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Tech Industry

Nervous nuptials nevermore

Stranded at the altar? Not to worry: wedding insurance is now for sale on the Net.

Get stranded at the altar? This heart-breaking event doesn't have to be financially ruinous as well as humiliating with wedding insurance now for sale on the Net.

The insurance is designed to cover costs of a wedding that doesn't happen. Maybe the bride gets called up early by the military, or a close relative dies, or a hurricane hits the beach. Now, you may still have to give the presents back, but insurance available through InsWeb can cover costs of canceled nuptials, including nonrefundable deposits that can run as high as $18,000, according to InsWeb.

While the wedding insurance is being offered largely to attract attention to its services, InsWeb is serious about the Net's growing clout as a business distribution channel, including sales of insurance policies of all kinds.

Insurance on the Net may be poised to boom. Sales and marketing costs potentially are lower because the process can be automated.

Customers, for example, can fill out insurance forms online that don't have to be retyped at the insurance office, and actuarial tables for quotes can be programmed into the Web site. Insurance sales made via the Net also don't require an insurance agent, thus cutting commission costs.

Web users are also likely to be in the market for certain kinds of short-term medical coverage and term life insurance because of their age and demographics.

Moreover, they are the right demographic for wedding insurance. For one-time premiums underwritten by Fireman's Fund of Novato, California, that range from $129 to $603, the betrothed or their parents can buy coverage for canceled or postponed nuptials, a honeymoon that doesn't happen, ruined wedding photos, attire, gifts, personal liability, even medical payments.

InsWeb also offers quotes for permanent health insurance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey. These policies, designed for individuals and families, may be the first permanent health insurance coverage that can be applied for on the Web. An HMO option will be added soon.

Along with the all-insurance InsWeb site, which caters to insurance professionals and consumers, personal finance software powerhouse Intuit is testing a prototype of Insuremarket, which Intuit bought this spring for about $8 million in stock from Interactive Insurance Services.