When Ask Me Inc. shut down suddenly in August, agents and their customers were unable to determine whether or not deposits for destination weddings were paid—creating a great deal of stress and confusion for everyone.
Some travel agents are still working to assist their customers in determining their options for the destination weddings cancelled at the Melia International and Paradisus resorts they thought they had booked through Ask Me Inc. But for those who chose to purchase destination wedding insurance, payments are being made, and couples are proceeding with their nuptials.
“Destination weddings are so popular right now, and they are amazing events,” said Christine Dyer, social media expert and founder of BridalTweet.com. “So it’s always a good idea for a bride and groom to purchase wedding insurance in order to prepare for unexpected occurrences. And your clients will be able to sleep better knowing that their wedding budget is protected.”
“Travel agents need to keep in mind that even if they do their due diligence with their vendors, these kinds of things happen,” said Steve Lauro, vice president of Aon Affinity, which offers WedSafe Wedding Insurance.
One in four of the two million weddings held each year are now considered destination weddings, Lauro said. The average wedding costs nearly $30,000, and destination weddings can cost significantly more.
Wedsafe recommends couples cover the total budget of their wedding. “This is a significant investment, and wedding insurance is one way to protect that investment,” Lauro said.
“We recently had an event venue (that had been in business for decades) unfortunately went bankrupt and only those that had event insurance received their deposits back,” said Jennifer Ball, event planner and wedding whisperer at Knot Your Average Events, Burlington, NC. “All others are tied up with the banks. Some only found out weeks/months prior to their event dates.”
Lauro said the average Wedsafe premium is $200. Other insurers estimate premiums anywhere from $95 to $800 or more, depending on the types of coverage sought, the coverage limits, and the deductibles.
Some insurers limit how far in advance insurance can be purchased (typically, from 12 months before the wedding up until the actual day of the wedding). Experts advise couples to apply destination wedding insurance as primary coverage, so that wedding-related claims are paid from these policies before any of the couple's other insurance plans.
“While rare, Travelers Insurance has reimbursed couples for wedding planners gone awry,” said Todd Shasha, managing director of personal insurance product management. Travelers’ plans start at $160, with no deductible. “We reimbursed a couple last year whose destination wedding was canceled due to an impending hurricane. At the last minute, the hotel closed, and we reimbursed them to reschedule.”
In another instance, a Travelers wedding insurance customer provided a deposit to a wedding venue that had agreed to pay for the caterer. “The caterer never received payment, and as a result, we reimbursed the couple for the deposits they made,” Shasha said.
But agents should be careful about how they advise their clients, Shasha said. “Insurance is a great safety net for couples having destination weddings—but it does not cover change of heart. And we do advise couples planning destination weddings that known circumstances, like Zika virus, are not covered under our policies.”
Typically there are two types of coverage with wedding insurance—liability insurance covering claims for accidents, and cancellation/postponement insurance, protecting for any nonrefundable expenses incurred when an event is canceled or postponed beyond the couple's control.
Add-ons could include coverage for gifts that are lost, stolen, or damaged; jewelry (some policies limit this coverage to items bought or rented specifically for the event within seven days of the event date); photos and videos; and special attire (including bridal gowns, mother of the bride's gown, other bridal party attire).
Unlike travel insurance, it's rare for insurers to pay travel agent commissions for recommending these policies. But given all of the other travel elements a destination wedding includes, having insurance helps agents protect their work as well as the couple’s dream event.
While wedding insurance is becoming more popular, many couples never think of it. “Most couples just see the glitz and glam...the cake and flowers.... and never think about if something major happens or if a vendor doesn't show up,” said Ball.
“I think more education needs to happen about this,” said Dyer at Bridal Tweet, and travel agents can be one avenue to raise that awareness.