Wedding cancellations open front in insurance's COVID-19 wars

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(Bloomberg) -- Weddings are happy events, now hard to find in the age of the coronavirus. They’re being canceled, which means lost work for florists, dressmakers, organists and bands, but not for Eden Denevan, an enterprising wedding invitation designer now offering this suggested wording for couples:

“In light of the current global pandemic and social distancing recommendations, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our wedding. We look forward to celebrating with you in the future. An invitation will follow with our new wedding date. With love, (Couple’s Names)”

The cancellations are also highlighting fights with a little-known corner of the industry: wedding insurance. Couples have begun battling with companies they paid in case of disaster, only to hear back that no policy can cover a global pandemic.

Rebecca Crook, chief growth officer at digital agency Somo, took out an insurance policy with John Lewis Finance in the U.K. and had trouble making the case for coronavirus coverage.

She wrote on Twitter, “Basically every scenario I gave them they said was not covered,” even if gatherings of 50 people or more are banned and guests over 70 years old stay home.

Couples spend an average of $34,000 on their wedding, according to online site The Knot. Weddings with about 170 guests average $44,000, according to the 2018 Brides American Wedding Study.

“What we’re dealing with now is weddings are being canceled, and people are canceling their liability insurance,” said Sharla Cartzdafner, director of operations at insurance broker Event Helper. “They’re calling and asking if it covers cancellation. It doesn’t.”

Most don’t take out policies beyond the minimum required by venues in case someone slips and falls or causes damage. Given the outbreak’s widening spread, people want to take out cancellation insurance now, but the news is bad.

“It’s no longer available,” Cartzdafner said. “We haven’t sold new cancellation policies for weeks because a lot of carriers are putting a moratorium on them.”

Some are holding onto their policies and rescheduling for a year from now. “It’s probably about 20% of people who want to keep the same date,” Cartzdafner said.

Perhaps the highest-profile delay: Princess Beatrice, the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who postponed her Buckingham Palace wedding reception over the virus. Her planned late-May ceremony must be limited under new Church of England rules to five -- the priest, the bride and groom and two witnesses.

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