Michelle Casanova’s idea of a dream wedding was a simple one – though a little different from most: “I wanted to take a huge bong rip in my wedding dress.”
And that she did, last October, in Agoura Hills, California. The 34-year-old Texan walked down the aisle holding a bouquet of sunflowers and weed leaves. Guests were served slices of a THC-infused cake and treated to a dab bar where they could take hits of potent, concentrated cannabis oil via a vaporizer while a “budtender” rolled joints – strains of sativa, a stimulant, at the start of the event; hybrids after the service; indicas to wind everyone down at the end of the night.
“It was like your typical wedding, but with hints of cannabis here and there,” she says. “Everything was really subtle, except for the smoking part.”
Friends toast Michelle and Jason Casanova with joints. Photograph: Alanna You/Interstellar Image/Michelle Casanova
Left: Jason sported a boutonnière with a sunflower, marijuana leaves and a bud, matching Michelle’s bouquet Right: Michelle and Jason’s wedding featured a THC-infused cake made with marijuana concentrate. Each slice contained 5mg of THC. Photograph: Alanna You/Interstellar Image/Courtesy Michelle Casanova
Recreational marijuana use is now legal in 10 states. This means couples like the Casanovas, who prefer rips to sips, now have more options for incorporating their lifestyle into their weddings. It’s given rise to a niche industry, one that Casanova herself is cashing in on.
Casanova, who owns Los Angeles-based Babinka Treats and bakes cannabis-infused confections, was one of the two dozen vendors at the Cannabis Wedding Expo in Las Vegas in March – the first trade show of its kind in Nevada since weed was legalized there in July 2017. Yengiang Nguyen, the owner of a bath and body product company, hoped soon-to-be brides would think of her CBD bath bombs as bridesmaid gifts; Doreen Sullivan, founder of My Bud Vase, flew in from South Carolina, a prohibition state, to sell vintage vases repurposed as bongs.
Jamie Lee McCormick’s floral company, The Flower Daddy, has blossomed since launching last year. He specializes in marijuana bud and plant arrangements, which can later be smoked. They start at $250 per bouquet. He expects 2020 to be big, and has three weddings already booked for one date in April next year.
The Las Vegas event was the eighth Cannabis Wedding Expo since Philip Wolf, the chief executive, launched it in Denver in 2016. Wolf, who also runs a cannabis dining series called Cultivating Spirits, co-founded the expo after he and friends with similar weed-centric services faced resistance from traditional wedding trade shows.
Wolf’s most recent event in San Francisco was held in February in a shopping center in the middle of downtown and drew more than 500 people. Having the event in a public space and of that scale was a sign of how far the cannabis industry has come, and where it’s heading, Wolf says.
“The wedding industry in the US is $72bn. If you look at the cannabis industry, it’s going to approach $10bn. If you look at them together, you can get a sense of how big of an industry combined they can be.”
As this alternative industry grows, so does the number of couples who, like the Casanovas, are taking weddings to new highs.
Serena Baleja: ‘The couple that gets stoned together, stays together.’ Photograph: Alanna You/Interstellar Image/Serena Baleja
Jeff and Serena Baleja
Convincing an 80-year-old British Indian grandmother that weed is how people celebrate in California was a surprisingly easy task for Serena Baleja. “She accepted it very quickly,” Serena laughs.
The 28-year-old Londoner is a longtime advocate of marijuana, so when it came time for her and her husband, Jeff, 30, to get married last September in Los Angeles, it just made sense.
Left: Jeff and Serena wanted to help de-stigmatize weed by having it prominent at their wedding. Right: Serena takes a hit while getting ready. Photograph: tk
“Everyone smokes at weddings, let’s be real. They just sneak off to do it. We didn’t want anybody sneaking off,” Jeff says.
Serena and Jeff had parents who died from to alcohol addiction. Having cannabis at their wedding was more than an alternative to booze. It was a statement. “It should be normalized completely,” Serena says.
Anna and Mark Balfe-Taylor
Anna holds her bouquet made up of flowers and marijuana leaves Photograph: Julia Conti/Courtesy Mark Balfe-Taylor
Anna and Mark Balfe-Taylor’s Las Vegas wedding wasn’t just a celebration of love.
The couple got married on 1 July 2017 – the same day recreational sale of marijuana started in Nevada. Mark, a lifelong cannabis advocate whose stepfather went to prison for a weed-related offense, and Anna, “a major, major insomniac” with endometriosis who eats edibles to help her sleep, wanted to make a statement. “It was to celebrate freedom and sensible policy,” Mark, 46, says.
Each had previously been married and were tossing around ideas for an inconspicuous ceremony for themselves. “We didn’t need a white wedding. We didn’t want to do a typical Vegas wedding with Elvis in a drive-through,” Mark, 46, says.
Mark says he wanted to pursue a PhD in cannabis in the 1990s, but the university considered the subject too taboo. Photograph: Julia Conti/Mark Balfe-Taylor
Rather than bringing weed to their wedding, they brought their wedding to the weed, holding a ceremony inside The Grove’s cultivation facility surrounded by hundreds of pot plants. What was initially supposed to be an under-the-radar event became internationally publicized, which is exactly what Mark had hoped for.
Though Mark sported a bud in his suit pocket and Anna carried a bouquet with marijuana leaves, neither partook after the ceremony. “We wanted to make a statement about policy and people’s rights,” he says.
Amanda and Kyle
Kyle and Amanda with their two-year-old son. Photograph: Mango Studios/Courtesy Amanda and Kyle
Recreational marijuana wasn’t legal in Canada until a month after Amanda and Kyle tied the knot in Oshawa, Ontario, last September. That didn’t prevent the couple from having a tasteful cannabis theme on their special day.
Kyle, 36, has been a cannabis activist for 10 years. He credits the plant with helping him overcome depression and opioid abuse after an injury sidelined his hockey career.
Many of the Amanda and Kyle’s wedding guests were medical cardholders. Those with the legal right to do so were encouraged to bring their own cannabis to the reception, which featured a designated smoking section.
Amanda’s maid of honor at the reception with a joint in her mouth. Photograph: Mango Studios/Courtesy Amanda and Kyle
Kyle wore a ‘budtonniere’. After the wedding, he sprayed it with hairspray to preserve it and keeps it in his watch case to this day. Photograph: Mango Studios/Courtesy Amanda and Kyle
“It wasn’t as if we had a budtender set up, as much as I would have liked to. We weren’t there on the legal side and my wife’s pretty conservative, so she didn’t want to push the envelope too much,” Kyle says.
Though not everyone was consuming cannabis at the wedding, there was still a subtle presence, from the invitations to the seating arrangements, both of which prominently featured marijuana leaf graphics. Kyle sported a bud in his boutonnière, and Amanda’s maid of honor entered the reception with a joint in her mouth as the bridal party was introduced.