Wedding insurance can protect against the unthinkable

Fantasies of the perfect wedding never included banquet halls going bust or lovebirds losing their jobs.

But a calamity can sneak up on you while you're consumed with creating your dream day, especially during a recession.

For couples who plan ahead, there is a safeguard. Wedding insurance can cover costs when the unimaginable happens — the power goes out or the groom falls ill — and the party is over before it even began.

In the second year of this recession, more weddings are being protected by insurance, several insurers said.

"The economy is driving the sales because of the potential for job loss and the potential for vendors going out of business," said Rob Nuccio, program administrator for Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, who said policy sales are up about 20 percent this year. "With wedding insurance, you can get that money back and keep going."

One claim came from Nuccio, who has sold the insurance through RV Nuccio & Associates for Fireman's Fund since the early 1990s, says many claims these days are because of job loss (if the policy owner qualifies for unemployment insurance), loss of deposits (if a vendor or location goes out of business), photography coverage (if pictures are lost or damaged), and brides and grooms changing their minds about tying the knot.

The Fireman's policy offers "change of heart" coverage in cases where the bride or groom calls off the wedding more than six months beforehand and someone else, like a parent, is paying for it.

Another company, WedSafe, backed by Aon, says policy sales are up 50 percent this year, in part because of the economy.

WedSafe and Travelers, both of which began selling wedding insurance in 2007, said most claims come from problems with caterers, photographers, halls and other wedding businesses.

A wedding policy can reimburse you for money you can't get back if the big day is canceled because a storm shuts down airports or a burst pipe floods a hotel kitchen. There's coverage for lost or stolen wedding jewelry, and damaged or missing gowns. If the photographer doesn't show up or the pictures are damaged, policies may pay to reassemble the wedding party and restage the ceremony so new photos can be taken. There's also coverage for military deployment and liability, which some venues require in case someone gets hurt.

Policies can be bought for as little as $95, depending on how much is being spent on the wedding. Nuccio says $250 would buy good coverage for a $30,000 wedding; about $2,400 for a $250,000 event.

WedSafe says fewer than 10 percent of weddings are insured. The Wedding Report, a market research company, estimates that 11 percent of the 2.1 million weddings in the United States last year were insured.

While not everyone is sold, Nuccio says couples without insurance whose weddings get canceled usually end up eloping, not recreating their bridal banquet.

"Who should buy wedding insurance?" Nuccio said. "Whoever can't afford to put on the same event twice."

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