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[whitespace] Wedding Worryless Wedding

For detail-obsessed brides and grooms: wedding insurance

By Mary Spicuzza

SPRING IS IN THE AIR and the prime season for marital mating rituals has officially begun. Many look forward to wedding season as a time to see old friends, justify shoe shopping and sob in public. But Roger and Karen Sandau know it's a time of year when catastrophe can be lurking right around the corner, be it a canopy collapsing on the bride or a flattened wedding cake.

"This year, nearly 3 million couples will tie the knot in the United States, unaware of the potential pitfalls associated with planning and executing the perfect event," they announce in a recent press release for WedSafe, their new Monterey-based wedding insurance company.

The Sandaus know firsthand that crises can threaten any picture-perfect wedding day, no matter how well-planned the event. When Roger arrived in Hawaii with his bride-to-be in February 2000, their photographer was nowhere to be found. The couple spent two days hunting for a new photographer, then had to wait at the chapel to say their "I do's" until the previous couple finished the ceremony. Once the couple was ready to tie the knot, an anxious string quartet started playing the wedding march when the maid of honor walked in--subjecting guests to round after round of "Here Comes the Bride." None of the Sandau wedding dramas proved ultimately catastrophic, but the couple couldn't find any American companies that specialized in wedding insurance. So they started one last October, and in doing so carved a new niche in the country's $50 billion to $75 billion wedding industry.

"Because this day is like no other, you want it to be perfect," the WedSafe "Weddings Without Worries" website begins. "You want to look back on the day the two of you became one and smile at the memory of each flawless detail: the chapel, the flowers, the kiss, the first dance. This is the dream we all have for our wedding day."

WedSafe has created four coverage levels specifically catering to the bride and groom. The basic silver policy costs $128, with gold and platinum levels before the $339 diamond premier coverage--which helps out with more than $60,000 in damages. Each policy covers certain amounts of financial protection for cancellation or postponement of the special day, loss of wedding photographs, ruined wedding dresses, lost rings or loss of deposits if a reception venue goes out of business before the reception.

While insurance doesn't cover cold feet or protect against the fiancé running off with Jennifer Lopez, as seen in The Wedding Planner, it does help cover professional counseling for stressed-out couples. With most couples spending $20,000 to $50,000 on their wedding, chances are more companies like WedSafe will crop up to insure a perfect day.

In the multibillion-dollar marital maze of wedding planners, cake decorators, designer gowns and exotic location weddings, Sandau wants wedding insurance policies to become as basic as the marriage certificate or the groom's tuxedo.

"It's unreasonable to risk that much money and not have insurance if something goes wrong," he says.

WedSafe's founders, underwritten by Gulf Insurance Group, may be pioneers in the newest faction of the wedding industry, but they're quickly learning how to market to frenzied brides and grooms. The company's website features wedding tales of a horse-drawn carriage skidding out of control thanks to spooked horses--eventually crushing four luxury sedans, not to mention stories of a bride locked inside a 1943 Cadillac, and a groom trapped at the altar with an angry wasp in his pants.

Like vendors peddling their wedding wares during this spring's bridal show at the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom in Santa Cruz, wedding insurers are happy to remind couples of horrible things that can ruin a wedding.

"A rained on [sic] reception. A no-show limousine. A ruined gown. All potential wedding day mishaps," the WedSafe site reads. "So, why take such risks on the most important day of your life?"

For some reason, I thought my best friend, a bride-to-be currently buried in planning her big day, would be equally amused by the industry's fear-based sales pitches.

"People who haven't planned weddings have no idea how complicated they are," she says sharply. "Or how many things can go wrong. The whole thing is just really stressful."

After writing a check for more than $200 for a bridesmaid dress and hunting for the perfect pair of strappy shoes plus accessories, I'm starting to think insurance isn't such a bad idea.

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From the May 24-30, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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