I toke thee to be my wife: inside a cannabis wedding in California
From a pot sommelier to cannabis buds in the bouquets, Zak Walton and Dani Geen’s ceremony was not Carmel’s typical nuptials
It was a picture postcard California beach wedding. The bride wore white. The Pacific Ocean lapped at the altar. The violinist played Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love.
Then, upon being declared husband and wife, Zak Walton and Dani Geen inclined their heads, puckered their lips, closed their eyes and took long, deep puffs of potent cannabis.
A table by the altar had all the accoutrements: pots of cannabis concentrate, a torch lighter to heat it up, and glass vessels known as rigs, through which they inhaled the vapour.
The family and friends sat before them minded not a bit. This, after all, was a weed wedding and most of them had also ingested.
Melissa Cunningham, the wedding planner, said: “The psychic effect you get from it is very calming. Dani and Zak want to be on the same spectrum going into their matrimony.”
Dani Geen and Zak Walton raise their glasses to years of weeded bliss and check out their rings. Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian
Everybody seemed to be on the same spectrum during the ceremony on Thursday at Stewart’s Cove, a bucolic beach near Carmel, south of San Francisco.
Walton, 30, savouring his first minutes of married life with a joint alongside bridesmaids and groomsmen, all smoking, said: “I’m feeling good. Nice and relaxed, medicated.”
What had he consumed so far? “I had some dabs at the hotel, a joint, some edibles. Not too much, not too little,” he said.
It was all legal: the cannabis buds in the bouquet and floral arrangements, the goody bags with joints and cannabis vapes, the cannabis-infused munchies (“handcrafted to melt in your mind”) and the dab bar at the reception in nearby Monterey, where a pot sommelier in a three-piece suit offered guests different ways to get lightly, blissfully stoned.
California voters approved recreational marijuana last November, a landmark victory in the fight for legalisation that has paved the way for the largest commercial pot market in the US.
The smartly dressed weed sommelier presides over the dab bar at the reception venue in Monterey. Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian
Activists and entrepreneurs have found ways to “weedify” multiple products and services, including weddings.
It was news to the catering guys setting up chairs on the beach before the ceremony. “A cannabis wedding, really?” said one, astonished. “Is it, like, a thing?” asked another.
To evangelists, it’s the future.
Philip Wolf, the co-founder of the Cannabis Wedding Expo, which showcases industry products and services, said: “Down the road, people won’t call it a cannabis wedding, because bud bars will be normalised. Smoking creates a bonding aspect. People did it in ancient times. It enhances conversations.”
Luna Stower, 33, a friend of the bride, said cannabis soothed nerves and made couples more romantic. Stower, the wedding officiant and sales director for a cannabis distribution company, had benefited from munching toffee hours earlier made by a company called Mind Tricks. “It’s very relaxing. An aphrodisiac and a euphoric sedative that lasts a very long time. It has organic sugar so it’s a quality high,” she said.
Cannabis-based snacks, just some of the baked goods on offer, laid out for the soon to be hungry guests. Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian
The high did not addle Stower’s brain. She led the ceremony fluidly, without notes, and made a quip about the the couple loving and honouring each other “till dab do you part”. Dabbing is the term for heating a dose of concentrate on a hot surface and inhaling it through glass.
Cannabis brought the Oakland-based couple together because they started out as smoking buddies, said Walton, who works on cars. “One thing led to another and here we are 12 years later,” he added.
He uses the herb to ease backache and Geen, 31, uses it for fibromyalgia, tumours and other conditions. “Cannabis has been my medicine and my saviour,” she said. Not to mention her employer: she works for Harborside Health Center, a medical cannabis dispensary.
She wanted her wedding to show that cannabis could be classy – integrated into decor and menus, with the reception hosted at Monterey’s Victorian-era Perry House – and safe, with controls to keep it away from children.
Geen laughed off the stereotype of zonked stoners, saying certain strains of pot sharpened concentration. “I’m going to remember my night better than someone who has had a lot of alcohol,” she said.
Steve DeAngelo, her boss and guest, agreed, citing Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as evidence that weed did not engender low functionality.
A bridesmaid holds a bouquet containing cannabis buds. Some guests said the weed helped de-stress them. Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian
The drug also did wonders for intimacy, he said. “It opens you to more sensual experiences. It allows men, especially young men, to match their sexual rhythm to a woman’s rhythm,” DeAngelo added.
Geen reckoned that about 60 of the 70 guests were using cannabis.
Some were exultant, like David Nevitt, 34, who dabbed, munched, vaped and toked. “We’re at a weeding! Usually at weddings you have to be discreet, do it in the car park. Doing it here right in front of everybody, it feels revolutionary,” he said.
Others were grateful. Holly Alberti, 34, said: “I’ve taken several concentrated dabs and I could use some more. The ride over was quite stressful, we got lost.”
And some, including a pair of college professors, were coy, saying they might partake. They declined to give their names lest Google for ever link them to pot.
The groom’s mother, Aurea Walton, 55, was one of the few to opt out. “I’m Catholic,” she said. “So no, I won’t partake.” Then she smiled. “Unless it’s by mistake.”