Lead image via MJ News x Shutterstock

The Lionsgate Event Center in Lafayette, Colorado, where the third annual Cannabis Wedding Expo took place on a recent weekend in late January, is a fun and funky space.

The center's previous life as a dairy farm is evident from the outside, thanks to the sturdy former barns and farmhouse on the grounds. As guests arrived at the locale, there were even a dozen or so chickens running around among the three main buildings that are currently situated on the compound.

But once inside, guests found themselves in a different world: rooms with lovely scents and smells, live music, balloons, tent-like panels hanging from the ceilings. The products for sale were, on the whole, just like those to be found at a mainstream wedding expo — but with a twist.

Much of the jewelry on display featured delicate cannabis leaves. Items for wedding gift baskets featured lotions and balms made with soothing cannabidiols, while samples of foods and sweets available to order could be infused with THC, CBD, or both. Sunlight bounced off crystal chandeliers and antique stained-glass windows, adding an ebullient tint to the environment, where several hundred attendees interacted with the 60 or so vendors, sampled wedding wares, and took in the atmosphere.

There was a definite sense of giddiness in the air, and it wasn't just the celebratory nature that comes hand-and-hand with weddings. Everywhere, people were talking about and handling cannabis products specifically tailored to enhance a milestone life event. Since the expo was open to the adult public, cannabis was allowed to be displayed but not consumed. Still, that didn't stop people from becoming very vocal about their love of the plant and its potential to making a major moment like a wedding even more memorable.

The Cannabis Wedding Expo debuted in Denver in 2016 and expanded to San Francisco last year. There are other Cannabis Wedding Expo events scheduled in San Francisco later this month and another scheduled for Los Angeles in March.

Bec Koop, the expo's co-founder and co-owner, was everywhere at the one-day event in Colorado: chatting up guests, meeting with the vendors, and ensuring that everyone was engaged and enjoying the environment. These expos, she said, allow couples who are looking to incorporate cannabis into their nuptials to meet with both specialty cannabis businesses and progressive-yet-traditional wedding vendors.

As a veteran of the mainstream wedding industry, Koop said she's personally witnessed how cannabis-themed weddings have become much more acceptable over the past several years, with more and more people in canna-legal states celebrating matrimony with the added help of marijuana.

"There are a multitude of ways to do it that are discreet, without offending any of your guests," Koop told MERRY JANE. "A lot more people are becoming loud and proud [of their cannabis use] because they enjoy it in their daily lives. They're not going to be denied on their wedding day, especially when now they know they can enjoy it during their wedding day festivities."

Her thought was echoed by some of the future brides and grooms at the event, too.

"If you want to do it, do it," said Melanie Dilanian of organizing a weed wedding. She was at the expo with her fiancé, Walid Zabadne. "Have no shame in it. Our world is evolving and unless you're evolving with it, nobody else will. The more we accept it, the more accepted it becomes."

"We are in a new age and time," added Walid. "Things are much different than how it used to be. And it's amazing to be able to do this now."

The couple, both 24-years-old, works in the legal cannabis industry and met while sharing a blunt at a music festival. "We want to incorporate one of the most important days of our lives with something that's founded a career for us, something that brought us together," said Dilanian.

Tiffany Thomas, a 32-year-old bartender who relocated to Denver from Houston with her fiancé, also wants to celebrate the couple's love of cannabis as part of their upcoming wedding day.

"It's become such a known thing now, it's not like it was back in the day," she said. "It was so hush-hush. Now you can use it in your wedding cake, you can do food, you can do honey, you can do everything. So why not incorporate it?"

Thomas was considering gift bags filled with vape pens and infused products for her wedding guests. She said she came to the expo to look for inspiration and ideas.

"It's one of the only ways you're going to find all of the good stuff, get some good deals, and meet and network with good people," she told MERRY JANE.

A High Vibe Bride gown, photo courtesy of the Cannabis Wedding Expo

One of the vendors, Janay A., owner and designer at High Vibe Bride, had come all the way from Kansas City to exhibit her custom-made, eco-friendly gowns, hairpieces, and accessories at the expo. This was her fourth time attending a cannabis-themed wedding expo, and her business is also scheduled to have displays at this year's San Francisco and Los Angeles events.

At the Colorado event, Janay's booth featured models in her cannabis-accented wedding dresses, complete with bouquets containing cannabis buds among the other flowers. While the models strutted their ganja gowns through the expo's various halls, Janay was busy explaining to a steady stream of passers-by how she uses hemp and organic fabrics in her designs.

