The bride and groom stand in front of a small gathering of guests in the backyard of a house that was once owned by Frank Sinatra, the San Fernando Valley extends below them as the wedding celebrant invites the couple to kiss. Jeff Baleja bends to embrace his new wife, Serena, while her friends and family members applaud, then she reaches into her left pocket to retrieve a small container.
"Now you can smoke with the girlfriend," says the celebrant, while the groom takes out two huge joints. Jeff and Serena light them from the same flame provided by the celebrant and inhale deeply, the California sun begins to get behind them.
Your shared marijuana marijuana is not the only time the plant emerges during the wedding; Cannabis is, in fact, a central theme of the day. The groom is a marijuana chef who is starting a company to produce vegan popsicles infused with cannabis, and the wedding is dotted with grass, from the decor to the food and recreational offers available.
Serena's bouquet and Jeff's boutonniere have marijuana leaves, and guests are invited to try a variety of treats infused with herbs; the tables managed by & # 39; budtenders & # 39; They show rolled joints, groceries, cartridges and other options. Even the chocolate fountain is impregnated with cannabis, and many of the almost 40 guests participate.
Jeff, 29, and Serena, 27, say that cannabis use has been fundamental to their relationship, and that they could not imagine their big day without him. And they are not alone; As more and more states legalize marijuana, the demand for marijuana at weddings is increasing.
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The native of London Serena Bhatia, of 27 years, married the Californian Jeff Baleja, of 29 years, in the old house of Frank Sinatra with views to the valley of San Fernando to the outskirts of Los Angeles on Wednesday
The couple, regular cannabis users, decided they wanted to incorporate marijuana on their special day, offering guests a variety of ways to participate and set up stations around the property managed by & # 39; budtenders & # 39 ;.
Jeff tells DailyMail.com: "It's very important that we share cannabis together and our guests … It's just a moment of union; it's very important."
The boyfriend is a marijuana chef who is starting a business that sells vegan tarts infused with herbs; wedding guests also had the option to enjoy meals with marijuana infusion
"It's very important that we share cannabis together and our guests," Jeff tells DailyMail.com at the reception. It's just a moment of union; It's very important. & # 39;
He adds: & # 39; Everyone is having a great time & # 39;
"I think cannabis spreads a lot of happiness, and you can see it when you look at the wedding," says his new girlfriend, with a calm smile.
Jeff's native California is one of nine states that legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana; It is legal for medical purposes in 21 other people. The demand for cannabis celebrations first emerged in Colorado's pioneering state a few years ago, prompting an entrepreneur, Bec Koop, not only to adapt his floral business to the demand but also to start a cannabis wedding exhibition that now it is California and Nevada.
He came up with the idea for the event, she says, "for the fact that they rejected me from a traditional exhibition."
She tells DailyMail.com: "I had a traditional exhibit tell me: & # 39; Of course, no demons. I had another to say: "Sure, but we're going to charge double, even for the price listed on the website." And then there was another who told me we could only bring pictures of what we do; we could not even bring a bouquet that had cannabis or anything like that, even if it was fake cannabis [if] It was too much like the real deal. "
She says she joked with another marijuana entrepreneur, Philip Wolf, that they should start their own exposure. The joke became reality, and the exhibition debuted in Denver in 2016 with around 25 vendors; by the second year, that number had tripled.
The event expanded to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, and next year, the fourth year of the exhibition, will include Las Vegas.
One of the vendors earlier this year in Los Angeles was Ohio native Jamie Lee McCormick, who grew up surrounded by flowers at his mother's store in Ohio. He started his own business in California, The Flower Daddy, and specializes in cannabis weddings, and was hired by Serena and Jeff to plan a dizzying wedding after their commitment more than six weeks ago.
"We always smoke together and have been involved in this growing industry here, and it's like, why do not you want to smoke at your wedding?" Says Serena, a London native who works in social media marketing. "We never really imagined a wedding without this because of how involved it is in our lives and how often we participate.
"So it felt very natural … now it's legal, why would not we have a marijuana bar next to our usual bar? And as soon as I discovered that this is something plausible that could happen, I wanted to run with it."
He looked for a wedding planner who "had experience in finding a place and all the details and legalities" of such an event, making do with The Flower Daddy.
"I've always been a great advocate of cannabis and more a user, and I've always been a great connoisseur of cannabis and I've always wanted to keep it legal," McCormick tells Dailymail.com, adding, "It's part of my life; I use it for anxiety, I use it for energy, I'm a great motivation buff. "
The couple met three years ago at a music festival and has been "inseparable" & # 39; since then; Jeff proposed at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles a little over six weeks ago
Jeff and Serena married a friend; After kissing, the celebrant said: "Now you can smoke with the bride, and the boyfriend took two unions out of his pocket that the couple lit with the same flame of a lighter held by the officiant."
Professionals within the marijuana community say they have seen an increase in demand for cannabis-themed weddings, such as the celebration launched by Jeff and Serena, pictured above; Bec Koop, based in Colorado, who started a cannabis wedding show in 2016, says salespeople tripled in number in the second year of the event
Jeff and Serena hired wedding planner Jamie McCormick, who has a business called The Flower Daddy, to organize his event; He says he wants to combat the stigma surrounding marijuana use and wants an articulation to be like a bottle of Bud Light in a bar & # 39;
He worked in the restaurant and events industry before starting his business.
