JUST as each wedding creates potential business for divorce lawyers, so each engagement gives insurers a chance to drum up business. Future spouses, says Alan Tuvin of Travelers, an insurer, may wish to protect themselves against something going wrong on the wedding day. It is unlikely that your betrothed will scarper on horseback, as Julia Roberts did in “Runaway Bride”, and most insurers wouldn’t cover that anyway. But you never know what might happen. Mr Tuvin launched the firm’s wedding-insurance business; he and his wife were its first clients.
A typical American wedding costs $25,000 or so. This has fallen a bit over the past quarter-century but still seems lavish given how tight American belts are these days (see chart). Weddings are pricey because the rich are more likely to marry than the poor, and the average age of newlyweds has gone up, so couples are more prosperous when they eventually tie the knot. High prices, and the fact that many venues require couples to take out liability insurance, feed demand for wedding insurance. A fifth of couples buy it, says the Wedding Report, a trade publication. “If some fat lady slips on a canapé and breaks her hip, she doesn’t give a rat’s ass that this is her boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding,” hypothesises Robert Nuccio of Wedsure, an insurer. “She just wants to get paid.”
Wedding insurance began in Britain: Cornhill, an insurer, wrote its first policy in 1988. But there were few takers. The idea only took off once transplanted to America. In the early days, says Mr Nuccio, there were incidents of couples faking engagements to collect a payout. Since then, most policies have a clause that excludes “change of heart”. Wedsure does insure against cold feet, but its policy will pay out only if the wedding is cancelled more than 12 months before it is due to take place, thereby guarding against fiancés (or their parents) phoning the broker once the relationship is already on the rocks.
This does not mean policies are useless. Common causes of payouts include the venue or caterers going bust after having taken a big deposit. Extreme weather, a spouse being deployed by the armed forces and an absent priest can all trigger payouts. Most policies will pay to re-stage the photos if the snapper fails to turn up or disappears with the pictures. “DJs are flaky. Florists? Flaky. Cakemakers? Flaky. They are all flaky as hell,” warns Mr Nuccio.
For some, even a small risk of something going wrong on a day that has been planned for months is worth paying to avoid. Who says romance is dead?