The coronavirus continues to disrupt wedding plans not just romantically but financially, with nuptials being widely postponed or canceled.
Traditionally wedding insurance provides peace of mind against not only the costs of cancelling the event, for reasons including extreme weather or an injury to a key member of the wedding party. It also covers the financial consequences if, say, a wedding dress doesn’t arrive in time or a guest is injured at the event — or causes injury in a DUI crash after it’s over. Premiums for wedding policies in the U.S. typically range between $75 and $500 or so, depending on the budget for the event and the breadth of the coverage.
This has been no normal year, though, with upheavals for brides and grooms and companies that insure weddings. Those who bought policies before the pandemic are finding provisions in them likely preclude claims for any coronavirus-driven reasons, except perhaps in special circumstances. And almost all insurance companies stopped selling cancellation insurance entirely after the virus hit, and so removed the ability to buy protection against all the usual threats that can abruptly stop a wedding.
The wedding marketplace is changing, though, mostly in good ways. Those include the fact that, while wedding insurers may not bend on covering your losses from coronavirus, wedding vendors are generally being flexible, say experts, especially about rescheduling the big day without penalties.
Here's what to expect, and to do, if you bought a wedding policy before the pandemic. It also advises on the best steps you can take now to protect the cost of your wedding, including buying insurance from a recommended company.
Already insured? Covid coverage is questionable
Wedding insurance aims to provide peace of mind, but unfortunately it largely isn’t doing that job now as far as claims related to the pandemic. The reason lies in two clauses common in wedding insurance policies.
The first is one that absolves insurers of covering claims due to pandemics and viruses. That stipulation has “long been a standard exclusion” from wedding insurance policies, according to Gerald Hemphill, president of the GFH Insurance Agency in Richmond, Va.
If you signed after the pandemic began, your odds of being covered could have been further reduced by another policy clause. This one limits or eliminates claims to threats that are considered to be foreseeable, including a pandemic that’s already underway. “Think of it like a hurricane,” says Leah Weinberg, the owner and creative director of Color Pop Events in New York. If a hurricane was predicted for the weekend of your wedding, you couldn't go out and insure yourself against it as it bore down on your event site. As she points out, cancellation insurance is meant to cover unknown causes, not something you know is going to happen.
Consider inquiring anyway about a corona-related claim. It’s not a certainty that a previous policy won’t cover any claim related to the pandemic. You likely can’t expect reimbursement if you canceled your wedding due to fear of the virus, or for the damper that social-distancing requirements might have caused. But Hemphill says cancellation coverage might apply with some policies if the virus “directly caused a member of the bridal party (as defined by the policy) to become sick/hospitalized and the event had to be postponed.”
Try to reschedule to 2021 rather than cancel. The wisest course this year, both practically and financially, might be to assume that your wedding insurance won’t cover a corona-related claim, and plan to move the event to 2021.
In that way, says Hemphill, any losses can be minimized or even eliminated. “I have found...venues, caterers, vendors (bands, DJs, florists, etc.) to all be very accommodating in moving dates,” Hemphill says, and even doing so twice as the pandemic’s timeline has lengthened. In the past few weeks, he says, five to six clients who had initially moved their wedding to the fall of 2020 have rescheduled it a second time, to 2021. “To my knowledge, 100% of couples have seen no [additional] charges or loss of deposits.”
As a rule, in his experience, the wedding-insurance policy itself can also move to the new date with no additional charges, provided the scope or cost of the event hasn’t grown. A customer service representative with Travelers Insurance confirmed that her company has been accommodating many couples in this fashion as their wedding dates have changed due to coronavirus.
Insurance-shopping now? Options have improved
Look into cancellation insurance now, even if you couldn’t buy before. If you didn’t already have cancellation insurance for your wedding shortly after lockdowns and other measures began in some states, you’ve been mostly out of luck until recently. It’s been largely unavailable to buy for the first few months of the crisis, even for weddings in areas that have been relatively unaffected.
This coverage is still not offered by most wedding insurers, “but companies are slowly coming back to offering cancellation insurance,“ says Hemphill. “I expect to see more companies returning to this coverage in the weeks and months to come.”
Buying a policy is a wise idea at the moment, says wedding planner Weinberg, given what has happened with weddings and COVID-19 — even if the policy won't cover any future postponements or cancellations due to the virus. “If we've learned anything from all of this, it's that anything is possible. I used to tell my couples that their decision to purchase cancellation insurance generally depended on their tolerance for risk, but now I am flat out telling everyone to purchase it.”
Several companies have resumed selling cancellation policies, Money confirmed. For example, while we couldn’t reach a company spokesperson, a customer representative said that Travelers Insurance resumed offering the policies on June 1, although with limitations. For the moment, the service representative said, the upper limit for a Travelers’ cancellation policy is $25,000, rather than the customary $50,000. But the company will continue to monitor that limit, she said.
Also, WedSure, one of our top picks for buying wedding insurance, offers cancellation insurance. But a note on the company’s website makes clear that claims related to coronavirus are still not covered. The rep for Travelers’ Insurance confirmed the same limitation for their policies, too, since a clause remains in place that disallows claims that are due to pandemics.
Do your homework on liability insurance. According to Hemphill, there’s little sign that new liability policies will soon cover claims related to coronavirus. Indeed, he thinks coverage may more firmly rule out such claims or at least confirm limitations. “As an agent, I am carefully reviewing any policy changes that may have been added to specifically exclude this type of event going forward. Pandemic/Virus is a normal exclusion, but carriers will most likely add wording to specifically and more clearly added wording to take away any ambiguity” about whether corona-virus claims are covered.
It’s also wise, of course, to follow the tips about wedding liability insurance from the buying guide that runs after our best wedding insurance picks. Those caveats include not buying coverage you may already have through other policies. For example, if the wedding or reception is being held at someone’s home, the liability insurance for that residence may suffice for the event. And not all venues require the couple to insure for liability, at least against all perils. Hemphill points out that a restaurant or other venue that serves alcohol continuously, for example, may not require the couple to purchase liquor liability coverage.
Consider having guests book flights in June 2020, for maximum flexibility. Your out-of-town wedding guests may also have a financial stake in your wedding date remaining stable, to avoid incurring change fees on their flights to the event. Unfortunately, the pandemic has limited travel-insurance coverage for corona-related claims in much the same way as with wedding insurance, especially when it comes to cancellations.
In response to the pandemic, though, airlines have relaxed their flight-change provisions, at least on flights booked until June 30. For the next few weeks, then, your guests could book a flight to which they can subsequently make changes afterwards without paying the customary change fee.
Policies vary, though, with some carriers issuing credits and others requiring that cancellation and rebooking happen at the same time. And none of them offer outright refunds if you eventually don’t need the booked flight at all.