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After a year and a half of extensive wedding planning, Sally Niebuhr was ready to watch her oldest daughter, Kiki, walk down the aisle at a winery in Sonoma, Calif., last October. But Mother Nature had other plans.

The Kincade fire struck the area just a few days before the wedding was scheduled, causing widespread evacuations. The winery called and said the wedding was off.

The good news? Niebuhr had bought a wedding insurance policy for $350 from Travelers Insurance. She was refunded the $6,500 deposit she paid for the venue, money that was then used to book a hotel ballroom in San Francisco for the same date.

“Luck was definitely on our side that weekend,” said Niebuhr, from Basalt, Colo. “All of our vendors — our DJ, our photographer, our florist, our caterer — were able to pivot and provided their services in San Francisco.”

Wedding insurance — also called event insurance — can shield people from financial loss that could result from a number of setbacks, such as severe weather, property damage and vendor problems. It’s not new, but its popularity in the United States is relatively recent.

“In America, wedding insurance didn’t really gain steam until the 1990s,” said Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. “I used to tell people not to buy it, but it has become a much more mature product over time, and now I recommend purchasing it to many people.”

The insurance provides reimbursement for the deposits made to vendors — i.e., the events venue, caterer, band, photographer, florist — if you’re forced to cancel or postpone a wedding because of extreme weather, unexpected illness to the bride or groom (or an immediate family member), military deployment, or other reasons beyond your control.

“Wedding cancellation insurance can also include special provisions that will reimburse the insured up to a specified limit for loss or damage of attire, jewelry, deposits, cake or gifts, even if the wedding continues as planned,” said Drew Purcell, business development leader at Progressive Insurance.

What cancellation insurance doesn’t cover is a change of heart, said Todd Shasha, managing director of personal insurance product management at Travelers Insurance. “There’s no insurance for a runaway bride or runaway groom,” he said.

Costs vary, depending on a number of factors, such as the venue, length of the event, location, number of guests and amount of coverage you need. Bill Borst, a vice president of Allstate Insurance, said a cancellation policy providing $7,500 in coverage costs about $130.

But if you’re planning an expensive wedding, expect to pay more. For instance, a cancellation insurance plan that provides $175,000 of coverage costs, on average, $875, according to data from financial research firm ValuePenguin.

Because insurance rates vary by provider, Hunter recommends that consumers shop around to find the most competitive plans.

A good deal?

But is it really needed?

“The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to your total expenditure,” said Megan Hiltbrand, a wedding and event planner in Syracuse, N.Y.

Before signing a contract, however, make sure you don’t already have coverage. For instance, many vendors allow couples to postpone their wedding at no extra cost in case of injury, military duties, natural disasters or a death in the immediate family, said Noelle Ahmad-Snedegar, owner of D.C.-based wedding and event planning company Lily & Grayson Events.

She said couples should consider the likelihood of adverse events before buying cancellation insurance: Is the bride or groom in the military? Is it a winter wedding that could fall victim to a blizzard that would prevent guests from traveling? Are there parents/grandparents whose health could be a concern?

“As with any insurance policy, it’s a cost-risk analysis,” she said.

George Abdelmessih, a resident of Houston, paid $235 for insurance. He and his wife, Elsa Olvera, were planning a wedding with 130 guests in Puerto Rico — until Hurricane Maria hit the island. The policy refunded them about $18,000.

“Every penny we put into our wedding in Puerto Rico we got back,” he said. “We ended up having our wedding in Dallas, where my wife is originally from. We were very fortunate.”

Common claims

Travelers Insurance paid these claims in 2018 for losses covered by its wedding insurance policies.

Vendor issues: 41%

Property damage: 22%

Weather problems: 18%

Illness and injury: 5%

Military deployments: 5%

Other issues: 6%