Get insured for that high-cost wedding day

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Spring is by far the most popular time for weddings and yet so many of the families involved take financial risks with nil or inadequate insurance.

Cover should be taken out from the moment a wedding date is chosen. The sums involved can be substantial even though Compare Wedding Insurance claims the average cost nationally has fallen from £19,799 in 2010 to £15,500 last year. Many in Yorkshire greatly exceed this level.

Wedding insurance is intended to protect where redress cannot be obtained in other ways, such as the supplier still trading or through a credit card company. Insurers offer increasing levels of cover for the different categories and, of course, at rising levels of premium.

Start by considering the possibility of supplier failure, particularly where deposits are made. In the current economic climate, smaller businesses like dressmakers are frequently going bust.

Insurance will cover for the costs involved in going to an alternative provider. This might be for the wedding attire or perhaps a caterer but equally applies to any entertainers booked. Good insurers do not expect you to have to pay the replacement supplier and claim afterwards. Instead they will pay once notified of your choice.

Bridal wear is one of the most frequent reasons for claiming. If the bridal gown is damaged in advance, such as by nail varnish being spilled while trying it on, an insurer will arrange for it to be repaired or replaced. If damage occurs during the reception – often by chocolate or black coffee – insurance will cover its full cleaning or replacement.

Cigarettes are also a common problem when burn marks and ash damage wedding attire.

For clothing to be insured, the outfits must be special, either purchased or hired for the event, as opposed to the best dresses and suits worn on other occasions.

Levels vary considerably with a maximum of just £7,500 at Towergate Risk Solutions but £15,000 at Ecclesiastical, John Lewis and Weddingplan.

Jewellery and accessories also need to be insured. Engagement rings are excluded and need to be covered under a home contents or separate jewellery plan. Wedding bands are covered with John Lewis, underwritten by AXA Insurance UK, offering protection from £2,000-£12,500 but up to £15,000 with Ecclesiastical.

Ecclesiastical, the largest weddings insurer, says Sikh weddings often involve ceremonial swords, which can be expensive, while men at traditional Scottish weddings often carry dirks or small daggers as part of their Highland costume.

Make sure there is adequate cover for cakes, flowers and stationery. Many insurers will combine these elements but each is split under the John Lewis plan.

Photographs and perhaps a video of the day need to be insured. Weddingplan will cover for £750-£7,500, Cover My Wedding £1,250-£10,000, Ecclesiastical £1,500-£5,000, John Lewis £2,000-£7,500 and Towergate £1,500-£5,000. E&L quote for photographs and video or DVD separately, each £3,000-£10,000.

Check on the recompense offered in the event of cancellation. This might occur if one of the bridal couple was suddenly posted overseas by their job, such as in the army, or became critically ill. While most cancellation policies have a £50,000 upper limit, some insurers start at exceptionally low levels – £2,500 at Weddingplan and £3,000 with E&L – which makes such budget cover questionable.

Re-arranging a wedding is probably far more likely. This might happen when a venue goes into bankruptcy, weather conditions prevent most guests reaching a venue, or the serious illness or death of a key member of the wedding party. While the best man and attendants are – oddly enough – not covered, insurers usually take a wide interpretation of the family including step parents.

Ecclesiastical warns that venues have been put out of action in many different ways – fires, structural failures, even outbreaks of food poisoning.

Several offer up to 75 per cent of the amount expended up to the date the wedding had to be re-arranged but Towergate covers the same higher sum as for cancellation, ranging from £5,000-£50,000. By comparison, Weddingplan, which is underwritten by UK General Insurance in Leeds, offers only £1,250-£30,000 for a re-arrangement.

Do not overlook public liability. Venues wish to know they are protected against damage and injuries and will ask for £2m worth of cover. Usually, they work on the basis, “no insurance, no booking.” Claims frequently arise for broken furniture, scratched dance floors and effects of cigar or cigarette burns. One couple received a large bill for damage guests made to an hotel hot spa.

Often marquees are used for wedding receptions. Yet they should come with a warning as to the costs involved if anything goes wrong. A guest can trip over a guide rope, fall against a canvas panel and rip it down the middle. The bill can exceed £500. Damage by high winds is not uncommon.

Hire firms frequently try to sell their own cover as part of the marquee package but this can be far more expensive than adding the element to a wedding insurance policy.

Cover My Wedding covers up to £20,000 with its four levels of cover, arranged through Blue Insurances, which is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. E&L, based at Ouseburn near York, quote £35 for up to £20,000 and then at £1.50 premium per £1,000 up to £50,000 cover.

When looking through the policies, if no one fits, consider the “mix and match” offer from Ecclesiastical which allows the level you really require for each category. The insurer will then tailor the policy to your budget.

Remember honeymoon claims are not allowed under any wedding insurance plan. However, Churchill, part of The Royal Bank of Scotland, offers basic wedding cover as an optional extra with its travel insurance: £250 for wedding rings, £1,000 wedding gifts, £1,000 attire and £750 for photographs or video of the day.

Finally, check if there is a discount for buying insurance online. Equine & Livestock, better known as E&L, offer up to 35 per cent discount this way.

Contacts: Cover My Wedding 0844 8716184, E&L 08449 809209, Ecclesiastical 0845 7773322, John Lewis 0800 9166820, Towergate 0844 7368326, Weddingplan 0844 4123115.