Inside a Marijuana-Themed Wedding: Family, Festivities at a Booze-Free Night Celebrating a Couple's Love
To most Americans, it was Wednesday. For cannabis enthusiasts everywhere, it was the highest of holidays. For Justice and Cory Schafer, it was the ultimate celebration of love and freedom, both Oregon’s first legal 4/20 and their wedding day.
At a secret location on the Oregon coast, Justice and Cory and their wedding party walked down the aisle to the Camo Cowboy’s “Family Felony.” The piano ballad is an anthem for the culture born of the generations-deep world of illegal marijuana farms that have carved the land between Northern California and Oregon and provided the national black market’s supply of cannabis since the 1960s and '70s. As more states legalize cannabis, this hidden-in-plain-site culture is emerging into the mainstream for the first time. For the Schafers, the time was right to tie the knot and profess their love for each other and for the cannabis plant.
I had never been to a dry wedding. Both my family and friends and my friends’ families and friends love to drink, and they all chalk that up to their heritage, whatever it is. Boozy weddings are gifts that keep on giving. After the party comes the rumors and new favorite stories about hookups, fights, puking and other forms of alcohol-induced public humiliation. The Schafer wedding was the first I have attended where everyone was just, for lack of a better word, “chill.” Guests ate, talked and listened to good music, and everyone went home and woke up the next morning without a hangover.
While most weddings are drowning in booze because it’s legal and weddings are the most socially acceptable venues for intoxication, this wedding replaced all the booze with cannabis.
“We feel like ganja is a way better choice than alcohol. It brings people together, nobody fights and everyone has a good time,” Justice said.
“Besides the fact that people weren’t dancing, it was nice because nobody caused trouble," Justice added. "That was one of my big things—I did not want to have alcohol. I am personally not a drinker and I don’t drink ever. I don’t really like the effects alcohol has on people. Most people don’t remember things or are almost incoherent. They aren’t themselves, they change when they drink alcohol. People that smoke weed, we are just more calm about things.”
Nothing about the 420 wedding was typical, down to the vows. The Schafers' officiant, a close friend, reminded the guests that cannabis is still not federally legal, and in the Schafers' commitment to “share and grow together” they would continue their commitment to normalizing cannabis.
“I am very proud of them for standing up for what they believe in,” said Shannon LaPrade, Justice’s mother.
“When we decided to do this cannabis-themed wedding, it was actually our officiant’s idea to incorporate [activism] into our vows because it is a part of our story and our story is really important to us,” Justice said.
Justice’s family, the LaPrades, are from Eagle, Idaho. Justice is a third-generation grower and many of her family members have grown cannabis. After Justice’s father died of liver cancer, her mother moved to Northern California to grow legally. Justice followed soon after, where she met Cory (whom she calls “Dirt”), who was buying weed from her mom at the time. He asked her out on a date the day they met and they have been together ever since.
Cory had moved to Northern California from Florida about a year earlier. After run-ins with the law and a year and a half in federal prison—all for using or selling cannabis—he chose to live somewhere he could participate in a legal market.
“[Cory] is a felon for weed. There are so many things he can’t do even though he has never been convicted of a violent crime. He has never hurt anyone, he has only sold weed. It affects the rest of his life, it affects the jobs he is able to get and how people look at him,” Justice said.
Although the Schafers live in Oregon, where adult use cannabis is legal, they cannot grow for the legal market because of Cory’s felony. Under most state-legalization laws, felons are prevented from working in the legal industry, even if their only felony is related to buying, selling or growing cannabis.
Today, the Schafers grow cannabis for Oregon’s medical cannabis market. They live and breathe cannabis, so they were both passionate about making the plant the central theme at their wedding. They traveled to Denver earlier in the year to attend the first Cannabis Wedding Expo for ideas. They settled on a Cherry Pie-themed wedding, after Justice’s favorite strain, with nods to Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster after Cory’s favorite strain, Girl Scout Cookies. Justice says they had never seen a fully cannabis-themed wedding done before, although more recently they have heard about similar events in Colorado.
Wedding guests received invitations decorated with buds for a private two-day celebration on the Oregon coast at an unspecified location. When guests arrived, they were all put up in different rental homes, walking distance from the beach. The address of the event was not made public, but shortly before 4:20pm, a stretch limo picked up each of the guests and delivered them to the private venue.
