Once Bec Koop had finished passing out joints to every wedding guest who wanted one, she waited until the bride and groom were ready to join the reception and then made her announcement: “Okay, are you ready to light up for the first time with them as a married couple?”
The newlyweds entered, greeted by a sea of sparking lighters, a big, collective inhale, and a cloud of fragrant smoke. “It was like a champagne toast, but lighting up,” Koop says.
Smoking weed on a wedding day isn’t unusual in Koop’s line of work—in fact, it’s her job to help make it happen. She’s one half of Irie Weddings & Events, a cannabis-oriented wedding-planning service she runs with her business partner, Madlyne Kelly. Their operation, which also puts on traditional weddings, is based in Denver, where a small but growing number of caterers, bakers, florists, and others are starting to capitalize on the intersection of the increasingly lucrative market for marijuana and the already lucrative market for weddings, as Colorado’s laws permit them to. Last year, Irie Weddings & Events orchestrated a dozen weed weddings, and has more than that booked for 2017.
The existence of cannabis weddings isn’t just an indication of marijuana’s increasing normalcy—it also signals the drug’s maturation from a blacklight-and-lava-lamp pastime to a grown-up product with gourmet options. Weddings are one way cannabis is being classed up, says Andrew Mieure, the proprietor of Top Shelf Budtending, a business in Colorado Springs that serves marijuana at parties and events. “Brides demand a level of quality and sophistication that is rarely seen in the industry,” says Mieure, who wears suspenders, a bow tie, and black-rimmed glasses.
A year ago, when Cliff Stokes, a like-minded entrepreneur, co-founded a limo company catering to pot smokers in Denver, he was surprised to learn how posh his customers were. “We originally thought we’d get a big party bus and do what everyone else did, and pursue the snowboarders and the young folks,” Stokes says. But soon, he was shuttling well-dressed clients around in a fleet of fancy cars that includes a Tesla Model S, an Infiniti QX80, and a Mercedes Benz GL450. High End Transportation’s riders are accompanied by a host who’s there to roll joints, pass around munchies, lead field trips to dispensaries, and look after guests. The company has done bachelorette and bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, and weddings.
Some of these new ventures, like High End Transportation, are overtly marijuana-focused, while many other wedding-related businesses—photographers, make-up artists, venues for hire, and so on—are starting to be proactive about letting brides and grooms know that they won’t freak out and bail, mid-wedding, if pot’s on the premises. (It’s happened, says Koop.) Next weekend, a number of them will make themselves available at the second annual Cannabis Wedding Expo in Denver, which Koop helped start after finding conventional bridal expos to be unwelcoming to cannabis-oriented businesses. And where the law goes, Koop and her co-organizers follow: They’ve planned similar expos in Portland and San Francisco for this spring.
Getting stoned at weddings is nothing new. Guests have long been slipping off to hotbox their cousin’s Corolla or sneaking a joint away from the dancefloor. “This movement is simply making it more acceptable to enjoy cannabis as part of a group in a social setting at a wedding,” Koop says. Couples looking for subtle ways to work cannabis into the ceremony might consider a hemp-silk wedding dress for the bride, pot-leaf-shaped cuff links for the groom, or joint-spiked goodie bags for the bridal party.
Those are what Koop calls the “don’t-piss-off-grandma options.” Then there are those whose affection for the plant leads them to celebrate with a four-foot-tall ice bong or—Koop’s particular specialty—boutonnieres and bouquets studded with smokable buds. For one couple that wanted to tie the knot while smoking, Koop commissioned a glassblower to make a “unity bowl”—a stoner twist on the traditional unity candle, it was a pipe with two mouthpieces that the couple hit during the ceremony.
But the most popular means of greening the party is a bud bar. Depending on the couple’s wishes and the venue’s rules, this can be anything from a private smoking lounge to a front-and-center walk-up bar (21 and up, as per the law), with a chalkboard menu listing the strains on offer and a buffet of pre-rolled joints, infused candies and drinks, and ready-to-hit vaporizers.
These displays are met with everything from surprise to curiosity to scandal. And not all grandmas get mad. Koop recalls that at a large cannabis wedding last summer where she helped five guests try marijuana for the first time, a petite 82-year-old approached the bar at her grandson’s encouragement. “We gave her a small dose of blueberry soda, told her exactly when it’d kick in and what to expect, and next thing you know she was dancing and having a blast,” Koop says.
Not everyone’s friends and family are cool with it, of course. Koop says brides and grooms she’s worked with have made sacrifices in order to have a weed-themed wedding, like opting to have a very small ceremony, or paying for it themselves because their parents wouldn’t approve.
Koop says that many, though, are eager and curious to take advantage of Colorado’s permissiveness, which results in several first-time experiences. To account for that, Irie Weddings & Events keeps materials on hand in case anyone overdoes it, such as chamomile tea and other natural remedies. At one bride’s request, the bar even slipped wary guests small, discreet urine test kits along with their pure-cannabidiol, non-THC joints to reassure them that cannabidiol-only strains won’t show up on a drug test. And pretty much across the board, cannabis-wedding professionals tend to take a welcoming, educational stance toward newcomers, all in the name of improving marijuana’s image. Like wine connoisseurs and third-wave coffee enthusiasts before them, the vendors are eager aficionados, and they’re hoping that high-end services and sleek products will rid pot of persisting stigmas and stoner stereotypes.
At the moment, smokable centerpieces are a long way from being the next succulents in mason jars. Shane McMurray at The Wedding Report, an industry publication that collects and publishes wedding data, says he and his colleagues have heard about weed weddings, but that they have not yet looked at them seriously as a trend. “It has been a topic of discussion as to whether we should collect data on it,” he says.
Even if it stays niche, at least a few couples have found a new way to soothe the pre-aisle jitters. “Any time any of my cannabis couples start to get anxious, I say, ‘Here, let’s take a puff and unwind,’” says Koop. “They are much easier to keep relaxed.”