You can find a lot of strange things at the mall. If you were at the Westfield San Francisco Centre on a recent Sunday morning, you might have found something you probably had no idea existed: The San Francisco Cannabis Wedding Expo, a gathering of some 50 vendors dedicated to incorporating marijuana into nuptials.
From Mama Tee’s Remedy (“Cannabis With a Southern twist!”), makers of artful, pastel-colored edibles, to the Bud Diva, who’ll design a customized cannabis bar and ensure that your guests don’t get too high, the expo was a chance for attendees to imagine ways to add something green into the mix along with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
This was San Francisco’s second expo in two years, and according to Philip Wolf, the 33-year-old Colorado organizer of the event, more than 500 people had purchased tickets for the event. By midday, fewer than a hundred or so attendees were milling about, eating it all up — along with weed-free samples of edibles and reception desserts. Some passersby, however, weren’t so sure.
“What does that even mean?” said one teen to her friend as she snapped a photo of the expo with her phone.
What it means, a cynic might be tempted to answer, is that wedding vendors are figuring out how to cash in on legalized recreational marijuana, which has blanketed the state of California in its haze since the beginning of 2018. The United States wedding industry earned $72 billion in revenue in 2016, according to a report from IBISWorld, the most up-to-date and widely cited source for such information.
Marry that figure with the $9.2 billion in revenue that legalized medical and recreational marijuana brought in nationwide in 2017, according to cannabis industry research firm BDS Analytics, and you’ve got a pretty profitable combination.
That is, if anyone is willing to help you incorporate weed into your wedding. Calls to nine Bay Area wedding planners to ask their thoughts on cannabis weddings yielded no responses, a surprise coming from an industry full of folks eager for free publicity. One planner who asked not to be named or quoted said that cannabis weddings remain controversial and pose problems, presumably with venues and vendors.
For vendors at the Cannabis Wedding Expo, which rolled into Las Vegas on March 31, destigmatizing marijuana is still a complication. But to couples planning their big day, everything from location to place settings is a challenge. What’s a little weed added to the mix?
At the Westfield, one such couple, Natasha DeJesus and Heather Kelly of Clearwater, Fla., were strolling around the expo with their mothers and their maid of honor, checking out floral arrangements that incorporate cannabis buds and a Humboldt inn that calls itself a bud and breakfast.
DeJesus, 36, worked in the cannabis industry before moving to Florida. She and Kelly, 34, dated for three years before their engagement. “Cannabis has always been a big part of our lives,” Kelly said. “So when we got engaged last October, we knew immediately that we wanted to have cannabis be a part of our wedding.”
“I’m not a drinker. We’re obviously going to have an alcohol bar there for everybody else, but it was important for me to have a bud bar. … I really wanted that.”
DeJesus said she’d looked to Pinterest for inspiration. “I was just mesmerized by what people were doing,” she said. “We came to San Francisco just for this. To learn about what people are doing and who’s willing to be involved. … I love how people are trying to create experiences.”
After the expo, DeJesus and Kelly were heading to Guerneville to check out weed-friendly venues for their October wedding.
As anyone who’s ever had a wedding knows, the happy couple can plan all they want, but the final say always belongs to their mothers.
“I love it!” gushed Diane DeJesus, Natasha’s 61-year-old mother. Walking around the expo had gotten her thinking. “I’m more excited! I can visualize things, you know?”
“I got a lot of ideas just visiting these booths,” added Teri Kelly, Heather’s 62-year-old mother.
Teri, a nurse who described herself as an old hippie, was already envisioning her daughter’s special day. “We’re going to have the smoking room be outside, off to the side so it’s not in your face,” she mused. “The flowers will have fresh cannabis in them …”
“I think it will be magical,” Teri beamed. “I really do.” –Matt Haber
Matt Haber is an Oakland freelance writer.