The flowers. The dress. The reception. The cake. Even the honeymoon. The sunny courtyard of the fashionable Los Angeles Boulevard3 nightclub buzzed with throngs of curious young women dreaming aloud about one of the most important days of their lives.
A wedding day with a new twist was available in any variation to brides to be during the Cannabis Wedding Expo on Jan. 26, 2019.
Returning to L.A. for a second year, the expo included more than 40 vendors offering all the typical wedding elements people expect to see, but with a stack of newer businesses and approaches that they didn't.
Expo organizer and founder Philip Wolf created the events to bring a fresh, exciting and respectable approach to the concept of a wedding that incorporates cannabis.
“The advocate in me just wants to fight the stigma. It's a good way to show people that it's OK,” said Wolf, who is founder of Denver-based experiential dining company Cultivating Spirits, which pairs high-end meals with complementary terpenes in cannabis. Wolf saw an opportunity to meld the two seemingly dissimilar cannabis and wedding industries and in January 2016, he staged the first of four expos in Denver. Since then, he's expanded to San Francisco in 2017, Los Angeles in 2018, and is scheduled to debut in Las Vegas on March 31, 2019.
“It was definitely difficult [putting it together], but people loved the energy of the event and thought it was special,” he said. “So we decided to go with it. It started off with more luxury brands of cannabis, but people are now taking it to a different level. Click To Tweet For me, the more traditional wedding companies we can get in there, the better.”
The contrast was everywhere at the L.A. show. The courtyard, full of flowers and sunlight, appeared as if a wedding might break out any moment, while inside the ballroom, a violinist played to a throbbing electro-beat. A booth for the international wedding attire company David's Bridal sat next to Lit.Club, a cannabis brand that focuses on cannabidiol (CBD) vape pens and prerolls.
The route through the show began where weddings usually begin, with a wedding planner.
“In three years, we've had no bridezillas,” said Madlyne Kelly, co-owner of Irie Wedding & Events, a Denver-based event producer of cannabis-friendly celebrations. Though they specialize in bud bars, a quarter of the business is now devoted to event planning as couples continue to seek something different for their big day.
“We see a lot of couples whose parents are paying for everything else, but the couples pay for the bud bar,” Kelly said. And while she said that budgets are staying the same, guest lists are shrinking to help ensure enhanced experiences for guests. A full-service weed wedding can include securing cannabis-friendly venues, creating infused floral displays, catering, and of course, the bud bar featuring “canna-cocktails” and whatever equipment is needed for guests to enjoy their cannabis responsibly. Dealing with generational and personal dynamics on the guest list can even be part of the job.
“We ask couples who [among the guests] might hate us, and who needs to stay away from the bar,” Kelly said, noting that her role is to take the stress off the couple and ensure a smooth event. “And we won't give them indica before the vows.”
Inside on the ballroom's dance floor, Cortney Lynn's Bitchin' Bouquets booth gathered a lot of attention for her designs that incorporate cannabis leaves and buds in floral arrangements, bouquets, and even the corsage she wore in her hair.
“Honestly, people don't know they can get bouquets with cannabis leaves in it,” Lynn said. She dreamed up the idea while working on a farm. “I thought, 'I would love it if somebody gave me a bouquet with cannabis.' But really whatever the bride wants, we can do.”
The couple behind Starfire Edibles started out in the medical marijuana business making smaller treats in far higher doses than they use now. Their colorful booth featured a steadily disappearing supply of sprinkled, frosted and infused wedding-themed doughnuts that they deliver throughout Southern California.
“Business is growing in edibles because not everyone wants to smoke,” said co-owner Jeremy Rather, who is happy to talk up the work of his wife, Jasmine, the baker. “You want it to taste good and be good. Her time spent getting it exact is the real difference.”
Wedding dresses — intricately patterned, flowing and delicate — hung in the High Vibe Bride booth. Owner and designer Janay A has been making custom dresses for 13 years but began using hemp silk 10 years ago. She said part of the joy in the often arduous six- to 12-month dressmaking process is providing a variety of customized gowns.
“They're atypical,” Janay A said. “From conservative Muslim designs to racy outfits, they're all custom. I like it to be personal. It's the most personal part. It expresses the feel of the whole thing.
“It's about lifting up a woman like a goddess,” she said.
Wolf was all smiles by the afternoon. Next up is San Francisco's expo on Feb. 17, 2019, and the March expo in Las Vegas.
“We've grown each and every event,” Wolf said. “There was a buzz from this event. Now we're looking into Boston, but it's hard to think about New York possibly legalizing and us not being in New York City.”