Marijuana Is the New Moneymaker for Wedding Planners

You may now toke with the bride. The legalization of recreational marijuana in a handful of states opened the doors to all sorts of cannabis-laden commerce, from dinner service to vacation packages. It was inevitable that weddings, among the most expensive purchase an adult will ever make, would find a way to introduce weed into nuptials, receptions, and party favors. 

Specialists have launched entire businesses to meet this new wedding-weed demand. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legally sold since 2014, Bec Koop operates cannabis-friendly Irie Wedding & Events and is one of the founders of the Cannabis Wedding Expo, an event where brides and grooms can meet marijuana vendors. Koop offers a litany of wedding services: day-of coordination, overall planning, floral arrangements, cannabis open bars. She also offers consulting services for venues looking to bring in cannabis-inclusive events.

Prior to the legalization of marijuana, Koop worked in hospitality, including conventional catering and florals. Now her offerings range from the full-service $3,000 O.G. Kush plan—everything from day-off coordination to vendor bookings—to a scaled-back $420 elopement plan in which Irie finds the officiant, books a photographer, and makes a dinner reservation for the couple. A marijuana-knowledgeable wedding coordinator, called a Best Bud, costs between $50 and $100 an hour for day-of-event help.

Koop did five weddings in her first full year in business, then about twice as many in her second year. Now she expects she will have booked nearly two dozen by the end of 2017. "We have people who are already outreaching to us for 2020," she says. "A lot of foresight coming from these so-called lazy stoners."

The early days of legal marijuana proved difficult, Koop says, since only 10 percent of venues would even consider cannabis-related weddings. Now she says nearly a third will accommodate pot, and locations regularly call Koop to be placed on her preferred vendors list.

Serving marijuana at a wedding reception isn't altogether different from offering alcoholic drinks. "It's actually cheaper than liquor," says Adrian Sedlin, chief executive officer of Canndescent, a California grower that has put on bud bars for weddings. "There's a lot more buzz for the buck in cannabis than in alcohol." For a 100-person wedding, Cultivating Spirits offers a bud bar for $300 for a minimum of two hours, with an additional $100 per hour beyond that. A typical bud bar might include prerolled joints, vaporizers, and glass pipes. Some couples choose to add bongs, edibles, and cannabis cocktails to the mix.

Depending on the potency, strain, and promotional offerings, an ounce can run roughly from $100 to $250 at Colorado dispensaries, said Philip Wolf, CEO of Cultivating Spirits in Colorado and the Cannabis Wedding Expo, although prices for recreational marijuana vary from state to state.

For couples who choose to have an unmanned bar, the full cost can come to less than $300. But many opt for a budtender, a cannabis expert who oversees the bar and rolls joints for guests. Koop recommends one tender per 35 smoking guests and charges $25 an hour per budtender, plus setup fees. There are a few legalistic twists: Colorado state laws forbids guests from tipping budtenders, and the hosts of the wedding must technically supply the cannabis for the bar themselves and "donate" it to the server.

Marijuana vendors like to tout benefits beyond pot's relative affordability. "A lot of people feel like alcohol can take away from events because people can overconsume, it might not be as enjoyable or someone might cause an issue, or god forbid something worse," said Wolf. "With cannabis, you really don't have that threat."There's no risk of marijuana bars cutting into the boozy reputation of weddings. A budtender is more of a supplement than a replacement, explained Stephanie Cain, an editor at the Knot, a wedding marketplace and publication. "Its another amenity for guests and the couple to partake in," she says. Her tip for those considering cannabis: Place the bud bar in an area apart from the primary reception hall, creating a barrier for both underage guests and those who don't partake. Koop, who operates the Colorado weed wedding business, has found that about half of clients are occasional indulgers at best. Some are marijuana tourists who travel from out of state (and sometimes from overseas) to get married in scenic Colorado.

These couples tend to go with a more low-key approach—a single bud of marijuana in the bouquet, perhaps, and a bud bar at the reception. The other half of Irie's clients are locals who are very avid cannabis consumers. These couples will often incorporate the plant throughout the wedding. They may take a "first toke" together before the first kiss, often from a pipe with two openings, similar in ceremonial value to lighting a unity candle. "They're loud and proud," Koop says. "A hemp silk wedding dress, a hemp suit, a 'budquet'—you can crack it from your bouquet to your bowl."

Bloomberg
Aug 01, 2017

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