High Country: Cannabis-friendly weddings are trending, but not yet in Aspen

Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in San Francisco.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

Believe it or not, I still have yet to attend an official cannabis wedding — one where the couple consciously plans their event to incorporate a different kind of flower into the celebration. I have, however, partaken in plenty of secret smoke sessions with fellow cannabis- friendly guests that usually involve sneaking off somewhere out of sight.

The term “cannabis wedding” surfaced early on in the post- legalization era with the launch of the Cannabis Wedding Expo (CWE) in 2015. Co-founded by Colorado-based cannabis hospitality pioneer Philip Wolf, CWE kicked off its business-to-consumer showcase in Denver and has expanded over the past six years to also include annual events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and Toronto.

As the first-of-its-kind convention dedicated to cannabis weddings, CWE offers an all-encompassing environment for cannabis-centric couples, event producers and industry professionals to discover how to elegantly plan nuptials around a love for the plant.

Making headlines in the likes of Brides, The Guardian, Fortune, The New York Times and Vogue ever since, the popularity of cannabis weddings has continued to rise — especially as more states legalize marijuana for adult use. But one place where the trend still hasn’t caught on? Aspen.

With a busier-than-ever return of summer weddings, I set out to inquire if any area wedding planners had ever received requests from couples who wanted cannabis to be a part of their big day and how they included it into the ceremony and/or soirée. A polite “no” from each of the powerhouse party producers at EKS Events, Bluebird Productions, Gold Leaf Events and J.Lemons Events genuinely surprised me. This is Aspen, after all, where weed literally flows like wine.

“We’ve never been asked to do one, so we’ve never planned (around) cannabis,” shared EKS Events owner and founder Elizabeth Slossberg. “But we are obviously open to it — we would be happy to explore anything unique, unusual and special for our brides and grooms as long as it’s legal, of course.”

Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in San Francisco.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

Despite the legality of cannabis in Colorado since 2014, little progress has been made when it comes to legislation surrounding social use (plus, it’s illegal to consume in public in Pitkin County), so finding a venue that allows it is a challenge. As with any cannabis-friendly event (think unaffiliated festivities during X Games and Food & Wine), the standard workaround is through a full buyout or by booking a private home. And arguably the most coveted venue of all — atop Aspen Mountain — is completely off limits due to the fact that the Sundeck occupies federal land as part of the White River National Forest.

“When cannabis is legalized federally, we will obviously see an even bigger boom in cannabis weddings because every state — depending on the state’s adaptation of the laws — will suddenly be open to them,” explained Wolf, who secured The Knot as a CWE sponsor in 2020. “One barrier that will be broken down and will accelerate this trend is that venues will (have to be) OK with permitting cannabis on site. But until then, even in legal states, venues are hesitant to allow cannabis because of federal law and strict insurance policies.”

I was able to track down one event planner who does have experience in planning cannabis events. Allison Welch, principal of As You Wish Colorado, works with “canna couples” to incorporate everything from weed bars to curated cannabis gift bags to bud bouquets into destination wedding weekends.

Her Denver-based company, the preferred wedding planner for the Viceroy Snowmass, among other local partners, has planned close to a dozen cannabis-friendly events across the state so far.

The post-COVID Cannabis Wedding Expo schedule of events resumes next month in Las Vegas.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

“It’s much more of a commonality than I ever thought it would be,” said Welch, who includes cannabis on her standard checklist of vendor offerings for new clients. “I classify it as entertainment, like a photo booth or cigar rolling station — instead maybe it’s for joints. And I would say (cannabis) is a much better alternative for a lot of people than doing shots all night at a wedding at elevation, which can clearly cause quite the hangover the next day. It’s very exciting to see (cannabis) becoming normalized.”

Welch also credits cannabis for contributing to “a more chill, laid-back vibe” compared to only offering alcohol. As legalization and acceptance spreads, it’s inevitable that a cannabis bar will become just as commonplace as an open bar with a curated selection of pre-rolls, edibles and disposable vaporizers.

“One of the biggest evolutions I’ve seen over the past six years is the beautification of the plant and consumption methods,” Wolf added. “The rise of cannabis beverages and devices has given people more options that feel approachable for new consumers. Also, artists and brands have done an amazing job creating stunning accouterments, making the pot leaf look more like a high-end fashion statement as opposed to a scary drug, which means having cannabis present at a wedding can be done tastefully and beautifully.”