The coronavirus pandemic foiled many couple’s wedding plans this year, but at the same time, it has helped raised awareness of wedding insurance.
“When the pandemic first hit back in March, we were handling dozens of clients with cancellations, postponements, contract negotiations, relocations, and a flurry of questions from 2020 couples about how to move forward and handle their event in the safest and most reassuring way,” said Noelle Ahmad-Snedegar, who owns the Washington-based event-planning company Lily & Grayson Events.
“One question that we received many times,” she said, “and still continue to answer, is, ‘Do you think we should get wedding insurance?’”
Here is what you need to know about buying wedding insurance amid the pandemic.
Fewer Providers Offer Cancellation Insurance
There are two types of wedding insurance policies: liability and cancellation (or postponement) insurance. Liability covers incidents that happen during a wedding, such as property damage to the event space and bodily injuries to attendees. Cancellation provides reimbursement for deposits made to vendors — the venue, caterer, band, photographer, or florist — if a couple is forced to cancel or postpone their wedding because of weather, unexpected illness to the bride, groom or an immediate family member, military deployment, or for other reasons beyond their control.
But many insurance providers stopped selling cancellation insurance when coronavirus cases in the United States spiked in March, said David Berke, the founder of Manhattan-based eWed Insurance, one of the few large insurance companies still offering cancellation insurance. “Insurance companies are taking huge losses from Covid cancellations,” said Mr. Berke of the couples who filed claims after they or a family member contracted Covid-19.
Namisha Balagopal, 27, and Suhaas Prasad, 33, who live in San Francisco, paid $874 for a cancellation insurance policy with $125,000 of coverage in early March. The couple, who planned to marry at the St. Regis Deer Valley resort in Park City, Utah, on Aug. 30, said they purchased the insurance after hearing about a wave of wedding cancellations in the news. “We didn’t expect the virus to go all the way through August, but we wanted to be very cautious in case we had to make changes,” said Mr. Prasad, the chief technology officer of AspireIQ, a marketing company in San Francisco.
The couple decided in May to postpone their wedding with around 300 guests. “About 75 percent of our guest list was flying in from India,” said Ms. Balagopal, a product manager at Twitch, a video livestreaming platform. “It didn’t feel safe to ask them to fly.”
The couple plan to file a claim with their insurance provider, WedSafe, for the $3,500 deposit made to the Zermatt Utah Resort & Spa in nearby Midway, Utah, where they were going to have a Sangeet, a festive Indian prewedding event.
Ms. Balagopal and Mr. Prasad had a small wedding ceremony on the beach in Muir Beach, Calif., with just 10 people on Aug. 15. They moved their wedding celebrations at the St. Regis to Aug. 15, 2021.
Now that insurance contracts have classified the pandemic as a “known event,” new cancellation insurance policies will not cover Covid-related cancellations, such as a bride or groom contracting the virus. But Greg Esterhai, the chief executive and a founder of the Philadelphia-based insurance company Eventsured, said there are still benefits of getting cancellation insurance. “A power outage at your venue, for example, is a totally unpredictable event that would be covered by cancellation insurance,” he said.
But bear in mind: Some of the insurance companies that do offer cancellation insurance have lowered their coverage limits, said Les Masterson, the managing editor of Insure.com, which provides a comparison of insurance rates. He says he has seen carriers reduce their cancellation coverage to $25,000 from $50,000.
Liability Insurance Is Still a Smart Move
Steve Lauro, the vice president of WedSafe, a division of Aon Insurance that sells special-event insurance based in Garden City, N.Y., urges all couples to buy liability insurance. “A single lawsuit by an injured guest can easily devastate the event host financially,” Mr. Lauro said.
Ms. Ahmad-Snedegar also recommends liability insurance to her clients. “Even now, in the midst of what seems to be the one disaster on everyone’s minds, scuffed floors and twisted ankles still happen, and instead of lavishing in newlywed bliss, you could be on the hook if you’re not covered,” she said.
Although some venues have their own insurance, many require hosts to buy liability policy, often setting specific coverage and terms in their contracts, said Sharla Cartzdafner, the director of operations at Event Helper, an insurance broker based in Grass Valley, Calif.
Costs for Policies Will Vary
Just as it was before the coronavirus, liability policy costs depend largely on a plan’s coverage limit and how many guests will be in attendance. Rates can also vary by provider. A $1 million liability insurance policy from Eventsured for a wedding of up to 500 people costs $117. A $1 million liability insurance policy from Event Helper for a wedding of less than 40 people costs $66.
Event cancellation insurance is more expensive. A policy that offers $100,000 of cancellation coverage has a premium of $555, on average, according to ValuePenguin, a financial research firm.
Industry experts say that liability and cancellation insurance premiums have not changed during the pandemic. But most liability insurance policies, they note, exclude the coronavirus and other communicable diseases as valid claims. As a result, “a wedding guest could claim that they contracted the illness at the wedding and try to sue the wedding couple for medical payments and other expenses,” Ms. Cartzdafner said. “This would not be covered by the wedding liability policy.”
Couples may not need to purchase liability insurance, though, if they’re marrying at home, since most homeowners and renters insurance provide some level of liability coverage. “Check your policy to see the liability amount,” Mr. Masterson said. “If you need more, you can get an umbrella policy that can expand coverage.”