the mood to let loose after a year of being locked down, and to be sure, big weddings will be coming back eventually. Whether big weddings are back by summer, or if they need to wait until 2022, they will be back, and when they do, couples would be wise to purchase coverage for them.
That said, those policies will likely be more expensive than they were before the pandemic. Riders excluding infectious diseases will be ubiquitous – and there is no way to get coverage for COVID-19. But even with those restrictions, wedding cancelation insurance will remain a slam dunk must-have accessory for any large wedding. We have all seen how traumatic cancelations can be.
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