Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Wedding Insurance

 

A wedding is not just a beautiful moment, but an important milestone in the journey of life. Today people are going all out to make wedding ceremonies a memorable one. However, life is unpredictable and any unforeseen incident can strike the event. Thus, one can consider a wedding insurance to protect oneself from such eventualities.

Poikkal Kudhirai ('Horse with fake legs') directed by K Balachander in 1983 was a comedy film starring  Viji and Raveendran, the film had Ramakrishna and lyricist Vaali making their acting debuts. The movie  was based on Crazy Mohan's play Marriage Made in Saloon. The film was remade in Kannada in 1992 as Mavanige Thakka Aliya. 

To every individual – ‘marriage’ is the most magical moment, a day to cherish, an important milestone in life’s journey – the coming together of two people and a great union of families.  In olden days, Wedding were 3 to week affair – with all relatives assembling together and celebrating with joy.  Now in the hustle bustle of city life – it is more of the ‘religious event on morning half and reception in the evening (sometimes on the day prior to the date of wedding).  The wedding celebrations are well planned and involves multiple people – from Purohits on the religious side, the decorators, the choultry managers, caterers, bridal make-up, photographers, videographers and more. From 3 or 4 konica rolls (around 100 – 120 photos) – now photography alone could cost anything from 2 lakhs upwards – more so, if one were to enjoy close-up, candid, drone shots of people, faces ad their expressions.  Famous feisty caterers providing great quality appetizing food charge a fortune and the halls costs a few lakhs for a day. 

‘subamasthu’ – they say, think and speak of good things only yet there could be situations that could cause disruption or postponement of a marriage function. While the psychological and sentimental damages could never be assessed – financial losses arising out of such delay / disruption / postponement / cancellation can be indemnified by insurance.

A calamity or untoward incident can take the sheen out of a wedding event. This may entail monetary or physical loss. To get protection from such risks and losses, insurance companies have ‘wedding insurance’ coverage as a product.  The Insurance Policy covers the expenses incurred and offers some additional coverages too.

1.       Liability Coverage: This section covers any damage or loss to the third party during the wedding event due to accidents or injury.

2.       Cancellation Coverage: This part covers the losses due to sudden or unexplained cancellation of the wedding.

3.       Damage to Property: It protects loss or damage caused to the property.

4.       Personal Accident: This covers hospitalisation expenses of the bride/bridegroom due to accidents. 

The major expenses that would be covered could be : the advances / money paid to Catering; Wedding avenue; Travel Agencies; Hotel room bookings; cost of wedding invitations and other media; music; decorators; cost of decoration / wedding set; floral arrangements; other professionals including photo / videographers. 

Like many  other Insurance, it is a named peril policy (ie., indemnity would be provided only when such cancellation / postponement is caused by perils named in the policy) – the operative cause would read :    In the event of cancellation or postponement of the wedding, the Company hereby undertakes to reimburse you, up to the amount shown on the policy schedule for any irrecoverable expenses incurred by  the policy holder in respect of marriage hall, cooks, catering, purohits, pandits, beauticians, decorators, accommodation reserved for bride/ bridegroom/ guests, music parties, photos/ videography, entertainment programs transport, or flowers for any of the following reasons/ causes:

1) Unseasonal rains; storm; Hail storm; Sand storms; Tsunami; tempest, Act of God (as declared by the Meteorological Department of India, during the policy period).

2) Loss or Damage to the venue due to Fire & Allied Perils, Earthquake, Flood, Cyclone (Resulting in cancellation of the event) making the venue unusable.

3) Riots, curfew (As declared by local police and/or concerned government authority) occurring at the venue or within 25 km radius of the venue.

4) Death or Accident to bride, groom, and blood relatives (parents, brothers, sisters of bride/ groom). Resulting in hospitalization for a period of more then 72 hrs, during the force of the policy.

5) Impossibility of groom/ bride to reach venue due to stranding of train and/ or non-availability of road conveyance or local law and order problem. 

It is imperative that the policy holder obtains all required permission from the local authorities / approvals required for the event and that the equipments, appliances are in order and operated by authorized, trained and experienced personnel.  

