Let it rain - we're covered

Insurance policies for weddings now provide cover for everything - except your betrothed standing you up on the day.

With spring in the air, wedding bells are beginning to chime with greater frequency. There are, on average, 300,000 weddings in Britain in each year. One unromantic thought is that the average bill for a wedding is now likely to reach pounds 9,000.

Wedding arrangements are becoming big business. Virgin, Branson's multi- million pound company, is expecting to launch a comprehensive wedding service to enable couples to buy everything from invitations to honeymoons at one go. The launch is expected later in the year.

Tour operators, such as Thomson, offer wedding supplements on a range of their holidays including those in the Caribbean and Mexico.

The scope for more unusual and, therefore, potentially more expensive weddings has increased since legislation was introduced more than a year ago which allowed a range of premises to be used for civil marriages, in addition to register offices.

The rising cost has increased the importance of considering the need to take out wedding insurance to cover problems such as the Rolls-Royce failing to turn up, the cake getting ruined or the venue catching fire!

Jackson Emms, insurance brokers, arranges cover, underwritten by Cornhill Insurance. The cover includes expenses incurred when the wedding or reception must be cancelled for reasons beyond the couple's control. These include the venue being unable to hold the ceremony, the death, injury or unemployment of the bride, bridegroom or any relative. Cover also extends to items such as damaged bridal clothing, subject to a limit of pounds 1,000.

The policy does not, however, cover items such as a change of mind by either party or sums recoverable from any other source. Importantly, cover is only available for weddings in the UK. The company also offers a legal helpline. The standard package sells at pounds 46.12 inclusive of insurance tax. Marquee cover is available at an additional cost.

Other policies are also available from companies such as Eagle Star Insurance, Ecclesiastical Direct and Leisure Insurance, the last of which is underwritten by Norwich Union.

The policies differ in cost and detail and couples should consider each carefully to ensure that it addresses their particular concern. The premiums vary from between pounds 25 to pounds 50.

A ruined wedding day is not an emotional loss that is easy to express in purely financial terms. The band that fails to appear or the photographer who ruins the film is unlikely fully to make amends.

The law does not normally provide for the award of damages purely for injury to feelings, annoyance or any social embarrassment caused by a breach of contract. Damages are usually only awarded for identifiable financial loss. The Court of Appeal, however, has allowed an exception to this principle. Damages will be awarded for disappointment caused by the failure, in breach of contract, to provide certain forms of entertainment or enjoyment. One case involved the failure of a photographer to attend a wedding. Many of the other cases in this area involve claims brought by disappointed holiday-makers.

One such case involved some holiday-makers who had booked a holiday in an apartment complex in Portugal. The complex was said to boast a very large pool, a bar and other facilities. On arrival, the holiday-makers were told that owing to a dispute they would not be allowed the use of any of these facilities. They had no alternative but to travel by hired car to local beaches to swim. The court awarded these aggrieved travellers pounds 1,000 in damages for inconvenience and disappointment.

Last year, an award of more than pounds 8,000 was made to two families after a disastrous holiday in Tenerife. The families booked three-star accommodation which was to be arranged on arrival. Instead, they ended up in self-catering accommodation infested with cockroaches. There were wild dogs in the complex and one of the children was cut by broken glass at the swimming pool. It is hardly the sort of holiday you would want for a honeymoon.

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