OG Article: here
View our Fair Use Policy: here
By Tresa Baldas
Friendship. Love. Battle scars.
This is the story of Danielle Geralds and Nile Hunt III, a Waterford couple whose storybook romance, personal struggles and mutual passion for normalizing marijuana earned them the nuptials of a lifetime: a $40,000, all-expenses-paid, weed wedding — complete with pot-infused food for 50 guests, a top-shelf bud bar and marijuana leaves to throw in lieu of rice.
The bride's bouquet will also have cannabis leaves mixed in. So will the floral centerpieces.
And the groom, a decorated Navy veteran, plans to wear a forest green suit, a color to match the plant that helped him heal physically and emotionally from the injuries he sustained in a 2010 bomb blast in Afghanistan. It's the same plant that helped his bride and their family members endure ills of all sorts: cancer, anxieties, a hip replacement and appetite issues.
'Poster children for trying to normalize pot'
The soon-to-be newlyweds also use marijuana recreationally.
"We could be the best poster children for trying to normalize pot, and that’s what they’re trying to do here," Geralds said of her statement wedding, which is as much to do about love as it is marijuana.
"It should be just as widely acceptable as going to the liquor store to get a six-pack," Geralds said, noting the vast majority of her wedding guests also use marijuana.
"There's going to be a good buzz," she said of her wedding, noting "Everything will be heavily labeled. There will be plenty of signage."
The wedding is Oct. 5, with the ceremony to occur at the place that made this all happen: The Greenhouse of Walled Lake.
'They had a great story'
The couple won the wedding this summer in a giveaway hosted by The Greenhouse of Walled Lake, Oakland County's first recreational marijuana dispensary, which got inundated with 15,000 applications for the wedding from across the country.
Entries included numerous inspiring stories from scores of deserving couples, the dispensary owner said.
But the Waterford couple had an edge.
"They had a great story," said Greenhouse owner Jerry Millen, one of six judges.
"They weren’t just looking to get a free wedding," Millen said. "They were like, 'We want to normalize this.'"
And perhaps more notably, the dispensary owner added, was Hunt's military story, how he risked his own life to help fellow soldiers who were also injured when an improvised explosive device went off while they were out on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
"I have a soft spot for veterans. They're out there risking their lives — not for a lot of money, for our freedom. That was a factor," Mullen said, stressing Hunt's bravery impacted him. "This guy was out there worrying about saving other peoples lives rather than his own."
Hunt, who works for a fire safety equipment manufacturer, was overcome with emotion when he and his fiancee — to whom he had proposed on knee at Belle Isle's fountain — learned about winning the wedding this past spring.
"I was honestly speechless," Hunt recalled. "It's the first time I had told my story and gotten anything for it."
Contest part of shop's promotions
Hunt also shares Mullen's passion for normalizing marijuana, a cause he's been championing for years, using gimmicks of all sorts to win the court of public opinion over, like offering 20-percent-off “Super Bowl specials” to customers who show up in NFL jerseys, or hosting an "Up in Smoke" barbecue contest.
The wedding giveaway was the latest promotion as Mullen partnered with Choice Labs, the creators of cannabis brands including Quicky, Mojo, Cannabis PM and Treehouse CBD.
The goal, he noted, was to give one lucky cannabis-loving couple the wedding of their dreams, and to normalize pot.
As Mullens noted, "What's more normal than a wedding?"
A complicated, nine-year love story
Geralds learned about the giveaway on Facebook last year, and told her fiancee about it.
"Nile and I have always talked about having an infused wedding. I showed him. He checked it out and he's like, 'Yeah, go ahead and apply for it,'" Geralds recalled. "I said, 'How bad do you want it?' and he goes, 'Well, let's do it. Let's go for it.' So I submitted our story."
Geralds met Hunt in 2009. She was 20 and dating someone else. He was 23, a friend of her boyfriend. The two met as Hunt prepared to be deployed to Afghanistan. He stopped by his friend's house to say goodbye to him and other Michigan friends.
Geralds had never seen him before, but remembers wondering who the man in uniform was, and why she had never met him in the friend group before.
Over the next several years, a special friendship would develop.
Hunt, who was married to a Marine when he left for the Middle East, would get injured and have to return home. He first went to North Carolina, then Virginia, where he would suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. For support, he kept in touch with his friends from Michigan, including Geralds.
It was Geralds who helped get Hunt through some dark days following his return from Afghanistan. She was in Michigan, finishing up trade school and would eventually become a cosmetologist. He was in Virginia, where he would get hit with waves of darkness during his 38-mile drive home from work, and Geralds would stay on the phone with him to keep him calm until he got home.
By 2014, Hunt would move back to Michigan. He was divorced, dating a new woman — and still friends with Geralds, who would become best friends with his new girlfriend.
But that relationship ended after four-plus years.
Then came a friend's wedding in the summer of 2018. Hunt and Geralds went together. They danced and smoked cannabis all night.
"I started telling everybody that it was going to happen," Hunt recalled. "Sailor Nile told everyone that me and Danielle were going to be a thing."
Then came wedding No. 2. They went together again, and while waiting in line for the photo booth, the photographer gave them instructions on how to time a kiss for the camera.
Hunt planted one on her.
They've been together ever since.
"It definitely feels like a fairy tale," Geralds said, "or a weird dream."