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Credit: Carla Steham

Getting Married With Mary Jane

Everything to know about planning a cannabis wedding, from where to set up your “cannabar” to keeping your grandparents happy.

When Niki McDonald tied the knot at a New Jersey country club in 2013, there was plenty of booze and an outdoor cigar bar, but no cannabis in sight.

“Had I only known that legalization was on the way, I would have been a lot more daring,” McDonald says.

For one thing, she wishes she had turned to pot to soothe her pre-ceremony jitters.

“Knowing what I know now, cannabis would have been the perfect solution,” she says.

The following year, McDonald, a documentary producer and director, was sent to Colorado to create a six-episode series for MSNBC titled, Pot Barons of Colorado. She was so taken by the budding legal weed industry that on July 4, 2015 — her two-year wedding anniversary — she launched the cannabis wedding planning website LoveandMarij.com.

Like a ganja-twist on TheKnot.com, McDonald’s site connects users (who number around 10,000 per month) with cannabis-focused and cannabis-friendly wedding vendors, like florists, caterers, officiants, and photographers.

As legalization opens the doors to new possibilities, McDonald says couples are beginning to incorporate cannabis into their celebrations in a variety of ways. The most popular means is a cannabis bar — aka a “budbar” or “cannabar” — where a helpful budtender serves a menu of thoughtfully curated strains and products. Other lovebirds work buds into their floral arrangements, serve cannabis-infused foods, or take ceremonial tokes.

McDonald’s job, as she sees it, is to help couples realize these green dreams while navigating the laws and obstacles surrounding them. Later this month, McDonald will travel to San Francisco for the first-annual San Francisco Cannabis Wedding Expo at Westfield San Francisco Centre on Sunday, April 30.

Although recreational weed is bigger in Colorado, where it was legalized in January 2014, McDonald expects California’s demand for cannabis weddings to soon take the lead. Here’s what you need to know about this new trend.

SF Evergreen: First things first, what is a cannabis wedding?

Niki McDonald: A cannabis wedding is just like any other wedding, the major difference being that guests don’t have to sneak out and miss their favorite songs to recreate with cannabis — they’re a welcome part of the party. Aside from the budtender welcoming you to a fully stocked cannabar with flowers, edibles, vape pens, or topicals, you might also notice that grandma might be in a jollier mood and a few more people are out on the dance floor.

SFE: How popular would you say they are in Colorado, and do you expect the same to happen in the Golden State?

NM: While the demand for cannabis weddings is on the rise in Colorado, the practice of cannabis at weddings has been a slow climb. The biggest barrier to entry is within the wedding industry: Many vendors fear the legalities of working with cannabis. … Given that cannabis has been a large part of the California culture for decades, I anticipate that California’s cannabis wedding market will surpass Colorado’s in no time. We’ve seen a great demand for cannabis weddings coming out of the Bay Area through the last year, with many wedding vendors wanting to jump on board our site’s listings.

SFE: Why did you feel it was important to create a space dedicated to connecting cannabis vendors and couples?

NM: When I started two years ago, I read an article on TheKnot.com that interviewed three couples who were planning on having legal cannabis at their wedding. When I followed up with them for photos of their cannabis weddings, I was told they were ultimately unable to bring in cannabis because their venues wouldn’t allow it. I know dispensary owners and prominent members of the cannabis community who have a strong passion for a cannabis bar, but struggle to find wedding vendors that feel comfortable honoring their requests.

Love and Marij was created to make cannabis wedding planning easy. If you want cannabis at your wedding, you can start by looking at vendors who are happy to work with you. We also spend a great amount of time trying to educate vendors on cannabis to change the stigma and entice more wedding vendors to open their doors to cannabis.

SFE: How is the Cannabis Wedding Expo helping with that?

NM: The CWE is an incredible opportunity to showcase the elegance of cannabis weddings. We’re changing the stigma of cannabis by putting on a high-class event and inviting the world to see how cannabis pairs well with class.

SFE: Speaking of high-class, your site’s tagline is “Cannabis is the new Champagne.” Can you explain that?

NM: While people regard Champagne as the classiest way to toast a celebratory occasion, we believe that cannabis is classier. Unlike alcohol, cannabis can allow you to stay in the moment, appreciate the magnitude of the occasion, and spark insightful conversations that you can smile about the next morning.

SFE: A pair of cannabis-lovers gets engaged. What their first step?

NM: After toasting or toking to celebrate the moment with your fiancé, family, and friends, the first step in ensuring you can serve a cannabar at your wedding is to lock down a cannabis-friendly venue. While the Bay Area’s laws are yet to be clearly defined, the best places to look are places without a liquor license, so that you can bring your own alcohol and cannabis to the venue. If the venue you have your heart set on has a liquor license, see if they’ll let you station a limo or bus with tinted windows in the parking lot so that you can set up a cannabis station there. Most people rent a limo or bus to transport themselves or their guests to and from the wedding, so why not make good use of your transportation during the event?

SFE: What is most important for couples to know when planning a cannabis wedding?

NM: To avoid any trouble, it’s important to stay in compliance with all laws. The couple should buy all cannabis — possibly over a few different trips to dispensaries — and then gift it to their florists, budtenders, caterers, etc., who can then gift that cannabis to the guests. Vendors cannot charge for sale of cannabis or cannabis services to the wedding-goers without a license to sell cannabis. Staying in compliance with legal possession limits is essential, as well. Check your local laws for legal limits, and, if need be, split the cannabis up between multiple people to bring over to the venue. Also, when choosing a cannabis menu, consider the experience level of all of your guests and go for quality of cannabis over quantity. If you have any first timers, make sure to select some high-CBD, low-THC strains to get them warmed up.

SFE: Should couples be worried about how grandma is going to react?

NM: It’s important to take all guests’ desires and experience levels into consideration when serving cannabis. If there are some guests who might not be down with cannabis or have jobs where they are subject to drug testing, we recommend that the party hosts station their cannabar in a private outdoor area [that is] roped off for medicinal card holders or those who are 21 and over. We can’t stress the importance of hiring an experienced budtender to safely gift an appropriate amount of cannabis to each guest.

As for grandma, most couples are shocked to find that the people who they thought would fear the cannabar are the first ones in line. If grandma’s not a big drinker, taking a hit or two of a high-CBD strain or even wearing a transdermal CBD or CBN patch can take away any joint pain to get her dancing. You might also see some extra giggles from your grandparents and be surprised at who winds up bringing the party to life.

The San Francisco Cannabis Wedding ExpoSunday, April 30, at Westfield San Francisco Centre Level 4, 845 Market St. cannabisweddingexpo.com.