My mother and father got married in Baltimore, Maryland on June 22, 1972. That was the very day that Hurricane Agnes — the costliest tropical storm to hit the United States in recorded history at the time — made landfall.
Mom and Dad woke up on the morning of their nuptials to the news that most of their guests were unable to attend the wedding due to the flooding in Baltimore. They tried to reduce the wasted food and drinks at their reception by inviting anyone and everyone able to brave the streets, including my grandmother’s hairdresser and the neighbors of several guests.
Nobody expects a national emergency-inducing hurricane on their wedding day, least of all in Baltimore in June. Of course, insurance was created specifically to protect you from the unexpected. Wedding insurance may not have existed when my parents got married, but could it be a way for couples nowadays to protect themselves (and their deposits!) from an expensive wedding emergency?
Here’s what you need to know about whether wedding insurance is the right way for you to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)
What is wedding insurance?
Wedding insurance, which is also billed as special event insurance, is an insurance policy that covers cancellation of a major event due to adverse weather or the death, illness, or serious injury of a key participant. In addition to the cancellation coverage, marrying couples can also purchase riders for their wedding insurance that cover things like military deployment, protection of bridal wear from damage or vendor bankruptcy, theft or damage to wedding gifts, and personal liability for injury or damage.
The ability to protect yourself financially in case of a wedding catastrophe may make wedding insurance sound like a slam dunk, but it’s often unnecessary, according to Lindsay Rocamora, a wedding and event planner based in Wisconsin.
Instead, she recommends taking a hard look at the possible problems you might encounter on your big day.
What might happen on your wedding way?
While no one wants to think about how things could go wrong on their wedding day, Rocamora recommends that all couples think through the moving parts that could cause a problem.
The little disasters
The things most likely to go wrong are also things you can ask about before signing a contract.
Rocamora recommends asking questions like:
- What happens if the photographer or DJ gets sick?
- What is the backup plan if the caterer drops the cake?
- Is the company insured?
- What are the penalties if the company fails to deliver on the promised goods or services?
- What happens if you need to cancel the contract?
Understanding the clauses in your contracts with vendors can help you understand what your options will be in case of a problem. Rocamora also points out that wedding insurance doesn’t necessarily cover these kinds of problems.
Fire, flood, or act of God
Many couples assume that purchasing wedding insurance will take care of them in case of a major weather event or other forces outside of their control. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case.
While cancellation or postponement coverage on a wedding policy could pay out in the event of an extreme weather phenomenon, it’s generally only honored in the case of a statewide emergency. A more localized weather emergency may just be considered bad luck for the happy couple.
Rocamora also warns that many vendors indemnify themselves in their contracts in case of bad weather or another type of emergency:
“Most venues and vendors have a Force Majeure clause that protects them in the event of an act of God,” Rocamora reports. “I’ve heard of tornadoes destroying venues, or fires at bakeries. If there is a drought in Argentina, then flowers will become scarce or more expensive. But the Force Majeure gives couples no recourse if this happens.”
Wedding insurance generally doesn’t protect couples from such bad luck, especially if their vendors have a Force Majeure clause.
In 2017, bridal retailer Alfred Angelo abruptly declared bankruptcy and immediately shuttered all of its stores worldwide, which meant customers showed up to pick up their dresses and accessories, only to find the doors locked.
This situation was heartburn-inducing for the brides who were simply out of luck, although Angelo’s biggest competitor David’s Bridal (which carried many of the same designs) offered affected customers big discounts to help them keep their wedding plans on track.
According to Rocamora, wedding insurance could potentially help with such a problem, which may also occur with small, local vendors. The Angelo bankruptcy was a huge problem in the wedding industry with ripples throughout the United States and globally, but local vendors can also find themselves on shaky financial ground.
Having a number of drunk wedding guests all in one place can potentially lead to damage, destruction, injury, or half the family refusing to speak to the other half. This is where wedding insurance could be helpful in protecting yourself from liability.
“Certainly most of my terrible wedding stories begin with vodka,” Rocamora states. “But Wisconsin at least has some very strict liquor laws for venues and parks.” Even if you don’t live in Wisconsin, most state laws will require your venue to carry the coverage necessary to protect you in case a drunken reveler causes injury or damage.
Of course, if you’re getting married in your backyard, then your venue does not already have the necessary coverage. But an umbrella policy with your homeowners insurance will likely take care of your needs, and potentially for less than a wedding insurance policy.
Don’t forget that you may be held liable for any guests who drive drunk after your wedding. That means you should be sure you have the full coverage you need. Consider offering shuttles to a hotel or providing places to sleep it off, since a guest driving drunk is more than just financially devastating.
Lost or destroyed gifts
Another big selling point for wedding insurance is protection from stolen, lost, or destroyed wedding gifts. However, if gifts are stolen or damaged while at your home or in your car, then your homeowners insurance or auto insurance policy may already cover the loss.
Similarly, your venue may have coverage that will take care of you in the event that your gifts are stolen. Ask your venue and check with your current insurance policies before spending money on a special event policy, since it may not be needed.
Protecting your wedding day
The best-laid plans of brides and grooms oft go awry, and anyone who has ever been to a wedding can attest to the impossibility of a major event coming together perfectly. But there’s a difference between the funny story of the caterer delivering a bachelorette cake to the wedding, and a true wedding day disaster.
To protect your wedding day, Rocamora recommends doing your research, asking lots of questions before signing contracts, using reputable vendors, and checking your homeowners insurance coverage, rather than wedding insurance. (See also: How to Negotiate on Everything for Your Wedding)