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$1 Billion Spent on Weekend Weddings Shows Need to Cover the Big Day

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August 18 marked the peak of wedding season in the U.S. with more than 28,000 expected to have been married that day, a sought-after date given 8-18-18 is a palindrome. More marriages are coming soon: September and October are the most popular months for weddings.

More than $1 billion overall was spent for August 18 marriages. In 2017, more than $56 billion was spent on weddings with nearly 2.2 million weddings taking place in the U.S., at an average cost of $25,760.

Whether a wedding is held at an offsite location, such as a banquet facility, golf course or boat club, or is hosted at a family property, proper insurance is needed to reduce risk in case of unforeseen liabilities on a day with so much personal and financial investment.

A venue could unexpectedly close or no longer accommodate the wedding. A vendor could go out of business or fail to show. A problem could arise with the food or gifts. Extreme weather conditions could force a date change. Or an incident could cause property damage or injuries, resulting in a lawsuit.

Organizers can reduce that risk through a Special Events policy, which can protect against liabilities associated with bodily injury, property damage or other costs that would otherwise be out-of-pocket, even if the host party is not at fault. Such a policy can be purchased not just by families involved but wedding and event planners who may be responsible for all aspects of the day.

“All it takes is one incident and if you are named in a lawsuit you may be faced with costs that add up, even if you are not found liable,” said Andre Bridges, Commercial Underwriter, Burns & Wilcox. “An injury resulting from a slip-and-fall or food poisoning could also impact a large number of guests and adversely affect your pocketbook.”

Often, Bridges says, party planners and organizers need to worry about guests after a wedding reception.  For example, a guest who later that day caused an automobile accident after having alcoholic beverages at your wedding could result in a liability for the wedding organizer(s). Accidents resulting in bodily injury or property damage can occur during take-down or setup of the event as well, such as a stage being moved or musical equipment transported.

“It is important that event planners and event sponsors, which often include the family, have the proper liability coverage and are aware of their exposure to avoid costly litigation,” Bridges said. “When you can, you need to dictate the amount of insurance needed so you have proper limits.”

Know the details ahead of time

If the wedding is being held at an offsite location, the facility will have its own insurance and will mandate certain requirements for any other vendors, such as caterers, DJs and videographers. Even then, families of the couple getting married should review a facility’s contract in detail so they know what they may be responsible for. Those families may want to consider additional coverage because if an unforeseen incident does occur, they may be named in a lawsuit.

“You need to know the details because ultimately it’s your event and an injured party won’t hesitate to name you in a lawsuit,” said Matthew Evans, Underwriting Manager, Burns & Wilcox.

If you’re hosting the event at a property you own, it is even more important to be aware of and verify what insurance policies your vendors carry. In this case, you are making the decisions and can dictate the level of insurance coverage that vendors might have as part of their contact with you. On top of those vendor policies, it is advisable to consider a Special Events policy so your own Homeowners policy is not impacted.

If an accident does occur, having that Special Events policy “will be looked at favorably by the insurance carrier because it signifies you took the steps needed to protect yourself,” Evans said. By not having a Special Events policy, hosting an event on your property would impact your Homeowners Insurance, which may or may not be set up to cover everything needed.

In addition to bodily injury and property damage, a Special Events policy can also cover the cost of a defense lawyer or for a wedding planner’s loss of business or personal advertising that may suddenly be required as a result of a potential liability. Such costs can add up and could quickly threaten the financial viability of a small business or a family’s personal savings, Bridges said.

Because a Special Events policy is a short-term policy that applies only to the event, one wedding-related item this policy will not cover is the ring. Americans spent an average $6,351 on engagement rings in 2017.  Experts say the three-carat diamond ring Prince Harry gave to Meghan Markle last fall likely cost between $200,000 and $350,000. For both the wedding band and engagement ring, there are two options for a couple to consider in consultation with their agent.

First, the rings could be added to a current Homeowners policy. Evans said he recommends this policy addition on smaller rings, which can be easily added for low premium values. Because Homeowners policies have a cap on how much a single item can be insured for, a second option, according to Evans, is a standalone Personal Article Floater policy. These policies can be tailored to the level of protection needed and can cover damage or theft. It would also cover the rings if they are kept safe in a safety deposit vault or in-home safe until the big day.

Significant peace of mind for an affordable investment

Most Special Event policies are extremely affordable. Party planners and event organizers who handle multiple weddings or events can purchase a policy to cover its events throughout the year for as little as a few thousand dollars for $1 million or more of coverage per event. That figure will vary based on the number and types of events.

Individuals and family members can purchase a policy for a single event often for as little as a few hundred dollars per $1 million of coverage, Bridges said.

The key is to work with an insurance broker or agent who knows what questions to ask and can provide you with the most comprehensive policy to adequately protect your interests.

Policy enhancements may be available with certain Special Event policies or may be added to increase protection. Specific enhancements can include added coverage if alcohol is served to guests or if boat rides are being provided. Enhancements can also cover specific circumstances such as damaged rental attire or items, stolen wedding gifts and a wedding cancellation because of illness or inclement weather. “But coverage isn’t available for getting cold feet,” Bridges said.

Each carrier will have a different appetite for risk based on past experiences that will impact the available coverages, including enhancements and overall cost. In most cases, multiple policy options will be available.

“You want to make the right choice so your broker or agent will find out about the location of the party, how many people are attending, what is available onsite and more,” Evans said.

As with any coverage need, an insurance broker or agent must be consulted. Click here to forward this article to your insurance broker or agent to ask if you need this coverage, or share this with clients to start the conversation and ensure proper protection.

This information was provided by Burns & Wilcox, North America’s leading wholesale insurance broker and underwriting manager. Burns & Wilcox works exclusively with retail insurance brokers and agents to assist clients like you with their specialty insurance needs. Ask your insurance broker or agent if a Special Events policy is right for you.

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