When you have a lot riding on one day, wedding insurance can make financial sense.

Weddings are often a large financial investment. As with any high-cost item, you might want to buy insurance for unanticipated problems that could wipe out part or all of what you've spent. Wedding insurance policies can cover a range of troubles, from severe weather to no-show vendors.

If you're having a low-key DIY wedding and keeping expenses to a minimum, you probably don't need wedding insurance because you may not have much to lose financially. But if you stand to lose a lot of money if the wedding can't go forward, or if vendors like the caterer don't show up, you may want to consider wedding insurance. A type of policy called "special event insurance" can also cover similar problems.

We examined wedding insurance policies from Markel, Travelers, WedSafe (provided by Nationwide Insurance) and Wedsure (provided by Fireman's Fund) to find out what wedding insurance typically covers.

Basics of wedding insurance

Cancellation or postponement

Let's start with the big nightmare: A wedding that can't go forward. Wedding insurance can reimburse you for lost deposits and other charges you've already paid if the wedding can't take place. This typically includes money you've paid for special attire, a caterer and food, hall and equipment rentals, entertainment, transportation, florist, photographer and accommodations.

Acceptable reasons: The cancellation could be due to reasons such as an essential person who can't come due to extreme weather, illness or injury. The policy will define who essential people are: often you and your fiance, your immediate families or an "active participant" in the event, such as the officiant and attendants.

Extreme weather that damages the venue and causes cancellation could also be covered, but only if you can't find another place to hold the event.

Some policies will pay out if the wedding is cancelled or postponed because you run out of funds due to unexpected unemployment. But make sure you read the rules on what qualifies as unemployment.

Not good reasons: The policy will list cancellation and postponement reasons that won't be covered, so make sure you read those. Policies generally won't pay out for minor weather issues (like inconvenient rain) or if you knew about potential problems that could cause cancellation when you bought the policy. You could be on the hook for charges you would have avoided if you had notified vendors about the cancellation right away. And most policies don't pay out if someone has a "change of heart" (except policies from Wedsure).

Extra expenses to avoid a cancellation

A wedding insurance policy could reimburse you for extra expenses you have in order to avoid a cancellation or postponement. For example, if a DJ says he's sick and you have to find a new one at the last minute, you could make a claim for extra cost. But a wedding policy generally won't pay more than the amount above the original contract. For example, if the DJ would have cost $500 and you have to pay $800 to hire a new one, you can make a claim for $300, minus any deductible.

Photos and videos

Wedding insurance policies can reimburse what you paid for photography and videography if there are certain problems. For example, there's typically coverage if negatives are damaged before you get copies. Some wedding insurance policies will even pay out if the photographer has an epic fail and doesn't put film in the camera or leaves the lens cap on.

If the photographer simply takes crummy photos, that's not covered.

Some policies will pay the costs to retake photos and videos later if the photographer doesn't show up or negatives are damaged. For example, a Wedsure policy will pay to have the wedding party get together for new photos, including costs of airfare, hotel and meals, buying a new cake and flowers, and renting attire.

Wedding gifts

Damage to wedding gifts can be covered by wedding insurance. This can be useful coverage if you're expecting expensive presents. For example, gifts destroyed by a fire would generally be covered if you choose this coverage.

Read the policy details for rules about theft of gifts, if that's a concern. Policies generally require that you report a theft right away if you want to make a claim.

Special attire and jewelry

You can generally add coverage in case wedding attire and special jewelry are damaged. Here, too, read the exclusions. For example, theft of a wedding dress from an unlocked and unattended car is generally excluded.

Professional counseling

Here's something that wouldn't be a bad idea for other types of insurance: Professional counseling after making a claim. In this case, some wedding insurance policies will pay for counseling from emotional distress within a certain time period after the event cancellation or postponement. The counseling has to be recommended by a medical doctor.

Be prepared for deductibles

A deductible is the amount deducted from a claim payment. With a wedding insurance policy, all the coverage types listed above could have separate deductibles. A common deductible is $25.

Liability insurance

Liability insurance is for damage or injuries to others that you're responsible for. As weddings go, you could end up on the hook for property damage to a venue or injuries to a guest, even if you weren't in the area of the problem. Some examples:

  • Someone knocks over a candle and starts a fire
  • An elderly guest falls and breaks a hip on the dance floor

Liability insurance can cover the whole event from the rehearsal through the reception, even the next-day brunch. Check the policy to confirm what activities are covered. You can buy liability insurance amounts up to $5 million, depending on the company.

Some venues carry their own liability insurance; others can ask you to obtain liability insurance. The venue may require you show a "certificate of liability" that names the venue or site as an "additional insured."

There's also liquor liability, which helps if you're sued for damages or injuries caused by a drunken guest. Find out what insurance your venue has or requires you to buy, then make your decision.

You can typically buy wedding liability insurance alone, a cancellation/postponement policy alone, or package both together.

Know what you have to do make a claim

Wedding insurance policies list things you must do if you have a claim. For example, if the wedding venue will be closed due to weather damage or because it went out of business, you probably can't just throw up your arms in despair and make a claim. The policy might require you to make a reasonable effort to find another venue.

Who sells wedding insurance?