Yes, you can still save your wedding fund.
As news broke (and continues to break) about the new respiratory illness COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, the number of reported cases isn’t the only thing that’s escalated over the past few weeks. Flights around the globe have been halted, restaurants and storefronts have gone dark, grocery store shelves are understocked, and entire nations have even shut down their borders. Millions of people are being affected by this crisis—including anyone planning a wedding in the near future. As wonderful as weddings are, they’re certainly not immune to unforeseen emergencies, cancellations, or illness—and that includes this unfortunate global health crisis.
This is exactly why wedding insurance is often worth getting, pandemic or not.
“As one of the most important days of anyone's life, a great deal of time and care goes into planning a wedding,” says David Berke, CEO of eWed Insurance. “It's understandable that most couples would rather not entertain the idea something might go wrong. However, because a wedding involves several moving parts, no matter how well planned, often enough, something does go awry.”
Not sure if wedding insurance is right for you? Here’s everything you need to know about what’s covered, what’s not, and if you really should invest in it right now, according to Berke.
Wedding insurance offers peace of mind against the unexpected.
As Berke says, “All it takes is for one unforeseen mishap to ruin everything.” That sounds a bit extreme, but the concept echoes the better-safe-than-sorry maxim.
Beyond the emotional heartbreak of having to cancel or postpone a wedding, Berke explains the many practicalities to consider. As anyone who’s ever planned a wedding can tell you, vendors require deposits well in advance, which can leave you vulnerable to any number of unforeseen circumstances.
The photographer could get food poisoning or the ceremony venue could experience a fire. In fact, a popular wedding and events venue chain had to file for bankruptcy recently, leaving 7,500 couples stranded without a place to celebrate. One couple Berke worked with that was affected by the abrupt announcement had insurance and was able to make new arrangements. “Without the insurance, they wouldn't have had the resources to move ahead and would have had no choice but to scrap the whole wedding,” he says.
What does wedding insurance typically cover?
With Berke’s company, eWed, a wedding postponement and cancelation policy will cover non-refundable deposits and non-reimbursable expenses couples may incur due to unforeseen circumstances. This may include extreme weather, like hurricanes and blizzards, accidents or illness of a family member, or unexpected military deployment of the bride and/or groom. It will also cover lost deposits due to a wedding venue or wedding vendor going out of business, lost or damaged wedding-day attire (including bridal gown, groom’s tuxedo, and jewelry).
It can also cover lost or damaged photography or video files; replacement or repair of wedding gifts lost, damaged, or stolen the week of the wedding, unexpected expenses or fees from last-minute changes or mishaps, and even professional medical assistance needed due to wedding planning stress.
How much does it usually cost?
As with any type of insurance, the cost will depend on how much coverage you want and the estimated cost of your wedding. For a ballpark estimate, Berke estimates that if a wedding costs between $7,500 to $100,000, the cost of eWed Insurance ranges from $448 for Postponement/Cancelation and $119 for Liability. This also includes a guaranteed 24/7 concierge service to answer questions, upgrade policy coverage, and file a claim.
“Couples can purchase policies either individually or as a bundled purchase, with a starting price at $105,” he says. “There are 10 levels of coverage to choose from, so a couple can find one that covers their wedding budget and have the ability to increase coverage if they go over their initial budget.”
Purchasing sooner is better.
While there's no required timeline, Berke cautions that you won't be covered for any losses until after you buy wedding insurance. In other words, if you purchase insurance after something happens, you will not be covered. “If you wait and are aware of a potential loss, it’s too late to buy," he says.
What about coverage for coronavirus-related cancellations? It depends.
“A pandemic in and of itself does not rise to the level of a covered item,” Berke says. Insurance, he points out, generally excludes claims where the loss was foreseeable and/or under your control. At this point, "coronavirus issues are absolutely foreseeable," he says. "Also, canceling because of fear of traveling or being at a large gathering is within your control."
He says to think about it as a forest fire heading toward your neighborhood. “You know some homes will be spared and some will burn. You can’t buy insurance at that time to protect your home—the potential damage to your home is 100 percent foreseeable.”
As of now there's a blanket exclusion for any loss related to coronavirus. “Every insurance company I know issued a policy endorsement around the end of February excluding coverage for coronavirus related losses,” he says. This means couples who didn't buy wedding insurance before this late-February endorsement was issued won’t be covered if they decided to cancel due to fear, or because a certain number of guests were choosing not to attend.
But Berke reassures that this also means, on the other hand, if they did get wedding insurance prior to this blanket exclusion, they could be covered for certain coronavirus-related losses. For example, if an immediate family member actually came down with COVID-19 and was quarantined, that could be a covered event, the same as any other disease."
Similarly, the venue (or another vendor) deciding to close or cancel due to the virus could be grounds for the couple to file a claim. Again, all of this is only applicable if the couple bought the policy before the endorsement was issued by the insurance company.
As with any type of insurance, Berke says, "Each claim is handled on a case-by-case basis and decided individually. There are so many other things that need to be determined."
Cancelation of mass transit or airlines of flights could rise to the level of coverage, so the current governmental mandates not to travel would be basis for a claim. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, in March, the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory worldwide to Level 4: Do Not Travel. This is its highest warning level, which may add credence to any claim to-be-weds want to file.
Check your contract for a force majeure.
A force majeure, according to the Cornell Law School website, is a legal “provision commonly found in contracts that frees both parties from obligation if an extraordinary event prevents one or both parties from performing. These events must be unforeseeable and unavoidable, and not the result of the defendant's actions."
A natural disaster like a major earthquake, flood, or hurricane, may be a force majeure if unpredictable, however, a rainstorm is normal, thus, a force majeure doesn’t apply.
While this rule may not help you file an insurance claim, it may help you get refunds from vendors and venues if your wedding plans have fallen through in the wake of coronavirus. “All is not lost—be sure to check with your venue and your vendor’s contract for their force majeure provision,” Berke says. “This may very well provide you with relief for coronavirus cancelation.”
Everyone who has to cancel or postpone an event should look over their vendor contracts very closely, as there could be an easy solution; the venue or vendor might be required to refund your deposit due to a force majeure event.