A wedding is an occasion of many firsts: the first look, the first kiss, the first dance.
But what about the first toke?
For a growing number of couples in states that have recently legalized recreational marijuana use, the “first married hit together” is becoming part of their wedding vows. Like lighting a unity candle, a ceremonial toke — sometimes from a custom-designed, two-mouthpiece “unity bowl” — signifies the blending of two lives in matrimony.
Though the federal government continues to label marijuana an illegal Schedule 1 drug, the map is turning greener for couples dreaming of a “weed wedding”-- and they’re increasingly keeping the champagne on ice in favor of toasting their union with a doobie.
In November, four states — California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts — voted to legalize the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana for those 21 and over, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.
That’s why a cottage industry has sprung up to cater to weed weddings. With recreational marijuana use becoming less stigmatized, pot-friendly wedding planners, florists and venues are cashing in on the high.
“Legal cannabis sales are soaring as the massive underground market becomes taxed and regulated in more states,” says Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Market Research, a publisher of marijuana industry analysis that predicts the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. will grow from a $7.9 billion market to over $20 billion within five years.
Niki McDonald, founder of the weed wedding website Love and Marij, which connects couples with weed-friendly wedding vendors, says she is determined to show the world that “cannabis is the new champagne.”
“Experiencing an upscale cannabis event as a guest, I was blown away with how much additional detail and appreciation I had for all of my surroundings: the sound of the music, the taste of the food, the little details,” McDonald said. “I enjoyed the clarity I had over my actions and thoughts.”
Whether couples choose to abstain from liquor or marijuana is simply a recreational preference, these so-called cannabis couples from all walks of life and generations want to be able to consume and serve weed like alcohol at one of the biggest days of their lives. Some couples want to show guests they’re comfortable with changing times and provide marijuana as an option-- even if they aren’t cannabis connoisseurs themselves. “One Colorado bride took a hit of cannabis to help reduce anxiety before walking down the aisle,” said McDonald.
“It allowed her to focus on the moment instead of worrying about whatever anyone else might be thinking.”
But weed weddings aren’t laid-back affairs.
Just as they do for any wedding, couples seeking a successful weed wedding have to plan for one. They have to find a pot-friendly venue and vendors, and they must consider how cannabis will affect their guests and the overall atmosphere. Some choose to have “budtenders” behind “cannabars” on hand to roll joints, load up pipes and bongs, give advice on edibles and guide newbies.
“Good budtenders ensure that their guests know what to expect when consuming cannabis, keep an eye on consumption and look for signs of overuse or intoxication,” says Andrew Mieure, owner of Top Shelf Budtending, a mobile budtender service based in Colorado. Mieure shops with his clients for the perfect cannabis strains or infused products at a legal cannabis dispensary, and he educates guests and promotes safe use at their events.
“My favorite part is the guests’ reactions,” says Bec Koop, founder of Denver-based full-service weed wedding planning and florist business, Irie Weddings and Events, a weed wedding planning company. “People are shocked, surprised and often very curious.”
Koop uses specific strains based on their hues for floral arrangements. Rich in colors, texture and scent, her “Wild Child” bouquet has cannabis clippings and buds artfully featured in the design. Groomsmen often sport “buddonieres.”
Bud if you live in one of the 42 states where none of this is legal, there’s always the option of a destination wedding. Koop says they’ve gained traction and make up half her clients.
While Colorado remains the U.S. cannabis capital — “Denver is the new Amsterdam,” McDonald says — Washington and Oregon are becoming increasingly popular weed wedding destinations, with other states likely to follow.
“Generations Y and Z already have an elevated perception of cannabis and will be more likely to want it at their weddings,” says McDonald, who predicts weed weddings will be mainstream 10 years from now.
High hopes? Time will tell.
Lindsay Minerva is a writer, editor and communications consultant. Follow her travels and cultural consumer insights on Twitter @lindsayminerva.