What to expect when filing a wedding cancellation claim

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No one could have predicted how much life would change in 2020 with COVID-19, especially not engaged couples who had been planning their weddings. With little certainty on when it will be safe to hold social gatherings again and what new restrictions may look like, wedding planners and engaged couples are making a number of tough decisions to either postpone for a later date or finding a different way to celebrate if it’s too late to cancel contracts.

Earlier Markel Specialty outlined tips for planners and couples who are working on a back-up plan amid the pandemic. Those who have event cancellation insurance are likely to find financial support as they rework their plans. However, most people likely haven’t gone through an event cancellation claim before. Understanding what to expect when filing a claim and how to prepare for it can help ease the process and reduce some of the stress level.

The criteria for each event insurance carrier is different and each situation must be evaluated under its own merits, but there are commonalities in what the claims process can be like for engaged couples facing cancelled wedding plans. Below are answers to some common questions about how the claims process works. Thanks to Berlanti Azhak, founder of the planning/design division at The Elegant Ninja, there is also a perspective on what it’s like working with engaged couples looking to reschedule their weddings.

What are the situational requirements for filing an event cancellation claim?
Each municipality has different closures and gathering restrictions in place as some areas in the U.S. are more impacted than others. The claim investigation team will need to have proof of cancellation by necessity – this means being able to point to forced venue closures, vendor insolvency, state and/or local government restrictions, travel bans restricting active participants, etc. Many policies do not cover a voluntary decision to not proceed with an event due to uncertainty, concerns about safety, or a change of heart. – Markel Specialty

What information does a policyholder have to provide?
Be prepared to fill out a written statement of loss form and offer supporting documentation. Often this includes a timeline of events and the reasons for the necessary of cancellation. In addition to vendor contracts, it helps to have a spreadsheet of incurred amounts not transferable and/or refundable, as that impacts the potential value of the loss. This is where wedding planners are incredibly helpful, as the records they’ve kept for their clients give them a head start.

When a customer files a claim, a representative provides appropriate forms and assists with establishing an action plan for resolution. – Markel Specialty

How much should a policyholder expect to involve vendors in the claim process?
Copies of vendor contracts are needed for a cancellation claim. In certain instances, an insurance team member may work directly with a vendor if more information is needed, so it’s helpful when all parties can collaborate on a claim as a group. That makes the process more efficient and can yield better results, too. – Markel Specialty

How long does it take for a claim to be resolved?
Following our advice on communication with vendors and getting organized can help speed up the process for the claim. Not only does organization matter, but so does responsiveness when insurance team members reach out. A special event cancellation claim presented with proper documentation can be resolved on average within 30 days of receipt of the first notice of loss. – Markel Specialty

Does the coverage change for postponing vs. cancelling the event?
Coverage available for cancelling versus postponing an event depends on the specific policy language at issue. Postponement means the unavoidable deferment of the event to a later date. A cancellation essentially means the original event will no longer take place and is unable to be postponed to a later date. Whether an event is cancelled or postponed, the customer has the duty under the policy to take all reasonable precautions and actions to avoid loss, destruction, damage, accidents, liability, and expense as well as to minimize any claim under the policy. – Markel Specialty

If a policyholder purchased event insurance and had to reschedule the wedding, will that policy cover the new event at the revised date?
Coverage available in this scenario will depend on the specific policy language at issue. Typically, event cancellation insurance policies provide coverage specific to the original event date and don’t transfer coverage to a future event. – Markel Specialty

From the perspective of a wedding planner, what is the insurance claim process like for clients?
I’ve dealt with a variety of insurance companies and some can have long wait times or be less than helpful. No one wants to feel like jumping through hoops to get a claim approved, which is why it’s important to go with a company that has a history of strong customer service. – Berlanti Azhak

For clients trying to reschedule weddings, what are the most challenging aspects?
The most challenging would be scheduling conflicts. When the entire industry is forced to reschedule all at once, we begin to run into major scheduling gridlock issues. When rescheduling, we need to take into consideration schedules for the clients, their guests, the venue, and the vendors. Now that all 2020 events may have to be compacted into a few short months at the end of the year, major scheduling conflicts were bound to arise, causing financial issues for both the client and the vendors. If a vendor is not available for the new date, the client loses that deposit and the vendor loses out on their remaining balance, which is vital for the vendor’s survival right now.

Another issue is the CDC's event and travel restrictions. No one knows if we will even be allowed to hold events over 50 in 2020. Planning around something like this poses many issues in the interim. All we can do is put a hold on booking new vendors and prepare as much as possible so we are ready to book everything as soon as the future of events is more definitive. – Berlanti Azhak

What do you wish engaged couples knew about working with vendors when rescheduling their weddings?
I wish more couples understood that we are dealing with a worldwide pandemic and the event industry has been affected globally. Planners and vendors are doing their best to navigate it, but we don't have many answers right now. Many vendor contracts have a "force majeure" clause, but this does not typically cover the non-refundable deposits. Many vendors, especially planners, have already put in time and energy. We understand that this pandemic wasn't our couples' faults, and we hope to get the same level of understanding in return. – Berlanti Azhak

We want to hear your stories. Whether or not you had event insurance, how are you making the best of it?
While COVID-19 has caused hardship and stress, there are also shining examples of resilience, adaptability, and ingenuity. Whether you are a wedding planner or a future bride or groom, how are you making the best of it? If it’s too late to reschedule, how are you moving forward with a very different wedding day? If you are able to reschedule, what have you done to reimagine the day?

We want to hear from you and with your permission will share your story. Email us your story at maicmarketing@markel.com.

This blog is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.

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