Cannabis becomes wedding mainstream
May 31, 2016
Over the past few years, Rachael Carlevale has had a secret fantasy for her wedding day. With a degree in plant medicine and a relationship with cannabis, she dreamt of adding a little extra green to her bouquet — along with cannabis plant centerpieces that guests could pick off and smoke.
It used to be what she thought of as a joke, but, in August, her nontraditional wedding fantasies will come true: Budtenders will be on hand to give advice about strains, her bouquet will be sprinkled with the sticky flower and a teepee will give guests an area to indulge.
As marijuana slowly starts to become more accepted socially, cannabis weddings in Colorado are on the rise. Rather than having small groups of guests break away from the wedding to smoke in secret, couples that imbibe can now bring it to the forefront, giving guests the opportunity to partake with their friends and relatives while sharing in their big day.
For Carlevale and her future husband, Mathieu Davenport, however, it's a whole lot more than just enjoying the recreational use of the plant.
A healing tool
Five years ago, the Evergreen resident was fighting for her life after a uterine tumor landed her in the hospital. At only 23, she balked at the doctors' recommendation to give her an emergency hysterectomy, instead turning to alternative therapies to combat the illness.
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The now 28-year-old credits cannabis plant medicine as having a prominent role in her healing process and continues to incorporate CBD oil into her regimen to keep the tumor from again becoming inflamed, along with using edibles to help ease the pain she feels during her menstrual cycle.
"I was very, very sick at the time," Carlevale said. "I had to be fed by IVs, I was in the hospital, I was on bed rest. I was barely alive. So now, I'm completely thriving and living life to the fullest."
When the couple first started using cannabis as part of her treatment, they found that marijuana growers were using pesticides and fungicides that actually caused cancer, as well as using cancer-causing agents to extract CBD oil. Her illness sparked Davenport to begin cultivating regenerative cannabis grown using the no-till method.
"He was able to create medicine that was very clean and safe," Carlevale said. "And we were able to shrink my tumor over 20 millimeters."
Davenport, 31, is now a certified permaculturist and runs his own consulting business, Permalos Cannabis Consulting, to help others grow using these principles.
Their story is why the couple was chosen as winners of a cannabis wedding contest offered by loveandmarij.com, a website that assists those looking for cannabis-friendly services and providers for their wedding. The website offers suggestions on outlets for lodging, venues, florists, catering, photographers, DJs, limos and more in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, with hints of Alaska coming soon.
After seven years together, they will have their cannabis wedding on Aug. 27, 2016 at a private estate in Steamboat Springs, with the assistance of loveandmarij.com and other cannabis-friendly service providers that were part of the contest.
"We are really honored to be selected for this wedding contest, and we really want to help to shift the way people are viewing and utilizing cannabis," Carlevale said.
Help with the planning
When couples plan for their special day, careful thought is put into every detail — food, drinks, decor — and the same planning needs to be done with a cannabis wedding.
Navigating the legalities and hiring 420-friendly companies can be just as daunting when added to all of the other wedding tasks, especially for couples from out of state that may not be as familiar with Colorado laws.
That's where Philip Wolf and Elizabeth "Ebs" Waldmann come in.
Wolf is the founder of Cultivating Spirits, a Summit County company that jumped into luxury cannabis tours soon after legalization. A former grow consultant, he took his knowledge of the marijuana industry and combined it with his experience in event planning for TV and radio to create Cultivating Spirits, and wading into the world of cannabis weddings was just another opportunity for growth.
"At Cultivating Spirits, we offer sophisticated tours and events, and weddings kind of fit into that sophisticated event," he said. "We have the experience in the cannabis industry to guide people through the legalities but also show them how to do it in a fun way — how to bring it up to their parents and their grandparents, how to incorporate as little or as much of cannabis as they want to into their event."
At the end of last summer, he approached wedding planners Waldmann and Johnna Patton, owners of Breckenridge-based Distinctive Mountain Events, with the idea of combining their services for cannabis weddings. Wolf provides the expertise in how to incorporate marijuana, with the wedding planners there to provide the more traditional planning services. Both companies will be assisting in Carlevale and Davenport's Aug. 27 wedding.
"I don't necessarily know weddings," Wolf said. "I don't want to sit in front of a bride and tell them how to plan wedding — even though I know how to plan events and I think I have good ideas. But weddings are a very special day, and Ebs and Johnna are the best at what they do up here in the mountains.
"So I wanted to approach them first to see if they wanted to work with us and take on that aspect, so we can come at it with what I think is the best cannabis expert and the best wedding experts. We come as a package, and we can create a magical day for somebody."
