Colorado-based Irie Weddings & Events, formerly known as Cannabis Concierge Events and Buds & Blossoms, has arrived in Boston. Its plan: add “cannabis too” to something borrowed and blue. We caught up with co-founder Madlyne Kelly to learn more about what cannabis is increasingly bringing to the head table.
When and where did you first smoke pot, and what got you into this line of work?
My first time consuming cannabis was on Valentines Day with my then-boyfriend (now husband) on a late-night picnic, listening to Jimmie Hendrix in the middle of a field. Cliche? Totally. But I definitely fell in love with cannabis that night.
I partnered with the amazing Bec Koop in 2016 after working on the medical regulatory side of cannabis for six years. I wanted to work on the recreational side of things and start something completely different, new, and essential to the space.
What’s your preferred old-school cannabis nomenclature and why?
At Irie we definitely prefer to say “cannabis,” but in my personal life I suppose I prefer “herb,” as that implies a pleasant smell and healing properties.
You launched your mobile cannabis bar company five years ago in Denver. Does your elevator pitch change in the rarefied old-money air of Boston? Let’s hear it.
Irie Weddings & Events functions much like mobile bartenders, but on a higher level. Our team of knowledgeable budtenders offers guests a guided cannabis experience. … Irie walks you through the four simple steps to the perfect cannabis bar:
1 – Ensure your venue is cannabis friendly,
2 – Have a quick chat with our booking experts about your big day details,
3 – Purchase the items and quantities our team suggests from a recreational dispensary, and
4 – Provide Irie staff with the cannabis to serve to your guests.
Our highly trained budtenders will answer guests’ burning questions and help them select the perfect cannabis strain. A variety of consumption devices come with each bar, from old-school classics like a mini joint or glass bowl to odor- and smoke-free vaporizers.
Irie has served 10,000-plus guests cannabis over the last five years and takes pride in setting the bar incredibly high for safe serving practices that ensure a stress-free event. Each bar is also equipped with an over-consumption kit in case a guest has an adverse reaction. Each kit contains items that can help a negatively impacted guests return to a comfortable state.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about cannabis or cannabis consumers since you started?
Cannabis is a common denominator for people, and contrary to popular belief in stoner stereotypes, you can’t judge someone’s consumption based on their appearance. It crosses all genders, religions, ethnic origins, and socio-economic backgrounds. It can be polarizing in some families and circles, but more often than not, it brings people together.
Do the weddings you’re hired to budtend also include a traditional open bar?
Ninety-nine percent of the weddings we service include an alcohol bar in addition to the cannabis bar. Our staff works very closely with the bartenders at each wedding or event to ensure we are all on the same page. We also observe guests self-moderating when it comes to mixing cannabis and alcohol. We also cut typical serving sizes of cannabis in half or even quarters to ensure the guests keep coming back if they want more, giving us a chance to monitor for signs of over-consumption or adverse reactions more frequently.
Can you describe how you talk to the client couple about including cannabis in their wedding?
Before the clients book us, we have a free phone consultation to ensure we are the right fit and that their venue allows cannabis consumption. We touch on a wide array of topics with them, including their favorite ways to consume cannabis, any guests that may not like the bar, what strains to purchase, and how much based on their guest count. We love getting to know a bit about who they are, too, as our clients are all so unique!
Have you ever run into a couple where one half is more enthusiastic about including a budtender than the other?
Roughly half of our weddings have couples that are split down the middle; one loves cannabis and the other is all about wine, whiskey, or beer. Typically this just means we have more communication with the enthusiast in the couple rather than both of them.
Cannacouples are the best clients. They are willing to rock the boat a little and gain more acceptance from others about their chosen way to relax or let loose. We also see that it’s often the industry that they work in too. Clients want to represent their passion in a classy and sophisticated way to their more conservative friends and family members. Breaking those kinds of stigmas is hard, and we think they are incredibly brave to do so on their wedding day.
What is the most popular cannabis element included at these weddings? Like, signature strain? Hotboxed limo? Buds in the bouquet?
While we offer wedding planning and floral services in Denver, cannabis bars are definitely our most popular service by about 80%. One of our favorite ways to describe our typical wedding is that our clients don’t want a cannabis-themed wedding, they simply want cannabis available at their wedding.
We love being able to provide bars across the country that are open to folks who otherwise may never set foot in a dispensary. That’s a high-pressure sales environment where a novice may feel too embarrassed to ask questions or potentially over-consume because they weren’t provided guidance at the time of consumption. We love getting to be that resource for first-time consumers, making them feel comfortable and safe.
Mini joints are by far the most popular item on the bar. They are cute, portable, and the perfect size to share with a friend.
Have you planned any weddings with THC or CBD-infused dinners? All courses? Why or why not?
While we have worked 45-plus cannabis pairing dinners over the years, we tend to stick with events where the cannabis is available at the bar only. This helps us control serving sizes and chat with each guest before they consume. We have worked some in-industry events where micro-serving appetizers have been offered, and we work closely with the event host to ensure folks are consuming them responsibly as well.
Do these weddings have a different vibe than most? What about the dancing?
Some of our couples are dressed to the nines and don’t miss a traditional beat while the majority of our clients are more relaxed and are nixing the formal traditions. Regardless of their theme or vibe, our clients seem to have two things in common: They are passionate about amazing food and a whole lot of dancing.
How do you and the couple make sure that everyone invited to the wedding, including those who don’t toke or are even anti, feels included? What about grandma?
Giving guests a heads-up about the cannabis bar is always a great foot to start on, and we encourage our clients to post information about these offerings on their wedding website. Next, we like to blend in. The table, linen, and decor blends into the rest of the wedding seamlessly so the bar don’t look out of place. Lastly, we are also very conscious about where the bar is set up at the reception. That way folks who want to consume or are curious about it can come to us, and those who want to avoid the bar don’t have to be around it.
Do cannabis-infused wedding bridezillas even exist? That seems like an oxymoron?
Cannacouples are some of the most fun, stress-free clients ever, and we have yet—knock on wood—to have a true bride- or groomzilla.
Has the officiant ever been stoned?
As a standard, vendors are expected to do their jobs and not consume during the event. If the officiant is a friend or family member, they are always welcome at the bar after the ceremony had concluded.
When do you think traditional events-powerhouses like Winston Flowers and Bryan Rafanelli join the circle?
We know that big wedding businesses have probably serviced an event with guests consuming cannabis somewhere, at some point. But until they are willing to openly acknowledge that they are cannabis-friendly, they likely won’t attract cannacouples. It takes putting your business out there, regardless of what your traditional clients may think—without shoving it down their throats, of course—to work with these amazing couples.