As Dani Geen walks down the aisle at her beach-side wedding in Carmel this August, she’ll be carrying a bouquet spiked with cannabis flowers.
When she and her fiancé exchange vows at around 4:20 p.m., they’ll swap the traditional sand-pouring ceremony for a shared dab.
And when they’re ready to celebrate at the reception, friends and family will get to choose between a trip to the wine bar or a stop at the bud bar.
“I am going to be incorporating it through all of my wedding, since cannabis is a big part of my life,” the 31-year-old Oakland resident said.
Having guests sneak away from the reception to enjoy a joint is certainly not new. But Geen are her fiancé are among a growing number of couples looking to openly celebrate their love of weed as they celebrate their big day.
“It is possible,” Geen said. “It’s just about how to make it work.”
That’s no small challenge.
Even in California – where medical marijuana has been allowed for more than 20 years and recreational cannabis was legalized in November – it’s tough to find wedding venues that publicly advertise their willingness to allow cannabis consumption on site. And there’s still confusion swirling among both vendors and couples about how to legally pull off a weed wedding.
Entrepreneurial cannabis supporters are increasingly stepping up to fill that gap, with an entire website dedicated to planning marijuana-themed nuptials, a weed-themed wedding chapel that recently opened in Las Vegas and a cannabis wedding expo coming to San Francisco later this month.
Together, they’re helping pull off fully legal and ever-creative weed weddings for everyone from dreadlocks-wearing stoners to designer-clad business executives to long-married couples renewing their vows now that cannabis is becoming more socially acceptable.
“Legalization has helped destigmatize it, and a lot of these venues are starting to get questions themselves,” Geen said. “So I think they’re just trying to gear up for cannabis weddings. They know it’s coming.”
PIONEERING A NEW INDUSTRY
Three years ago, a light bulb went off for Bec Koop.
The Denver resident had flowers left over from an arrangement she’d done for her florist shop. Then she trimmed her personal cannabis plant. On a whim, she decided to combine the two. When she saw how pretty the bouquet looked, she had one thought: weed weddings.
Her shop soon became known as Buds & Blossoms, catering to weddings and other special events that incorporate cannabis. Then she partnered with other professionals to launch an event planning service, which hosted the first Cannabis Wedding Expo in Denver in 2015.
Today, Koop and her partners run Irie Weddings & Events. They’re booking out cannabis-themed weddings into 2020 – on 4/20/20, to be exact – and making plans to expand the Denver-business to California. They’re also hosting the first Cannabis Wedding Expo in California on April 30 in the Bay Area.
“It’s a market that was ready for us,” Koop said, with lots of interest from both California couples and vendors. “We’re really excited to be bringing it there.”
Though Niki McDonald’s business is also based in Colorado, she said she’s always gotten more calls and emails from California couples looking for help planning their cannabis weddings.
McDonald is a full-time TV producer. In 2014, MSNBC hired her to make a series on the “pot barons” of Colorado. She moved to the Rocky State for six months and was impressed by how mature the cannabis industry had already become – and how much further it had to go.
“I felt like I was a part of something and I wanted to stay,” she said. “I couldn’t turn my back on it.”
She saw a particular gap for people who wanted to plan upscale events involving cannabis, with no information readily available on where to go or who could help. And so the website Love and Marij was born.
The forum is like the wedding planning site The Knot but for cannabis lovers. It offers tips for wedding planning and showcases real weed weddings to inspire couples as they plan their own nuptials. And it helps couples find vendors who are not only OK with cannabis consumption taking place at the wedding, but might also be enthusiasts themselves – such as LA-based “Herbal Chef” Christopher Sayegh.
“It’s just a tribe. You sort of have the same secret, which allows you to open up and connect a little more,” McDonald said. “And you want to feel comfortable on your wedding day. You want to feel like your vendors are a part of your party.”
LoveandMarij.com is run by volunteers at the moment. But McDonald said she’s hoping to get funding to take the site to the next level now that California and seven other states have legalized recreational marijuana.
BUT IS IT LEGAL?
The wedding night is one thing. But no one wants their actual wedding to end in handcuffs.
Under both California and Colorado law, adults 21 and over can possess, transport and donate to another adult up to one ounce of cannabis.
So for Koop’s floral business, she sends couples to dispensaries that offer them a discount on their “wedding weed.” They buy what they need, then give up to an ounce to Koop to incorporate into their bouquets, boutonnieres and arrangements. In other words, it’s BYOC: bring your own cannabis.
For bud bars to be legal, they have to be open bars, meaning no one can pay for anything they consume. Couples buy products from the dispensaries or edible companies up front, then give it away to guests 21 and older.
Same goes for party favors that include cannabis, bridal party gifts, ice-shoot bongs… The sky’s the limit, Koop said, so long as everything is free and everyone who partakes is at least 21.
Couples also have to consider how they’ll transport the cannabis to their wedding site. If they’re serving more than an ounce, they’ll need to make multiple trips or send some along with different vendors or guests.
No one is allowed to consume cannabis in public in any legalized state. But Koop said weddings are considered private events, which means adults can consume legally so long as the area isn’t visible to the public.