There are a host of exclusions – of which some important ones are :  terrorism;  Arising from pre-existing conditions and/ or circumstances, known to the insured at the inception of cover;  expected or seasonal rains, storm; Sand storm; High Winds; tempest etc. ;   disputes if any between the Insured (bride, groom, family, relatives, friends) and any other persons related to the event;  Bandh, Strikes, Hartal etc unless curfew is declared by the local authority within a radius 25 Kms of the venue;  Non – Appearance of the Insured bride, groom, relatives, friends, due legal, government cases, litigations ,summons etc.;  Financial disputes, inability to arrange finance, delay in arranging finance etc.;  inability, incapacity of the bride or the groom due mental, emotional, physiological shock, stress, weddingjitters, previous affairs, delay in travel due to cancellation, delay, breakdown of transportation etc.; attempted suicides, self-inflicting injuries, wounds etc. resulting in death or hospitalization; drug or alcohol abuse; pregnancy or childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, or complications arising out of any of the foregoing.

Insurers received many enquiries from anxious parents / relatives during Mar 2020 / Apr 2020 – primarily for marriages fixed in the months of May, June, July, Aug, Sept 2020 – as they feared the spreading Corona Virus – Covid 19 – could cause havoc in the conduct of marriages, arranged months earlier.  Unfortunately, such diseases (Corona was not named at that time) are anyway an exclusion and that way a cancellation / postponement caused by Corona lockdown or even an important family member (the bride / bridegroom) getting afflicted by the dreaded virus; or the bride / bridegroom / their families not in a position to travel to the venue is not a peril covered by the Policy and hence, there cannot be any tenable claim for stoppages caused by Covid.  In reality, a few marriages of known people could not be conducted with the onset of Corona or had to be conducted in a very simple manner without the regular fanfare.  

Here is an interesting scenario reported in MailOnline about the tribulations of a policy holder in UK who had availed ‘Wedding Insurance’ during torrid Corona times. Couple who bought 'Covid-proof' wedding insurance worth £10,000 reveal how they were told their policy was worthless when they tried to claim after their big day was cancelled  !! 

Lidia Szmid, 30, and Adam Burton, 32, , from Portsmouth, were due to tie the knot on April 4th 2020  in Chichester, and made sure they bought insurance that included protection against their wedding venue closing a month in advance.  However, appearing on This Morning today, the couple, both teachers, detailed how they were greeted with silence from their insurance company, WeddingPlan, when their big day was cancelled and they tried to claim on the policy.

Some wedding venues are reluctant to refund couples who were unable to get married because of coronavirus outbreak or are charging hefty fees to rebook. Those who took out wedding insurance before firms pulled their policies in March should be able to claim back extra costs but some insurers are managing to wriggle out of paying.  Last week Which? reported one insurer to the financial regulator for failing to disclose ambiguous clauses that meant claims would be rejected if related to 'government regulations or acts' or 'prohibitive regulations'. The consumer group said it had heard from seven couples who have had their claims unfairly turned down by UK General Insurance, which underwrites policies for Debenhams and Dreamsavers and trades as WeddingPlan. 

When Lidia tried to make the claim in mid-April following the closure of the venue she had booked, she got no response from the company who'd provided the insurance. Tenacious in her determination to get the couple's policy honoured, Lidia refused to give up, requesting in writing the reasons why the insurance money wasn't being proffered.  The couple explained: 'We were recommended WeddingPlan because they were selling policies that referenced coronavirus.' 'The rejection [to their claim for compensation] came in mid-April on the grounds that we had bought the insurance in the knowledge that the pandemic might impact the wedding and because any claims arising from a claim about a government act would be redacted.' Lidia described the rejection as 'really disappointing' because the only reason they'd bought the policy was because they'd had written confirmation they would be covered if the government forced the venue to close.

She said the company wouldn't give specific reasons on the phone, and eventually they got the news on email. After asking for clarification on why they wouldn't be able to claim, the company didn't reply.  Lidia and Adam issued an SAR (subject access request) which enabled them to access the data the company had on the couple.  The SAR revealed copies of internal emails referring to their claim. In them, staff admitted their messaging to customers was 'contradictory to say the least' which would 'undoubtedly' lead to complaints to the Financial Ombudsman.

UK General, backed by insurer Great Lakes, said it regretted the lack of clarity and it has now reviewed coverage in respect of claims for wedding cancellations. 'It was just under £10,000 and we've been repaid it in full eventually,  minus the excess', the couple told the daytime television show.   

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

29.08.2020

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