Wedding Dreams... Or The Wedding Bell Blues?

How insurance can save the day when planning Weddings, Anniversary Events, and other once-in-a-life-time Celebrations

This article was contributed by Boomerater financial planner, Steve Stanganelli, CFP®, CRPC®

Whether you're planning for your daughter's wedding, a celebration to renew your vows or a grand 50th wedding anniversary bash for your parents, a lot can happen to turn your dream day into a financial nightmare.

  • What happens if after months of meticulous planning, you find out that the venue for your reception just went bankrupt?
  • What if you need to postpone the ceremony because an important member of the bridal party or a parent or grandparent suddenly gets ill?
  • What will you do if the photographer doesn't show up? Will you have the money to pay for a replacement?
  • What will you do if the bride or groom's National Guard unit is called up and deployed and the wedding can't be rescheduled?
  • What about the rowdy guest (a la Sandra Bullock in "28 Days") who crashes a car or another guest slips and falls breaking a hip?
  • Or what if all the gifts walk off during the ceremony?

According to www.CostofWedding.com (where you can enter your zip code to find out the cost of weddings where you live), couples in the US pay an average of $19,500 for a wedding, not including the additional costs of the wedding rings and honeymoon. That number rises closer to $39,000 when factoring in these items according to www.BridePop.com. However you slice it, that's a pretty significant piece of change that could buy the equivalent of a new car or even a decent down-payment for a first home.

Boomers face hefty expenses when planning wedding celebrations for their children and anniversary parties for themselves or their parents. Whether you use a party planner or opt to do-it-yourself, these large events have many implications tied to the bottom line.

When you decide on the professional consultants you will use - the florist, photographer, musicians, seamstress, caterer, travel agent, etc., don't forget the financial planner. He or She may not be able to pick out the perfect flowers, but they can help you plan the cost of the wedding and help you protect your investment.

Lessons to Learn By… A Few Examples of How Wedding Bliss Can Run Amiss

The Band Played On While the Blizzard Raged

My father was in a wedding band for more than twenty-five years. He has many stories and he likes to tell the one about how the band showed up for the reception but many of the guests couldn't make it through the unexpected blizzard. The bride's father still had to pay the band for the scheduled four hours even though the event was cut short.

Banquet Hall Horror Stories

A client attended a memorable wedding of his nephew. Several months before the nephew and his fiancé wrote a check for $4,000 to a country club as a deposit for their reception. When they called to confirm plans with less than two weeks to go, they found out that the country club had filed for bankruptcy. As unsecured creditors, they and more than twenty other couples lost their deposits and were forced to scramble to find other accommodations.

In this case, the couple ended up celebrating under a tent set up in the parking lot of a different banquet hall. The added expense of the tent and the substitute invitations that needed to be printed and mailed were unexpected costs which they had to bear.

For another couple I know, their reception plans were put into turmoil when their original banquet facility admitted to double-booking, requiring the distraught couple to find, and pay for, a last-minute substitute location.

Or worse yet, consider the nightmare of the banquet hall that burns to the ground the day before the big event!

Wedding Insurance Can Ease the Stress

To minimize the impact of such disruptions, couples and their families should consider buying wedding insurance from a reputable specialty carrier that has a solid rating (see www.ambest.com ).

With all the costs associated with an already-expensive occasion, no one wants to blindly add to the expense. But insurance is one thing you can purchase that may provide some peace of mind on an already stress-filled day. Consider it a gift you give yourself to protect your financial security and your serenity.

Insurance for a wedding or large catered celebration is relatively inexpensive and may potentially save a significant amount of money if something unexpected happens. It is usually based on the cost of the wedding or event and can range from $239 for $7,500 cancellation coverage/$500,000 liability coverage to $426 for $50,000 cancellation coverage/$500,000 liability coverage. (For more detailed quotes visit www.wedsafe.com).

While "runaway brides" may or may not be covered - check the fine print, the other more mundane expenses can be, including a wedding cake that falls apart in transport, a videographer who gets sick and is a no show, a change of venue due to a fire or double-booking, a photographer who loses the camera or film, the fancy crystal gifts from Aunt Helen that walk away.

Such insurance can help cover the cost of finding replacements or reimbursing out-of-pocket deposits.

Aside from the costs of replacement vendors, consider the risk and cost of personal liability. Considering a reception in a museum? What about possible damage to the artwork? Or maybe a guest gets a little too tipsy and decides to play a little "bumper cars" on the ride home and sues you as the party host.

Your homeowner's insurance liability coverage will not extend to such risks. Even a personal liability umbrella may not offer any protection. Insurance specifically purchased for the event can offer financial protection for a wide range of potential problems. It is one way you can prepare for the unexpected, helping to keep the day as stress-free as possible.

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Steve Stanganelli, CFP®, CRPC® is a board-certified personal finance guide who works with individuals and families to plan well and invest smart to live better. Steve also offers a free online planning service available at www.SmartMoneyRoadMap.com