The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that anything can happen—and that we should expect the unexpected. It’s a wedding planner’s job to prepare backup plans and contingencies, but the current uncertainty has brides and grooms thinking about plans B, C, and D more than ever before. Couples planning to wed in 2020 are now needing to postpone their celebrations and, in that process, consider all possible pitfalls that could prevent even the most well-planned event from taking place.
Insurance has always been an option when it comes to protecting yourself against the unpredictables surrounding your wedding day, just as it is when securing coverage for other key investments, like travel, or a home or car purchase. But according to many expert planners, wedding insurance has been predominantly untapped, save for those planning events in far-flung destinations, with activities that require licenses or extra safety measures (like ATV-ing, hot-air ballooning, Jet Skiing, and the like), or those planning to host weddings at home.
“Few couples [previously took on] wedding insurance unless they [were] planning weddings at home, but I think moving forward, it’s something we should all consider,” explains Annie Lee, founder of Daughter of Design. “While policies typically don’t cover ‘change-of-heart’ scenarios, they protect against vendor no-shows, damages, postponement due to illness, travel delays, bankruptcies, lost or damaged rings, and more.”
Those aren’t the only times coverage can prove essential, and minimizing loss and risk requires proper paperwork, expertly worded contracts, and where most basic installations, breakdowns, and events are concerned, insurance coverage. “I think it’s critical that every wedding have insurance. To me, it’s never been optional, even before all this talk relating to the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Nathalie Cadet-James, founder and CEO of Luxe Fête and a licensed attorney. “[Insurance] protects everybody involved in the process. Whether or not our venues or vendors require certificates of insurance, we strongly recommend our clients purchase one or multiple policies.”
To help navigate the decision-making process of whether to get insurance coverage for your event (spoiler alert: You should) and what types of coverage to secure (and when), we’re tapping some the most trusted luxury planners and insurance companies in the industry. Here, the basics of wedding insurance and everything you need to know about event preparedness in the current climate—and beyond.
What is wedding insurance?
Let’s start with the basics: Wedding (or event) insurance protects you from losses that may happen due to various factors, such as unforeseen events causing damage or injury at a wedding and external event(s) beyond your control that may prevent your wedding from happening. “This is meant to protect your investment in the wedding from unforeseen circumstances,” says Cadet-James. For those immediately of the impression that this could solve worries, losses, and issues related to COVID-19 wedding postponements: Think again. “Most insurers are savvy enough that a pandemic would not have been included in a general liability policy for weddings,” Cadet-James adds.
There are two main types of event insurance: liability insurance and cancellation insurance. “Most couples buy liability insurance and cancellation insurance together,” says David Berke of eWed Insurance. “Liability insurance protects the couple if there is damage to the venue caused by themselves or a wedding guest. It could also provide coverage for attorney fees if [you] get sued, say due to a wedding guest leaving the wedding drunk and getting in a car accident. Cancellation insurance covers lost deposits and payments for a host of reasons, such as vendor bankruptcy and vendor no-shows (excluding COVID-19), accidental injury or illness of an immediate family member, cancellation or postponement due to extreme weather, unexpected military deployment, loss or damage to your wedding photographs and videos, lost or damage to wedding gifts, lost wedding rings, and damage to wedding-day attire, including the bride’s wedding dress.”
Think of this as one step in the process to protecting the funds you’ve saved and invested in your event. “It’s my responsibility, in addition to executing the event, to protect my client’s investments,” Cadet-James explains. “A certificate of insurance alone doesn’t do it. One of the most important things in the equation is our contracts. In terms of what happens in the case of the unexpected, the one clause of the contract that’s relevant is called the force majeure clause. That section addresses what would happen if the unforeseeable happened, preventing that which is outlined in the contract from taking place. Every force majeure clause in every contract is different, and we’re very deliberate in outlining and understanding what happens in situations that are outside our, the clients’, and the other vendors’ control.”
Though we hate to have to think about all the unpredictable, worst-case scenarios—and anything negative, really—surrounding an occasion as optimistic as a wedding, there are so many instances that can, have, and will go wrong at any event. “Illnesses and injuries happen, vendors go out of business, severe weather could shut down your wedding venue, your caterer could have a fire in their kitchen, and the list goes on and on,” says Berke. In short: It’s best to be prepared.