Two summers ago, Waldmann and Patton were hired as wedding planners for a cannabis-friendly wedding at a private ranch north of Silverthorne. The San Francisco couple had two budtenders manning the cannabis bar and offered a separate tent for guests to smoke.
"It was done so well," Waldmann said. "I think every wedding you run into unexpected problems — we wouldn't have a job if there weren't unexpected problems — but as far as the cannabis side, it went really well."
She said the guests were all very accepting of the openness of cannabis consumption, and they didn't run into any problems with it being a part of the day.
After the California couple hired Distinctive Mountain Events, she and Patton realized the potential opportunity of getting into this type of industry, but they weren't quite sure how to proceed.
"I think the cannabis industry is so cutting edge, we wanted to be a part of it," Waldmann said.
But the owners were also worried about how other people would perceive the business if they decided to advertise.
"That's kind of where the partnering came into play," she said. "Johnna and I had discussed doing something like this, but we debated on how to advertise it and reach out to those brides because, in our business, the mom and dad still pay for the wedding. We didn't know if that would deter them from hiring us, even if they didn't want to have cannabis. So when Philip approached us, it was just a natural fit."
It's the small things
Offering cannabis at a wedding does take some logistical planning. Wolf said the first thing he discusses with the couple is how much they want to incorporate cannabis into the wedding. There are many things that go into a cannabis wedding that couples don't necessarily think of: logistics like how to consume the cannabis, being the liaison between the dispensaries and walking them through the legalities.
After that, he said, is finding out more information about the families — how relatives are going to feel about it and how to make sure everyone is comfortable with the way it is incorporated.
Then it comes down to choosing services. Cultivating Spirits will assist couples in picking the right cannabis strains and other cannabis products. Like deciding on the right cake, couples can do pre-wedding cannabis sampling, and Wolf can help suggest proper strain usage. The company can also assist with a bud bar, bringing in knowledgeable budtenders to assist guests, or provide cannabis and food pairings or infused foods to any events.
As for the wedding planners, Waldmann said she makes sure that the vendors they are working with are cannabis friendly, even if it is just something as simple as making sure the hairdresser is fine with the bride smoking in the same room. Then they assist with the normal wedding logistics, aligning the packages they offer with Cultivating Spirits to the ones they offer for traditional weddings.
"As far as planning goes, it really doesn't change," she said. "It's still a wedding at the end of the day."
To be legal, the wedding has to be a private event on private property, and there can't be a charge for any of the cannabis served. As with alcohol, transportation and age verification also come into play, making sure everyone who partakes is 21 and has a way to get back to wherever they are staying without driving if they have been consuming, Wolf said.
Cultivating Spirits does not provide the marijuana but can be the liaison with the purchase. This is particularly helpful for out-of-staters who may not be familiar with dispensaries in the High Country.
"A lot of times, it might not be a complicated situation, but it's the little things that people don't think about," he said. "There are so many small things, especially when you are planning a wedding, and the more you can alleviate those, the better."
Cannabis Wedding Expo
Wolf and Cannabis Concierge Events owner Bec Koop teamed up to throw a marijuana-centered wedding expo in Denver's Santa Fe Arts District in mid-January. The Cannabis Wedding Expo showcased 420-friendly vendors, along with special cannabis-themed offerings, such as her cannabis-infused wedding bouquets, floral arrangements and boutonnieres from her company Buds & Blossoms.
She had been rejected from traditional wedding expos, which is one of the reasons why she wanted to create her own. The expo, which sold out all of its vendor spots, was a testament to the rising popularity of the industry.
"It's something that's growing," Wolf said. "People don't know necessarily that they can incorporate cannabis into their wedding. It's still too taboo for them. We have one wedding that we are doing this summer, but I think every year it's going to grow and grow and grow. From doing the Cannabis Wedding Expo as well, you can tell that with companies. They are doing a handful of them, but they've grown from doing one last year to doing three or four this year."
He said the expo was a great way to bring companies, the press and the community of Denver together in one spot to focus on a budding industry: "That was exposure … that put it on the map, like, 'Hey, this is really legit.'"
He said the sky is the limit when it comes to ideas for a marijuana wedding, from cannabis massages, to live art, to cannabis educational handouts for guests.
"To me, it's all about choices, and, by the services that we are doing, we are providing people with that choice," he said. "If they want to utilize that choice, they can, but they don't have to, and that's what's great about America is that we do have these choices. … It's another option, and it's great to have options in life."
Carlevale believes that her wedding will be an educational experience for her guests, as well.
"I'm hoping they will all have a positive experience and a fun time," she said. "I'm definitely expecting people to get a big educational experience out of this, as well as have a great time."