Wedding Planning 101
With Governor Murphy's ban on weddings in New Jersey, here are answers to how Covid-19 may affect your NJ wedding.Read More
As Covid-19 began destroying wedding plans in New Jersey in March, many couples either ran to the phone to buy wedding insurance—or were relieved that they had already purchased a policy. But unfortunately, they’re learning the hard way that they may not be covered for their cancelled weddings due to the virus.
If you’re wondering whether your wedding insurance policy covers a Covid-19-related cancellation or postponement, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
“It’s really all about when you purchased your policy,” says Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications at the Insurance Information Institute. “That’s really one of the keys to determine if you have or if you don’t have coverage.”
Every policy is different and couples need to read their policy to check their coverage.
Friedlander says that many insurance companies began excluding COVID-19 from cancellation and postponement coverage around the time when the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency on Jan. 30. That’s when companies started determining that the virus outbreak was a “known event,” he says, adding that each company set its own date.
A known event is a situation that might lead to the cancellation or postponement of the wedding that the policyholder is aware of when buying the policy. “Once a known event has happened, that triggers another exclusion in the policy,” Friedlander says.
Policies bought before the global health disaster would cover a coronavirus-related claim in many cases, he says. However, some of those policies could have an exclusion for a pandemic relating to viral or bacteria-related illnesses.
“For policies purchased before there was a known event, as long as there’s no pandemic exclusion within the policy, you most likely will be fully covered for cancellation of the wedding,” Friedlander says. “We’ve seen payouts from insurers during the first quarter of 2020. We know that it’s a covered event.”
“If you purchased after that date and now you have to cancel the wedding because of the pandemic specifically, it’s not going to be covered,” he says “Your cancellation policy will not be effective.”
For example, if you bought a policy in May 2019 for a May 2020 wedding that gets postponed until November, in most cases, the policy is still valid and will cover additional expenses, Friedlander says. If that November wedding then needed to be postponed or canceled because of the pandemic, you would need to talk to your insurance company to see if an additional change is covered.
In all cases, Friedlander urges couples to talk to their insurance agent and make a claim if they’re unsure if they’re covered.
“There’s no blanket policy across the country where every policy says the same thing,” he adds. “You have to carefully review your policy to see if you’re covered.”
“We always tell people to make a claim, no matter what the situation is, whether you’re clear or not clear,” he said. “Don’t assume that it is or isn’t covered.”
Once the World Health Organization went a step further and declared coronavirus to be a pandemic on March 11, some companies stopped selling wedding insurance policies because of the high risk from the virus, Friedlander says.
“Unfortunately, at this point with COVID-19, there are a lot of unknowns and as a result, most insurance carriers have placed a moratorium on offering coverage at this point,” he says. “If companies are still selling policies today, they will not cover cancellations due to Covid-19.”
Eventsured, an event-insurance company in Haverford, Pennsylvania, is still selling cancellation coverage, but it added a coronavirus-related exclusion on February 24, and a communicable disease exclusion on March 13, says Greg Esterhai, an owner.
Policies that were purchased before February 24 may offer coverage for a coronavirus-related cancellation or postponement, he says, but the new policies will not.
“Now that there’s a known event, you can’t go buying the insurance and expecting to get covered for coronavirus,” he says “It’s like buying homeowners insurance when your house is about to burn down.”
Still, he urges brides to read their policies. “Regardless of when you purchased your coverage you want to check your policy because that will dictate whether or not you are covered,” he says.
The new policies still offer coverage if a wedding needs to be canceled for covered reasons.
“Cancellation policies and postponement policies still cover all sorts of scenarios,” Esterhai says. “At the end of the day, people should be buying this insurance more now than ever because this whole event with coronavirus has opened people’s eyes to understanding that things you don’t know about or predict can happen.”
These scenarios can include extreme weather, injury or illness in the wedding party or immediate families, vendor no-shows and other reasons beyond your control.
“It could be an asteroid we’re talking about this time next year, or you could have that parent who passes away or extreme weather or a power outage,” Esterhai says. “All these different things can happen. You don’t know what you don’t know.”