Where do I purchase wedding insurance?
Options are vast when it comes to purchasing your choice of wedding insurance, and it depends on where you’re getting married. “We always suggest that clients get insurance through their homeowners insurance company when they choose to have a wedding at home, or we recommend WedSafe,” says BAZAAR Bride top planner Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events. “[You] can get insurance to cover so many things, but we always recommend that clients have coverage for key liabilities, like a guest who drinks and then drives home, or someone who accidentally breaks something while setting up.”
Hotchkiss explains that there are many things that can occur just in the setup for an event, from property damage to someone accidentally backing into a fence or a water system that then requires urgent repair. “It’s up to the couple if they want cancellation insurance in the case that guests can’t fly due to weather-related issues like a flood, hurricane, or fire,” she adds. Keep in mind what cancellation insurance covers when you opt for coverage; at the moment, pandemics do not currently fall under the list of issues most insurance providers consider covered by cancellation insurance.
In addition to eWed Insurance and WedSafe, other insurance providers to look into recommended by our Rolodex of experts include Wedsure, Wedding Protector Plan, The Event Helper, and Travelers. “Nationwide actually has an entire section of their site dedicated to wedding insurance,” explains Victoria Holland, founder of Victoria Ann Events. “To me, it’s the most comprehensive, the company is responsive, and it’s a bit easier to file a claim with a larger insurance provider, given that they have more resources.”
Discuss your wedding details with your planner and decide which forms of coverage make the most sense for you. Don’t have a planner? Insurance should be top priority then, since you are your own advocate in the planning process. With that said, now is the perfect time to consult the experts. After all, “You’re not paying for a planner for when things are rosy, you’re paying for a planner for when shit hits the fan,” says Dublin-based luxury planner Tara Fay. “It has, and we’re ready and here to advocate for our clients and future couples.”
How much does wedding insurance cost?
Outside of buying a house or car, weddings are often one of the largest investments an individual, a couple, and their families will make in their lifetimes. “You would not think twice about not insuring your home or your car, so why would you spend such a significant amount on a wedding and not insure it?” asks Berke. This is especially true when considering that wedding insurance for both cancellation and liability is typically only about 1 percent of your total wedding budget.
“Insurance is a nominal cost compared to the cost of the wedding,” says Cadet-James, who mentioned her clients’ standard policies start at about $175 per certificate of insurance with The Event Helper, her preferred provider. “You usually have to get a certificate from every vendor that you work with,” she explains. “I have my clients get insurance on their own, and I make sure that every single vendor in our process gets insurance as well, if their companies aren’t already insured themselves.”
“Insurance for most weddings can cost from around $100 and up to $1,000—and helps everyone to sleep better,” says Debbie Geller of Geller Events. “When checking any policy, ask specifically about liquor liability and whether or not you will be covered if a guest who drinks at your event has an unfortunate accident after leaving. In today’s climate, it’s also very important to check policies to see what is covered for cancellation as well.”
“Costs of insurance plans vary based on what’s being covered, and there’s a sliding scale depending on how much coverage you’re looking for. Typically, spending around $250 to $400 will make sure you are covered for $250,000 at minimum,” explains Holland. “And it goes up from there, depending on the overall wedding budget and the venue requirements.”
Luxury event planner Laurie Arons recommends clients purchase wedding insurance that covers general liability up to $1 million per occurrence and $2 million in the aggregate. “This insurance will cover the host from any lawsuits that are a result of bodily injury, personal injury, or property damage caused by a covered accident at the wedding, and often the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner too, including host liquor liability,” she says.
No matter which policy you choose, it’s common for your venue to request a certificate of insurance (COI) to cover the load-in, installation, and breakdown of your event. “Some venues will also require that you add medical payments coverage and name the property as ‘additional insured’ with a copy of the certificate of insurance,” adds Arons.
Though purchasing standalone insurance for your wedding is feasible through companies like Wedsure, which Arons recommends, she also notes that “your homeowners insurance provider can often provide you an umbrella policy that provides sufficient coverage as well.”
When do I need to purchase wedding insurance?
“I recommend clients get insurance as soon as they get engaged,” says Holland. “First, I advise couples insure their engagement ring if they haven’t already, and right after that, I advise they get wedding insurance for both liability and cancellation. I usually recommend that they get an umbrella policy to cover themselves in the planning process, and venues usually require a certificate of insurance from the couple and all key vendors before installation, load-in, and the event takes place.”