"I always wanted to unite the two, and there was this stigma, so I wanted to break that stigma … you know, the social part of that, what comes with cannabis and grass, and then I wanted to break those barriers; I wanted to break those walls, I want to change it, I want a joint to be like a bottle of Bud Light in a bar.
He originated the place for the wedding of Jeff and Serena; Despite the legality of marijuana, many places are not willing to organize events that include cannabis use. In Colorado, however, Koop has already seen that change, fast.
"At first, it was about one in 10 open-minded places about cannabis weddings" in the state, says Koop, who is co-director of Irie Weddings & Events, tells DailyMail.com. & # 39; It's a completely different thing. We passed four years ago, literally having, I would say, eight places with which we could work; Now we are only 60 places in Colorado that are friendly with cannabis.
"Half the time, it's just having the right conversations with the owners of the place to convince them," hey, if you reject this business, someone else gets your money. Number two, it is not your right to choose how you want to consume or enjoy your night; it's theirs. And the number three, half the time, if they are consuming, it is likely that they are not as noisy and drunk as they would be if it were a wedding with only alcohol, so it actually decreases the total cost of alcohol. , besides keeping people a little more sane, whether you believe it or not. "
She explains: "What we do is regulate the way cannabis is used and its potency. We suggest our clients to buy very specific strains to establish specific beginnings and feelings.
"We can literally orchestrate a full night based on cannabis varieties, we can make you talkative and smiling at first, we can have your mouth salivating as the food comes out, and then we can get ready for the dance party and then we can prepare for that night of cap to go home and relax.
McCormick's Flower Daddy offers different packages from which couples can choose and choose; for an upcoming wedding, he says, he will simply establish an edible table.
"With Serena and Jeff, they got the whole package, because we're doing everything," he says. & # 39; Everything is going to be cannabis & # 39;
Koop tells DailyMail.com that his business has quadrupled: he swears it has increased by 420 percent, a synchronistic nod to the day of weeds & # 39; April 20, and has realized that the plant is increasingly accepted socially.
"I think a trend has passed, I think it has become a tradition," she says. "There are many ways in which people incorporate it into their ceremonies, as part of their sacrament and their unity.
"I would say that one of the biggest turning points … was when last year some clients hired us and did not consume personally, but they wanted their guests to have the Colorado experience." They then reserved us the fact that they were open enough, they thought: "Well, we will spend extra money on this because everybody wants to know, everyone has questions, we can not answer all the questions about grass because only we live in Colorado" … that was a really big turning point that made it seem that the trend had already passed.
& # 39; What we are seeing is [at] Every wedding, we have consumers for the first time. We have not worked at a wedding in which we have not had a person try it for the first time … Two weeks ago, we had nine consumers for the first time at a wedding, which was one of our highest numbers, actually , by consumers for the first time. & # 39;
Serena, who works in social media marketing, tells DailyMail.com: "It's a nice feeling to have, to be buzzed and to be in love."
Serena says that the cannabis industry "is huge" and that "even this moment is huge, it's like lifting the ban on alcohol … I can see where people's fears come from, but it's literally exactly the same way that the fears of the people were with the legalization of alcohol: Oh, we're going to have more drunks, and it's like, no, you're not going to have more drug addicts, people who like stone always go to the stone, and people who like to drink are always going to drink. "
At the reception of her wedding, Serena says: "I think that cannabis extends a lot of happiness, and you can see it when you look at the wedding."
Bec Koop, who runs the business, Irie Weddings & Events, based in Colorado, says she believes that the increase in cannabis-themed weddings is "a past trend, I think it has become a tradition." There are many ways in which people incorporate it into their ceremonies, as part of their sacrament and their unity & # 39;
Koop tells DailyMail.com: "I would say one of the biggest turning points … was when last year we were booked by customers who do not personally consume … that was a really big turning point that made it look like it was last the trend & # 39;
For the wedding of Jeff and Serena, they made explicit in their invitations that the celebration would focus mainly on marijuana, without any negative reaction, even from older relatives.
His mother, she says, "was very open to that."
"She said I can celebrate any way I want," Serena tells DailyMail.com. "She asked me: is it safe?" And I think that is the biggest concern of all: is it safe? And I always say, of course I do. There will always be people who will attend the wedding to guide people and talk about doses and things like that.
"Again, even with the comparison of alcohol, alcohol can also be very insecure in many situations, and I think it should look the same way, they are things that you would not do while you drank, do not do them while you are drugged."
The new bride says: "I think the whole industry, as it is, is huge. I think even this moment is huge; it's like lifting the alcohol ban … I can see where people's fears come from, but it's literally exactly the same way that people's fears were with the legalization of alcohol: Oh, we're going to have more drunk And it's like, no, you're not going to have more drug addicts.
"People who like stone are always going to stone, and people who like to drink are always going to drink, I'd love to go to a bar in Los Angeles and it's a smoking room where you can order from the bar as you would normally do with a drink and just select what kind of tension you want and just sit with friends and socialize and have a good time. & # 39;
That was undoubtedly the atmosphere at their own wedding, and both Serena and Jeff smiled all night, most of the time with a joint in their hand while they had fun and danced with their family and friends.
The bride sums it up like this: "It's a nice feeling to have, to be buzzed and to be in love."