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New national lockdown in England: what does it mean for your wedding and insurance?

Find out the latest restrictions for wedding receptions across the UK and if your insurance will cover you

New national lockdown in England: what does it mean for your wedding and insurance?

Wedding ceremonies and receptions in England can only take place during the latest national lockdown in exceptional circumstances.

During the lockdown, which was announced on 4 January 2021 and expected to last until the middle of February, weddings and civil ceremonies can only take place if the marriage is ‘urgent’. This includes cases where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or about to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.

In cases where these kinds of wedding ceremonies take place, up to six people are allowed to attend – this does not included anyone working at the wedding.

Many people have already had to cancel or postpone their weddings this year, at a time when several wedding insurers stopped selling cover or excluded cancellation due to coronavirus as part of their terms.

We asked 12 of the UK’s biggest wedding insurance providers how coronavirus is affecting their policies and what your rights are if your wedding gets cancelled.

We’ll update the story if and when policies change, or when additional insurers respond.


When will weddings be allowed again?

Weddings and receptions in England are not permitted during the national lockdown, except in exceptional circumstances where up to six people can attend.

Wales is currently at alert level 4, which means weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can take place in registry offices and places of worship, but other venues such as hotels must remain closed. Wedding receptions are not permitted.

The maximum number of people who can attend is dependent on the size of the venue, as a two-metre distance must be maintained between members of different households.

The maximum number of people includes the couple getting married, the celebrant, witnesses, registration officials and other guests.

Further guidance can be found on the gov.wales website.

Under the Scottish government’s ‘Stay at home’ guidance, which came into effect on 5 January, wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships can take place with a maximum capacity of five people. This includes the couple, witnesses and the person conducting the ceremony. Six people are allowed if an interpreter is needed.

All those in attendance must stay two metres apart from anyone not in their household, and face coverings must be worn. Wedding receptions are not permitted.

Additional restrictions were introduced in Northern Ireland on 26 December 2020. This states that marriage and civil partnership ceremonies can still go ahead, but are limited to 25 people, including children under the age of 12 and the celebrant.

Face masks must be worn by everyone other than those who are party to the marriage, and a risk assessment is required if more than 15 people are due to attend.

Receptions are not permitted.

Are any wedding insurers still providing cover?

Debenhams, Events Insurance, The Insurance Emporium and John Lewis have stopped offering wedding insurance policies to new customers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of 8am on 19 March 2020, Emerald Life and Wedinsure also stopped selling new policies. Emerald Life says it hopes to be back online as soon as possible. Wedinsure began selling new policies again in October 2020.

Provider Policy
Debenhams All new Debenhams Wedding Insurance applications have been suspended while the effect of the virus is being assessed.
Emerald Life Suspended selling new policies as of 19 March 2020.
Events Insurance Suspended wedding package policy for the foreseeable future, pending full confirmation on the government’s stance on gathering and venue restrictions. It’s not able to process any new wedding insurance applications.
John Lewis Suspended new applications for wedding and event insurance while the effects of travel and Public Health England advice around coronavirus is assessed.
The Insurance Emporium Has temporarily suspended selling new wedding insurance policies.
Wedinsure Is selling new wedding insurance policies – it stopped between March and October 2020.

Correct as of January 2021.

What if your wedding contravenes public gatherings rules?

If your wedding party is larger than six people in England under exceptional circumstances, or has more than 25 people in Northern Ireland, five people in Scotland, or doesn’t allow for two-metre social distancing between households in Wales, it won’t be able to take place.

If you can’t reschedule it for another time, you may find it difficult to make an insurance claim as policies don’t tend to cover governmental regulations.

Here’s what we found when we looked at some of the biggest insurance providers:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Losses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald Life Claims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events Insurance Government-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if the government forces venues to close as part of a national ban or if it restricts the size of a gathering.
John Lewis If the venue is not permitted to hold the wedding due to any specific government legal measures in relation to public gatherings (that includes weddings), there will be cover under the policy subject to the policy holder minimising their costs.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Claims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes bans on social or public gatherings.

Correct as of March 2020.

Will my existing wedding insurance change?

If you’ve already bought wedding insurance, the providers we’ve spoken to have all said the policies will remain in place and – for the most part – unchanged.

Provider Policy
Debenhams Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
Emerald Life Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged, except cover has been limited in relation to the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers so that Emerald Life doesn’t cover any bankruptcy within the first 10 days of taking out the policy.
Events Insurance Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
John Lewis Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
The Insurance Emporium Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged. However, policies are subject to a general exclusion in respect of ‘notifiable diseases’. This exclusion includes COVID-19, since it’s now an officially registered notifiable disease in the UK.
Wedinsure Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.

Correct as of March 2020.

