When we ask local vendors for the best tips and tricks to give to readers, Kawania Wooten of Washington event planning company Howerton & Wooten is always quick to recommend event insurance.
“I encourage all of our couples to consider getting wedding insurance to assist them with their expenses if they have to change their wedding venue or change their wedding date,” she said in our most recent survey of planners. And in addition to insurance, Wooten’s team routinely checks their clients’ venue and vendor contracts before they’re signed to ensure they include a clear Force Majeure (or Impossibility) clause that notes events can be changed or canceled without fees specifically because of Acts of God (primarily important for weather-related issues), and among other things, Acts of Government.
Acts of Government, Wooten, says, should include an unexpected deployment, as well as a government shutdown.
“Force Majeure or Impossibility clauses used to sometimes only include Acts of God, but now [they’ve expanded] to include Acts of Terrorism and Acts of Government.”
As of today, the federal government is on its 19th day of a partial shutdown, and while the closure includes the Marriage Bureau at DC Superior Court, which made it impossible to get a marriage license, and then possible again, anyone with events planned in an affected building or event space, like a Smithsonian venue or a national park, would still be out of luck.
Still venue-shopping? Ask the venues in advance, Wooten suggests, how shutdowns have affected them in the past. Since the closures are tied to funding as well as other factors, it’s not always clear which buildings will be shut down.
The unlikely scenario seems to be less and less remarkable, suggesting event insurance—and vendor Force Majeure clauses—may be more appealing to DC couples than ever before.
“I typically recommend WedSafe or USAA to our couples,” suggests Wooten, who wrote a blog post on the topic in anticipation of a shutdown last year. “But,” she notes, “you have to book the insurance before the issue presents itself.” In other words, before the hurricane is predicted or the shutdown is set into motion.
Wooten says while she’s never had to use a client’s insurance or clauses specifically due to a government shutdown before, she has reaped the benefit of insurance for a corporate event once. “I worked in TV and our whole board got called to testify on the Hill,” regarding the Super Bowl Halftime Show wardrobe malfunction of 2004, she recalls. “I was able to cancel an event because of it.”
Government shutdowns, Hill summons’, and deployments may be a unique-to-DC trio of cancellation factors to consider, but with a little foresight, financial protection at least, is available.