“It’s a good idea to purchase a policy as soon as you begin paying vendor deposits,” Berke advises. Caterers, photographers, and other vendors typically require a significant nonrefundable deposit up front, with the remainder due by the day of your wedding.
“When selecting your vendors, inquire whether they have insurance and try, if possible, to assemble a team that is insured,” recommends Geller. “Ask your vendors, especially if you are hosting an event at home, to name you as an additional insured on their policies, as an additional layer of coverage.”
“I like to have all our insurance certificates organized at least a month in advance of the wedding date, and most venues require certificates of insurance by a certain date. It’s something we do in the planning process,” Cadet-James explains. “As for when you can invoke a force majeure clause, that is something you should outline in your contract. We’ve made it within three months of the wedding date in all of our contracts. It’s also important to understand the laws and policies of international vendors and contract law in other countries should you choose to work directly with an international supplier, or opt for an insurance provider abroad.”
Where does COVID-19 fit in?
Sadly, getting insurance now will not secure you coverage for any COVID-19-related loss. As the reality of the pandemic sets in, force majeure clauses are being reevaluated, and couples all over the world are being compelled to postpone their wedding days to protect those they love and comply with social distancing restrictions. “Insurance, by definition, is protection of an unknown, of a risk. Currently, this pandemic is a known issue. Unfortunately, insurance providers won’t retroactively grant coverage for once-unforeseen circumstances that are now known issues,” says Cadet-James.
“In today’s climate, it’s important to check [your] policy to see what is covered and if pandemics or governmental regulations are included within your force majeure clauses,” says Geller, who also mentions that the industry has tapped into the human side of negotiating when attempting to resolve issues relating to events postponed due to COVID-19. “Thankfully, despite our current climate [amid the COVID-19 crisis], we have been working with wonderful creative partners who are being open and accommodating in rescheduling, so tapping into insurance policies has not yet become an issue.”
“Unfortunately, all the insurance companies we have researched consider COVID-19 a ‘known condition’ at this point and will not insure weddings that have to be postponed for that reason,” explains Arons. “A couple’s best protection is to discuss the possibility of postponement with their planner and other vendors, and reach an agreement that deposits and contracts will be honored at a later date, assuming availability. We have had several weddings postpone due to the coronavirus, but so far, no financial losses have occurred as a result of good-faith negotiation with vendors.”
Given that COVID-19 is now a known risk, insurance providers are not taking on new policies of clients hoping to cover costs related to pandemic-caused cancellations or postponements. With that said, if you purchased insurance prior to the pandemic, your policy could prove helpful in terms of managing costs related to postponements, businesses closing, or cancellations.
“We are seeing some COVID-19 claims for people who purchased cancellation insurance earlier this year and last year, and it’s a pleasure to be able to honor these claims,” says Berke. “These people were prepared and bought insurance before anyone had heard of COVID-19. COVID-19-related losses were covered for people who purchased insurance before February 4, 2020. As far as we know, there are now no single insurance companies that are covering COVID-19-related losses.”
“I had one couple purchase insurance last September for their wedding taking place September of this year,” Holland explains. “In trying to decide whether we’ll be postponing or cancelling their celebrations, we realized that they’d lose the deposit on their venue if they chose to move or cancel. When we inquired regarding their policy, we were told that they’d be covered for those losses since they purchased their policy prior to COVID-19 being a known condition.”
With that in mind, there are things you can add to existing policies to prepare for pandemic-related losses. “Currently, the most common request is to modify the insurance documents to accommodate a date change in the wedding, which we are doing free of charge,” Berke says.
By just knowing that unexpected things can happen, making sure your contracts are in order, insurance policies are in place whenever possible, and (perhaps most importantly) having those hard conversations with your vendors ensures that postponements don’t result in unnecessary financial losses. BAZAAR Bride top event designer Chris Hessney of Hessney & Co. advises that those conversations should happen “as soon as possible if they haven’t happened already—especially if you have the time to plan ahead. Your main goal is to minimize loss and risk.”
“Moving forward, the current COVID-19 crisis should encourage every couple to purchase or confirm that they are insured for their wedding,” says Geller. “We have learned that the unexpected is just that, and can happen overnight.”