High Vibe Bride makes about 15 to 20 gowns per year for customers all over the U.S. Janay said she's seeing more of her clients incorporating cannabis patterns in their wedding dresses than in the past, too

"It's still very much of an emerging market," she told MERRY JANE. "Generally I keep it more subtle, so the fabric is hemp but then maybe there's some embroidery that's very [lowkey so] that your grandmother will be like, Oh, how beautiful, look at those beautiful maple leaves on your gown!"

Photo of A Design Resource's booth at the Cannabis Wedding Expo

Bec Koop said that close to half of the vendors had returned from last year's event.

"That's because of the clientele they're meeting," she noted, "and because of the experience and exposure to not only people who are getting married but also to the cannabis industry. From a vendor perspective, it's really good on the [business-to-business] side, linking with other like-minded folks and obviously the brides."

Koop also runs Irie Weddings and Events, which caters to those looking to add cannabis to their special day. As cannabis-centric wedding planners, the company helps clients find cannabis-friendly wedding venues and organize food caterers, florists, bud-tenders, and other pot-related businesses to ensure the wedding remains safe, happy, and elevated. They even have an elopement package.

Last year, Irie helped plan ten cannabis-themed weddings in Colorado's High Country. This year, Koop said her company has already have booked 15 such events for the upcoming summer months, though she's expecting even more.

According to Koop, there's another growing trend underway: cannabis enthusiasts who are not only booking pot-themed weddings and receptions, but also working to keep the buzz going after the nuptials and well into their honeymoons, including at retreats outside the U.S.

Mexico's tourism minister recently floated the idea of fully legalizing adult-use cannabis at two of the country's major tourist locations. "It's absurd that we're not taking this step as a country," he told reporters at a press conference late last month.

And Irie is developing a business relationship with the Coral Cove Cannabis Health and Wellness resort and spa in Jamaica for the 420-friendly honeymoons. According to Keiko Beatie, Coral Cove's director of education and programs, the all-inclusive resort has a licensing agreement with Jamaica's Rastafarian Church to carry out weddings, too. It also has government approval to allow cannabis consumption anywhere on the grounds. Guests are even greeted with a welcome basket of about six different strains of cannabis, including rolling papers.

"You can take that back to your room, smoke on your patio, smoke while kayaking," Beatie told MERRY JANE over the phone. "I've seen people's eyes light up with delight and excitement," she added, "and want to know how soon they can get a ticket there. The response has been overwhelming."

A weeklong, all-inclusive package starts at around $5,000 per couple.

Beatie says she's encouraged by the growing interest in cannabis-friendly honeymoons. "The acceptance, the expansion of the culture is coming out to the mainstream and normalizing it. If people can drink cocktails on their honeymoon, why can't they elevate with cannabis? And of course cannabis is a natural aphrodisiac, as well. Who doesn't want a bit more intimacy on their honeymoon?"

Back in Colorado, as guests began to drift away from the Cannabis Wedding Expo, Bec Koop suggested chatting with a couple who'd already experienced a cannabis-themed wedding.

Emmy Pugliese and Marius Donohue of Fort Collins, Colorado were married at Lionsgate this past October, but had been planning their wedding for nearly two years. And as cannabis consumers, they wanted to ensure their love for pot was part of the big day.

Like most nuptials, Emmy and Marius articulated that the key to a successful weed wedding is advanced planning.

"When we made the announcement in the invites, I mentioned there would be a cannabis bar and consumption," Emmy told MERRY JANE. "So I asked there be no children at the wedding."

With the assistance of cannabis-experienced caterers, the couple purchased about three ounces of flower, which was broken down into three different strains with relatively low THC potency, to be distributed at their reception for about 90 people.

"We wanted [the cannabis] to be kind of uplifting, not heavy," she said of her strain selection. "The ones you want to dance to, a little lighter, with more CBD."

They also suggested that attendees who wanted to imbibe should first consult with the catering staff, especially if they were new to cannabis consumption. The couple even created a curtained-off area outside the reception hall where people could smoke without feeling like they were under surveillance.

"I feel like everybody had more fun," Emmy said. "We had an open bar, as well, but we had a lot of people smoking outside. Every time we looked outside, there would be at least 20 people smoking."

Photo courtesy of the Cannabis Wedding Expo

What stood out at the Cannabis Wedding Expo – and what made it different from other, similar events — was the evident affection that many of the vendors there had for cannabis.

"I've been a weed warrior since 2008. I will do whatever this plant wants me to do. I believe in it," said Marissa Torrieri, the owner of High Style Accessories, which creates "ganja garters," "high ties," and other custom cannabis wedding accessories.

"These are my people," said High Vibe Bride's Janay A. "These are people I want to be serving, that I want to work with be friends with. They're who I want to have in my life every day."

For more on the Cannabis Wedding Expo, visit the company's website here