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Video: Cold feet? Get wedding insurance

updated 6/1/2007 10:37:04 AM ET 2007-06-01T14:37:04

For years now, newly engaged couples have had the option of taking out wedding insurance, protecting them from unforeseen circumstances that could ruin their big day. Now, believe it or not, one insurance company is going one step further. Fireman’s Fund Insurance is offering coverage against cold feet! Carrie Coolidge of Forbes magazine talks to TODAY about this new insurance policy. Coolidge, who cancelled her first wedding years ago, recently wrote an article for Forbes on this change of heart insurance. Here’s an edited version of the interview:

TODAY: Can you explain this new insurance rider to a more typical wedding cancellation policy?
Coolidge: The rider is called “Change of Heart,” also known about “Change Your Mind About Getting Married.” It’s a rider for a wedding cancellation policy offered by Fireman’s Fund Insurance.

The broader policy covers everything from bad weather, transportation shutdown, power outage to the caterer you’ve hired being shut down by the health department. So the wedding cancellation policy covers all these different kinds of risks. And then, if you pay extra, about $26, for the rider, and it will cover the “Change of Mind.” For the “Change of Mind” rider, however, there is a limit. It’s only available up to $25,000. But $25,000 you’ve paid in deposits would be quite a lot of money actually.

TODAY: Couples do pay a lot in deposits for their weddings?
Coolidge: That’s right. With some of the more exclusive facilities where you might hold your reception, you might have to lay out as much as 50 percent of the total cost of the reception itself. But there are other deposits that you'll have to pay as well. Typically, photographers require a deposit as well as the band and your wedding dress [retailer]. There are actually a lot of things that you have to pay for up front.

Some weddings are costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars these days. In fact, the average cost of a wedding back in 1990 was only $15,000, and today the average cost of a wedding is around $27,000. And that doesn't include other ancillary items, such as the honeymoon, the engagement ring, or gifts.

TODAY:  Interestingly, the bride or groom cannot take out this rider, correct?
Coolidge: For the “change of Mind” rider only the financially interested party, other than the bride or groom, can buy it. Typically, that’s the father of the bride-to-be or another parent. It has to be an innocent party. And they can’t buy it, if they are aware that the wedding is going to be canceled.

TODAY: Was the real-life runaway bride the inspiration for this insurance?
Coolidge: Well, actually what happened two years ago when Jennifer Wilbanks, also known as “The Runaway Bride,” skipped town two days before her wedding, a lot of parents who had daughters who were about to be married called insurance companies, including Fireman’s Fund, asking about this kind of risk and whether or not they would be covered if that happened to them. It wasn’t covered by any insurance company at that point. As of  May 1, Fireman’s Fund is offering this rider. And today, it is the only [insurance company] covering this type of risk.

TODAY: You have personal knowledge about this risk. You canceled a wedding, right?
Coolidge: What’s interesting about doing this story is that I was told that perhaps one half of one percent of all weddings that are planned are cancelled. (Every year there are approximately 2.4 million weddings in the United States.) I found that to be a pretty low statistic, considering I personally cancelled one myself. So, I know that there are people out there with lots of good stories to tell about how they cancelled their weddings.

In my opinion, the earlier you cancel it, the better off you are. Jennifer Wilbanks should have probably cancelled her wedding. It’s better to cancel than go through with it, if you don’t think that's the right thing to do. For my own wedding, I cancelled it six weeks before the wedding. I cancelled the night before the invitations were going to be mailed out. I wanted to cancel the wedding before people started making travel arrangement, because I didn't want to cause any grief to people who had to go to extraordinary measures to come to my wedding. And I didn't want to have to receive gifts and have to return them. Of course, I really thought I was going to go through with the wedding, but I was dreading each day as [the wedding day] grew closer and closer.

I felt like it was the right thing to do, much to my father's [disappointment], because he lost thousands and thousands of dollars. He lost money on deposits paid to the photographer, the facility where the reception was going to take place, the caterer, the florist, and the hotel rooms that we had blocked off for our out of town guests. Although in the end, he was very happy that I did cancel it. But it’s too bad this wedding cancellation insurance wasn't available in the days that I was planning my first wedding.

TODAY: Thankfully, for you, there is a happy ending!
Coolidge: Yes! I'm happily married to another person! My father was happier than just about anybody else to make it to the reception and have me be there! I did find my price charming and we have been happily married for nine years now and my father is very happy that it all turned out for the best.

To read Carrie Coolidge’s article on Forbes.com about this type of wedding insurance, click here.

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