Love and marriage

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When the big day arrives, the last thing the wedding party wants is any unforeseen hitches. Steven Ward explains how wedding insurance can take the pressure off

The cost of getting married has soared in the past 10 years, with the average UK couple spending between £16,000 and £25,000 on their big day. In addition, an increasing number of couples are deciding to plan unusual weddings, which could prove more costly.

There are an average of 311,000 weddings each year, and the final bill for a wedding can add up to half a year's salary for the couple involved. However, many couples do not appreciate the value of wedding insurance, leaving only one in five purchasing protection in case disaster strikes.

Insuring one of the most expensive days a couple will experience makes sense, especially when the cost of a wedding is more than most people spend on a new car. Every year, wedding insurers listen to tearful brides telling them of unfortunate and unforeseen events, such as the illness of a close family relative or sudden closure of a reception venue, turning excitement to anguish.

The most common calamity is damage to the bride's dress - from youngsters adding a colourful touch with their paints to a drunken relative spilling red wine. Other matrimonial muck-ups include wedding photographs not coming out, caterers not turning up, the chauffeur going to the wrong house, and, in one exceptional case, a photographer dying on the church steps.

The majority of UK couples get married close to home but more are opting for cheaper and sunnier weddings abroad. Whether abroad or staying in the British Isles, lovebirds are searching for unique or more unusual ways to make their big day stand out - usually at additional expense.

Wedding venues

Some of the more unusual weddings include couples getting married at their favourite football team's club in footie gear, underwater weddings, in the stands of Epsom racecourse, and in castles and listed buildings. However, these unique events come at price. Five years ago, an affianced couple could pay £500 for hire of a castle but this can now cost as much as £3000.

Animal lovers have been known to get married close to zoos where their guests can be collected from the car park in the tour trains and dropped at the venue, followed by a free visit to the zoo. However, some zoos have stopped holding wedding receptions in their grounds, as there have been instances of drunken guests trying to climb in the lions' den - these people would be sure to raise insurance premiums.

Many couples will have to put down a hefty deposit to hold their choice of day in these venues, sometimes as much as two years in advance. However, without insurance, they could be out of luck and out of pocket if the venue goes bust.

Premiums for wedding insurance policies can start as low as £48 and are priced accordingly, depending on the insurer and package, although the principles behind each package remain the same. Wedding insurance is intended in case of mishaps rather than misunderstandings and offers peace of mind against eventualities beyond a couple's control.

The concept of this cover is relatively new. It was invented by broker Jackson Emms in 1988, who approached Allianz Cornhill with the idea. Since the launch, Allianz Cornhill has underwritten near to 200,000 policies, a figure that suggests this market is highly underestimated.

Since then, many companies have been jumping on the wedding bandwagon. In addition, public awareness has been boosted by the increasing amount of coverage in magazines and national papers. However, currently only 20% of couples take out insurance, so it is a sector that is likely to see increased activity as awareness grows of the benefits and importance of insurance.

Broker relationships

Some brokers may find it difficult to enter the market without links with the trade, and this emphasises the importance of relationships between insurers and brokers. An average of 65% of wedding insurance is sold through brokers.

Most insurers would look to partner a broker in the selling of a policy and in so doing a broker can receive 10% to 15% commission. However, they may face stiff competition for the commission, as insurers are realising that more weddings are taking place in hotels, castles and listed buildings and these venues can receive a similar amount of commission.

Whatever is decided between the betrothed, planning for the big day should be well thought through. For example, no one would want to be the groom who needed to claim for a cancellation when trying to 'bend it like Beckham' after watching the World Cup with his friends, only to fall Michael-Owen-style and break his leg. Let this be a lesson to all engaged grooms - leave the football tricks to the professionals.

- Steven Ward is household manager for Allianz Cornhill Personal.

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