The ceremony itself was intimate, just close friends and family. After the ceremony, guests waited for the wedding party to arrive over cannabis-infused lemonade, fresh seafood cocktails, sliders and cannabis-infused chocolate-dipped strawberries and caramels.
When the bride and groom arrived, the traditional champagne toast was replaced with a ceremonial first dab. The entire party gathered around the bar, which was laid out with multiple strains of buds and dabs and hosted by the Schafers’ favorite dispensary, Apothecaria in Cottage Grove, Ore. The crowd cheered and toasted their non-alcoholic drinks and beverages as the budtenders blow-torched the bowls and served the first dabs.
After the dabs, the newlyweds moved to a giant personalized ice bong on the other side of the room that was carved with a five-fingered leaf and the words “Schafer 2016.” Cameras flashed and the crowd applauded as the bride and groom took turns filling the ice with smoke and inhaling it.
After the first tokes, guests were invited into a large dining hall, each table with its own starter plants as centerpieces and gifts to the guests.
The meal was every stoner’s dream, a three-course extravaganza of indulgence: iceberg wedge salad with fresh local bleu cheese, dried tomatoes and big thick slices of bacon followed by freshly caught crab bisque with legs of Dungeness crab and an entrÃ©e of steak and lobster. After dinner came desert—various gourmet cheeses, fresh fruit, cookies, crÃ¨me brulee, candied bacon and more medicated treats. This was a celebration of food just as much as love or cannabis.
In lieu of a traditional wedding cake were two cakes: one a giant medicated Cookie Monster, and a layered gluten-free coconut flour chocolate cake with white frosting decorated with cannabis leaves and topped with two pristine mini dab-bongs, each with a glass bride and groom etched into the front.
The entertainment, fittingly, was provided by Mendo Dope, a hip-hop collective from Northern California whose lyrics are emblematic of the cultivation culture of the State of Jefferson. By the time the band started to play, a thick layer of smoke coated the ceiling, creating sparkly-smoky illusions through a disco ball onto the walls of the venue.
“Jars in the air if you had a good harvest and the coast is clear, raise up your jar if you’ve had a good year,” Mendo Dope rapped. The musicians and other people in the room toasted mason jars full of buds to the new couple.
Justice says they chose Mendo Dope because they are activists, cultivators and feel strongly about the cannabis culture and the movement that is happening across both the West and the nation.
“Dirt and I have been listening to their music now for years, it pertains to our life. People choose music based on how they feel and what lifestyle they have. Honestly, there is no better music to fit what we do than Mendo Dope,” Justice said. “They grow the dank too and are trying to teach people about weed and give people a better message about it. They express exactly how we feel about the cannabis culture.”
She says it was Mendo Dope’s first weed wedding, and they loved it so much they have already said they would be happy to do more.
“We don’t drink and we don’t promote other drugs,” Mendo Dope said.
Unlike some alcohol-infused weddings, the Schafer wedding was drama-free, except that some of their family chose not to attend because of the theme. Although some of the family didn’t understand, others who aren’t a part of the culture still came and were supportive. Notably, even Uncle Sam showed up.
Uncle Sam works for a major pharmaceutical company and lives in a Midwestern state where cannabis is completely illegal. He said it didn’t matter that the event was cannabis-themed, he came to support Justice and Cory. Although he doesn’t partake, he was proud of them for standing up for what they believe in and was in awe of the open cannabis culture of the region.
The owners of the venue said they enjoyed hosting the wedding and working the private event. However, it is no longer legal for them to host cannabis events, even if they want to, because the state has interpreted Oregon’s Clean Air Act (which protects employees from indoor cigarette smoking) to include smoking and vaporization of cannabis, even at private events. They will not be hosting another weed wedding. The Schafers hope to see Oregon create legislation that fully legalizes events with consumption.
When the party started dying down, everyone walked back to their beach houses, starter plants in hand. After one more morning walk with coffee on the beach, the guests all returned back to reality. Uncle Sam went back to the Midwest and the staff worked to clean the smell of smoke out of the wedding hall.
Under Oregon law, each home with persons over the age of 21 can grow up to four plants at home. I planted my little wedding clone, which came straight from the Schafer garden, on my balcony. In two months, it has grown tremendously and is now about three feet tall and has just begun budding. Like love and relationships, this plant will need nurturing and care. Like the boozy weddings, the cannabis wedding is a gift that will keep on giving, in a more concrete way. When I harvest my buds in the fall, I will toast my jar to the Schafers and the emergence of one of America’s most hidden, yet beloved cultures.