Disastrous wedding mishaps have long been a comedy staple, probably because so many of us can relate. What bride- or groom-to-be hasn't had nightmares about hurricane-force winds blowing over the reception tent or a drunken cousin falling into the wedding cake?
Besides the potential for embarrassing memories, there's a lot of money at stake: The average wedding in 2012 will cost nearly $27,000, not including the honeymoon about what you'd pay for a well-appointed new car.
Just as you wouldn't drive off the lot without car insurance, so you might want to consider buying wedding insurance. It usually costs only a few hundred dollars but could save you tens of thousands if horrendous weather, sudden illness or a bankrupt vendor ruins your day.
Many insurance companies now offer wedding insurance. Typically, policies will reimburse you for deposits and charges you've paid to wedding vendors, as well as travel costs and other expenses incurred, if you need to cancel or postpone the wedding for a covered reason.
Coverage options, costs and limitations vary widely, so read the fine print carefully. When comparing policies, pay attention to deductibles, maximum coverage limits, exclusions and deadlines for purchasing various options.
Probably the most important coverage is personal liability insurance. Many venues require liability insurance and either include it in the rental cost or require you to submit a certificate of insurance from your own policy.
Before buying additional liability coverage, check how much coverage your homeowner's insurance provides and whether it applies to wedding events you may need a special rider or want to buy additional coverage through an umbrella policy.
Make sure all major wedding suppliers maintain their own liability insurance. In addition, any venue providing alcoholic beverages should carry liquor liability insurance. To be safe, you may want to buy your own host liquor liability coverage as well.
Other common options include:
• Extreme weather. If wedding party members or the majority of guests cannot reach the wedding because of severe weather conditions (snowstorm, earthquake, hurricane), rescheduling costs will be covered. Note: Gloomy skies or drizzle don't qualify.
• If a member of the wedding party or immediate family is seriously injured, becomes too ill to attend or dies suddenly, rescheduling costs will be covered. However, illness or injury caused by preexisting conditions may be excluded.
• If an essential vendor goes out of business or doesn't show up, you're covered for deposits paid and possibly for the complete cost to reschedule the event.
• Some policies will pay to restage the wedding (including travel costs, cake and flowers, etc.) with the principal participants and immediate family members if the photographer fails to appear, botches the shots, or the negatives are lost, stolen or damaged; others may only pay an allowance toward reshoots.
• Gift coverage pays to repair or replace lost, stolen or damaged non-monetary gifts.
• Wedding attire coverage will pay to repair or replace the bridal gown and other special attire bought or rented for the bride, groom or attendants, when lost, stolen or damaged.
And finally, some insurers now provide "change of heart" coverage in case the bride or groom gets cold feet. If that's a real possibility, you should probably invest in premarital counseling before looking at cakes and bridesmaid dresses.
Jason Alderman directs Visas financial education programs. Sign up for his free monthly e-Newsletter at www.practicalmoneyskills.com /newsletter.