That has some implications for venue owners, who may have to add privacy fences or cover windows if they want to accommodate cannabis weddings. They’re also on more solid footing if they don’t have a liquor license themselves, since most state laws ban cannabis consumption where alcohol is sold.
The legalities can be a bit tricky to navigate, Koop said. And her company frequently gets advice from attorneys to make sure they’re doing everything on the up and up. But they haven’t had any issues so far, she thinks largely because they’re also smart about how everything is handled during the event itself.
If a couple has a bud bar, for example, they also have a knowledgeable budtender on hand to guide people through the experience and, if necessary, cut guests off. They offer small samples of low-dose edibles, and they carry a kit to help out in case someone does over-indulge.
In general, McDonald said they have far fewer issues with cannabis at weddings than they do with alcohol.
“Alcohol makes you sloppy, it makes you say things you might regret and it can make you feel horrible the next day,” she said. Plus, there’s the risk of serious harm from alcohol poisoning.
“With cannabis,” she said, “you’re actually more able to take in the magnitude of what’s going on. You can stop and really appreciate all of the decorations and music and hard work that was put into the day.” And she pointed out that no one’s ever died from too much cannabis.
WHAT ABOUT GRANDMA?
A poll by The Knot shows two-thirds of people would be fine with attending a cannabis-infused wedding. But Koop said reaction from loved ones is frequently a big concern for couples.
If a large percentage of guests might be uncomfortable with cannabis consumption, she said, couples have to decide whether they care. And if they do, they might consider having the smoking lounge separated from the rest of the reception or finding subtler ways to incorporate the theme.
“There are many ways to do it without offending Grandma,” Koop said.
In the end, McDonald said oftentimes guests that couples are most worried about offending end up partaking and having a great time.
Many of the most public weed weddings over the past couple of years have been with couples where one or both partners works in the cannabis industry, which means family members have likely already dealt with any hang-ups they might have.
That’s the case with Geen, who has worked for the past nine years as executive assistant to Steve DeAngelo, the legendary cannabis activist and founder of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center dispensary. DeAngelo will indeed be at her wedding, Geen said. And many of the farmers and manufacturers who supply Harborside are donating products for her wedding.
Cannabis is also part of what brought Geen and her fiancé, Zak Walton, together 12 years ago.
Related: Matchmaker helps sophisticated stoners find love
A friend set them up on a blind date knowing they had a shared love for the plant. They’ve been together ever since, with Geen insistent that cannabis has helped them connect on a deeper level and to not sweat the small stuff.
So it was never a question whether they wanted to incorporate cannabis into their wedding. The question was if they could actually pull it off.
EDUCATING MAINSTREAM VENDORS
Wedding venues and vendors who have no ideological issues with cannabis are often still afraid to dive into that world.
“It’s really just confusion and uncertainty among the wedding industry itself,” McDonald said. “Most of what we’re doing is to educate the wedding industry on the cannabis industry.”
When Koop’s company first started cold-calling venues a couple years ago to see if they’d allow cannabis weddings, she said one in 10 said they’d consider it. Today, she said around one in three say yes – and many venues are approaching her company to see if they can be put on their vendor list.
Geen actually lucked out with her reception venue. She fell in love with a historic home in Carmel before she knew whether the owner would allow cannabis consumption. But she saw an opening when she noticed they had a designated tobacco smoking area.
“You kind of have to find the right moment to bring it up,” she said. “I just said, ‘Now that legalization is happening, I do know some guests of mine will prefer cannabis over alcohol. Is it OK if we have cannabis consumption in the smoking area?’”
Geen went on to explain that it would still be an elegant and classy affair, and not some college smoking party. They compromised after the owner decided she was OK with vaporization.
“You have to be the educator,” Geen said. “And you’re also breaking the stigma for someone else.”
Even if the chosen venue doesn’t allow for consumption, Koop said that doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. They can hire a licensed “party bus” to sit outside the venue and take everyone for a “smoke ride” at designated times. Or they can simply incorporate marijuana into their wedding shower, bachelor/bachelorette parties or rehearsal dinner.
Those compromises are needed now, she said, while cannabis weddings are still considered a “novelty.” But she believes that will be less of an issue down the road, as more states legalize marijuana and the stigma continues to fade.
“I really feel like in the next five years, people shouldn’t have an issue at all,” Geen said. “It’s going to be on your pre-approved vendor list.”
12 WAYS TO WEAVE CANNABIS INTO A WEDDING
- Wear hemp silk wedding dresses or suits
- Set up a budbar with a budtender on hand
- Give cannabis-infused spa products as bridal party gifts
- Commission custom blown glass using the wedding colors
- Offer a custom edibles menu
- Use cannabis before the ceremony to calm pre-wedding jitters
- Sign up for a wedding registry at a nearby dispensary
- Set up a doobie rolling station
- Work buds into bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces
- Have a “marijuana toast,” passing out joints so guest can light up with the bride and groom
- Deck the bride and groom out with pot leaf jewelry and cuff links
- Pass out CBD patches to keep guests with aching feet on the dance floor