If anyone knows the value of a good insurance policy, it’s Romeo Lavarias.
As the director of emergency management operations for Miramar, Fla., Lavarias has seen his share of disasters. So it was a no-brainer when his fiancée, Stephanie Goldstein, suggested buying insurance for their wedding, set for July during the upcoming hurricane season.
“My job is to prepare our city in the event of a disaster, so naturally, this is right up my alley,” Lavarias said, whose city was hit by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. “The number one reason (we bought) was hurricane season.”
Heading into a prime weddings month in June, and with weddings becoming ever more elaborate and expensive, more couples are opting to buy wedding coverage. Natural disasters aside, many reception facilities now require liability coverage for out-of-control celebrations. Wedding planners often require insurance, too, in case of cancellations.
Increasingly, policies cover all sorts of contingencies.
Lost the bridal dress? No problem. Guests stranded by a hurricane or a Denver snowstorm? Covered. Photographer ruins pictures? Piece of cake to re-stage. There is even a policy that offers reimbursement in case the bride or groom gets cold feet.
Fewer than 1 percent of the betrothed purchase policies in the United States, said Kyle Brown, executive director of the Bridal Association of America in Bakersfield, Calif.
But given that the average cost for a wedding is $27,000, according to insurance industry estimates, Brown thinks it’s a good buy.
“For 1 percent or 2 percent of the cost of your entire wedding, you can insure it,” Brown said.
Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans wedding planner Jennie Keller requires every couple to buy insurance. She once required it just for couples marrying during hurricane season, which runs from June through November.
“I know that you can’t play around with Mother Nature,” the New Orleans native said. “Wedding insurance will cover it all even if you cancel your wedding.”
Among the companies that offer it are Fireman’s Fund, WedSafe Wedding Insurance Program offered through Affinity Insurance Services Inc. and Traveler’s Insurance, which added the coverage in February.
Depending on the company and the type of coverage, a policy can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000.
Typical coverage can include reimbursement of nonrefundable deposits for misfortune such as a death in the family or a military deployment. Some policies cover repairs for a damaged dress or replacement of lost wedding attire; theft of wedding gifts; and the cost of gathering wedding party members to retake photographs and videotape.
Policies also can pay for some counseling if canceled or postponed nuptials cause emotional stress, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
Even a “change of heart” can be insured in a special option Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. began offering this month that costs about $25 on top of the policy. It’s for those who pay for a wedding only to have the groom or bride back out, said insurance broker Rob Nuccio of RV Nuccio and Associates, who wrote the option.
“Oftentimes, there is an innocent person involved in that. There is the poor father who lays out 50 grand and he’s just left dumbfounded,” said Nuccio.
Nuccio drafted his company’s first insurance policy in 1990 when couples primarily purchased liability coverage required by reception facilities. Now, he says, more are adding cancellation insurance.
“After some kind of natural disaster like Katrina, the interest is high but the public has a fairly short memory and it tends to drop off after that,” he said.
Not everyone is won over by the policies, however.
Independent insurance agent Michelle Mestnik of Colorado Springs and fiance Nathan Green opted for a $350 liability policy for their July 7 wedding, which is expected to cost about $10,000. Mestnik doesn’t think she needs specific wedding insurance.
“I have looked into it. It does not sound like that great a deal,” she said. “If your husband is going overseas, great. They can give you some leeway and help you out there.”
But Lavarias, who plans to marry in the Miramar area that same day, said all bets are off during hurricane season.
“It doesn’t matter how many there are,” he said. “It only takes one to hit you to make it a horrible hurricane season.”
Lavarias, 42, and Goldstein, 36, were engaged in September and began their wedding planning, the 7-7-07 date a tribute to their love of Las Vegas.
But rather than leave it to chance, Goldstein said a friend suggested she look into insuring the nuptials, which are expected to cost up to $75,000.
“I feel comfortable putting down $565 to insure such a large wedding,” said Goldstein.