By timestaff
May 6, 2009

By Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D. and Leonard Schwarz

Question: My fiancé’s wealthy aunt and uncle agreed to let us use their beautiful lake-view home for our wedding, and we’ve sent out the invitations. But now they’re insisting that each guest sign a form releasing them from any liability in the event of an accident. I’m appalled. Are they being unreasonable, or am I just naive?

Answer: You’re naïve only if you imagine that liability isn’t an issue here, because it is. Too bad no one thought of it before the invitations went out. We’d place most of the blame for that on your fiancé’s aunt and uncle, as presumably they’re worldlier, as well as wealthier, than you. But we can’t blame them for getting nervous, especially if you’re planning to serve alcohol.

So where do you go from here? These folks are sure to have homeowners’ insurance, and it almost certainly covers personal liability. If they don’t realize this, a call to their insurance agent may put their minds at ease.

If it doesn’t, talk to your insurance agent about “special events coverage.” A one day policy will insure your fiancé’s aunt and uncle against any liability arising from your wedding and will cost you a lot less than a ballroom or banquet hall.

If neither of these approaches satisfies them, then we’d agree: Your fiancé’s relatives are being unreasonable. It’s one thing to be more-than-a-little late in raising the liability issue. But once the invitations go out, it’s wrong to insist that your guests sign the kind of legal document they might expect to be handed were they signing up for skydiving lessons, not attending a wedding.
Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at FlemingandSchwarz@right-thing.net.

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