What if the venue or other services cancel on you?

Even if your event is able to go ahead, it may be that a service you’ve booked is unable to deliver what you’ve paid for.

In the first instance, you should try to come to some kind of agreement with the business itself. If that’s not possible, here’s what the insurers say:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Those with existing policies are covered if the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease; the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for professional wedding services; the non-appearance of the officiating minister or registrar.
Emerald Life Doesn’t cover the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers within the first 10 days of taking out the policy. Otherwise, there is cover if a wedding services supplier goes bankrupt and there may be cover if a significant supplier fails to arrive on the day, which may allow for cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Advising people to speak to their suppliers and check their contracts. Events Insurance says venues and suppliers don’t want to lose out on bookings, and have generally been offering rearrangement options to people hoping to postpone.
John Lewis Those with existing policies should be covered for the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception being unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease, and the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for wedding services.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Cover includes instances where the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold the event due to an outbreak of infectious disease (eg coronavirus), or its closure by a relevant authority – except where the closure or their inability to hold your wedding is due to any form of government act or regulation.

Correct as of March 2020.

What if travel to the wedding venue has been restricted?

The government has advised to reduce travel where possible and is encouraging people to stay local whenever they can, but roads and the majority of public transport services are currently still running.

If this changes, and your wedding has to be cancelled as a result, it’s unlikely that any wedding insurance policies will cover it:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Losses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald Life Claims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events Insurance Government-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if it restricts freedom of movement.
John Lewis Claims arising directly or indirectly from government regulation or act are excluded.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Claims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes travel bans or restrictions.

Correct as of March 2020.

What if the bride, groom or guests are ill or self-isolating?

The government is currently advising anyone who is showing COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days and those who have been in direct contact with someone showing symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days.

Under the national lockdown in England, it’s also advised anyone who would be considered ‘vulnerable’ should only leave their homes for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.

With this in mind, it may be that some people will be unable to make it to weddings once they are able to take place.

In general, wedding insurance policies are only likely to cover health issues affecting the couple or their close relatives.

Provider Policy
Debenhams The policy doesn’t mention coronavirus explicitly, but it doesn’t cover any claims where the person with an illness has acted against medical advice, or is awaiting the results of any tests or medical investigations.
Emerald Life Actual illness of the bride or groom is covered, but not with self-isolation, as it would be impossible to prove if it were genuine; if a close family member is ill, then that may merit cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Two scenarios are covered: if the bride, groom or a close relative is diagnosed with the virus and is suffering with it at the time of the wedding, which causes the wedding to be cancelled; or the venue has a case of coronavirus and they are forced to cancel all events and close – on the basis that the contract you have with them permits them to cancel for that reason and it’s not the result of a blanket government shutdown.
John Lewis You’re covered in the event of the death, injury or sickness of the prospective marriage or civil partners, or close relative or members of the wedding party which would make it inappropriate to continue the wedding.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Covers the unavoidable cancellation of the wedding due to the death or sickness of the wedding participants or their close relatives, as defined under the policy, which would make having or continuing with the wedding and/or wedding reception impossible. But if you buy the policy knowing you or a close relative has already contracted coronavirus, then that wouldn’t be covered.

Correct as of March 2020.

Can I get a payment holiday or refund on my wedding insurance?

On 1 November, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) set out new guidance on how firms should offer tailored support to those who have already received a payment deferral, or those who have newly come into financial difficulty.

The regulator says support on offer should reflect the ‘uncertainties and challenges’ many customers will face in the coming months, and could include firms reducing monthly payments, or suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling interest or charges.

Our dedicated story on the new FCA guidance for insurance providers goes into more detail on this.

The new guidance supplements FCA measures from 18 May, when it told insurers that they must help customers with general insurance protection who are struggling with payments due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Getting your money back by other means

If you don’t have wedding insurance, or your claim is refused, you should contact your bank or credit card company (if you paid using a credit card).

Make it aware of the situation and the complaint you’ve made, and you may be able to get reimbursed for at least some of the costs.

If you paid by credit card

Anything you’ve bought costing between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card has additional protections if something goes wrong.

It’s covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means that your credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract (such as event cancellation) and you can claim your money back directly from it.

If you paid by debit card

You may be able to ask your card provider to reverse a transaction on your credit or debit card in a process called chargeback.

Chargeback isn’t a right or law such as Section 75 is, but banks are often willing to help. It can also be useful if you’re trying to recoup costs of less than £100, where Section 75 doesn’t apply.

Which? coronavirus advice

Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe and make sure you’re not left out of pocket.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.


This story was originally published on 18 March and has since been updated. The last update was on 5 January with updates on restrictions to wedding ceremonies under the latest coronavirus rules and measures in each UK nation.


 

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