From beach weddings to castle celebrations and restaurant parties, there are a lot of different options to consider when looking for your venue. The good news is that no matter the day-of aesthetic you crave, there’s a space for you; and if you envision a vacation vibe full of scenic photo ops and boho flair, a desert wedding might be a solution for your happily ever after.
Now as you might have guessed, desert weddings take place in desert settings, and the venues are typically located in the Southwestern area of the United States. Arizona, California, Texas, Oregon, and Nevada are some of the most popular U.S. destinations known for red rock formations, sandy dunes, and mountain backdrops. “Stunning panoramic views of towering mountains and soaring palm trees—it’s hard to not get lost in everything our unique desert has to offer,” says Trish Santalla, an event sales manager who specializes in desert nuptials at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells California.
If you’re considering hosting a cactus-filled celebration, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for everything you need to know about desert weddings, from the best months to book to the best reasons to say “I do” in this unique location.
What to Consider When Planning a Desert Wedding
One of the most significant considerations when it comes to desert nuptials is the fact that they, well, take place in a desert. “During the months of October through April, the desert climate is nearly perfect,” explains Santalla. Think of warm days, cooler nights, bright stars, and plenty of sunshine. Unfortunately, if you envision a summer or late spring event, the desert might not be a move. Temperatures can get over 100 degrees, Santalla notes, so if you’re planning an outdoor wedding—or an event that involves spending any time outside—the climate might be too extreme for you and some of your guests.
Aside from the climate, Santalla says another planning factor is the landscape. The nature-filled setting will likely play a big role in the event—from the colors to the decor you choose—so if you’re not sold on what the ecosystem has to offer, a desert wedding might not be for you.
What to Look for in a Desert Wedding Venue
As you’re starting your desert wedding venue search, there are quite a few things Santalla urges couples to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to choose a venue that has plenty of gorgeous backdrop options and photo opportunities. A big part of your venue cost is going toward the picturesque and unique location, so make sure it has that desert charm you’re looking for. For example, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells California offers two picturesque outdoor locations—The Grove and Fireside Garden—which offer panoramic views of palm trees, mountains, and stunning evening sunsets.
Another consideration is location and amenities. Oftentimes desert wedding venues are a little less localized and a bit more out of the way. Unlike major metropolises, these small desert cities and towns typically involve more travel—including into and out of smaller airports—and planning to ensure all of your needs can be met. Since quaint desert towns are going to have fewer dining and lodging options than large, centrally-located cities, it’s a good idea to do your research before putting down a deposit. Santalla says to make sure the hotel(s) you choose for your blocks are full-service with amenities like a spa, pool, restaurants, and transportation. Many of your guests will spend the duration of the weekend there, so ensuring they’re taken care of is essential.
As you’re touring venues and negotiating contracts, make sure to get a clear understanding of what’s included in the wedding package (or packages, if they have different options), how many hours you get at the venue for the celebration and for decoration/tear down, and if the venue has preferred or required vendors. Smaller towns might be more limited on vendor options, so you’ll want a clear understanding of exactly who is on your wedding team before signing anything.
Average Cost of a Desert Wedding
No matter where you choose to celebrate your wedding, the cost of your venue is one of the largest parts of your budget. That’s why figuring out exactly what’s included in your venue fees, negotiating on any terms you don’t like (such as having a plated dinner or using a preferred vendor), and accounting for extra fees are imperative. As for the average cost of a desert wedding venue, it’s really going to come down to location, season, and popularity.
Since October through April is the most coveted time to host a desert celebration, this is when costs will be highest. And if you have your eye on a popular locale like Palm Springs or Sedona, you can expect to pay more than if you host your wedding in a lesser-known spot like Lubbock, Texas, or Bend, Oregon.
Finally, many typical desert venues have all-inclusive options which can play a big role in the final price, but if that isn’t your style, you could always rent an Airbnb or host your event outside of a National Park. Since desert weddings are becoming more and more popular, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find something within your budget.
Pros and Cons of a Desert Wedding
As with any locale, there will always be pros and cons to planning a wedding at a specific destination. Read on to familiarize yourself with the advantages and drawbacks of hosting a desert wedding.
The Natural Views. “The desert provides a real-life backdrop you just don’t find anywhere else in the world,” Santalla says, which is why the unique terrain is so popular for weddings. Between the magnificent mountains, swaying palm trees, and cacti around every corner, deserts are one of the most interesting and stunning places to say “I do.” Many resorts lean into the picturesque vibe, which gives your entire wedding a major vacation feel.
Less Chance of Rain. It’s a desert for a reason! With less rainfall and temperate weather during the late fall, winter, and early spring, the predictability of precipitation (or lack thereof) makes this a great outdoor event option.
Easily Adaptable. While you have the traditional desert backdrop—and plenty of mid-century modern architecture to choose from—the desert has a wide variety of venue options that can easily transform to suit your vision, whether it’s luxurious, boho, industrial, or rustic.
The Heat. When we say it gets hot in the off-season, we mean it gets hot. With temperatures in the 100s from May to September, you have a select few months to book that’ll keep you from melting. For outdoor events, summer desert weddings usually aren’t the most comfortable or safe.
More Travel. Unless your event is taking place in a hub like Phoenix or Las Vegas, many desert venues are off the beaten path. This could mean more expensive flights into smaller airports, and longer travel with fewer options regarding routes, timing, or connections. As a result, you may have fewer RSVPs due to the complicated and expensive travel coordination.
Fewer Vendor Options. Depending on your desert location, you might be surprised to find fewer vendor options. Smaller towns could mean you have limited choices when it comes to caterers, bakers, DJs, and coordinators. “Connecting with your planner is going to be key,” Santalla explains. “They can help you prepare for any surprises” and secure the best vendors for your vision.
Desert Wedding Planning FAQs
Should you have a weather contingency plan at a desert wedding?
While it might seem like there’s a zero percent chance of precipitation if you share your vows in the desert, Santalla warns that’s not exactly the case. “While we get over 300 days of sunshine in greater Palm Springs, planning for something is better than not,” she advises. “The desert is known for its near-perfect weather. However, mother nature has the last say.” It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan to beat an unexpected storm or heatwave.
What should the dress code be for a desert wedding?
There’s no set dress code you need to adhere to if you’re hosting a desert celebration—formal, casual, festive, it’s all fair game. Santalla does note, however, that no matter your formality, lightweight fabrics and loose silhouettes are ideal for both the couple of honor and their guests. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your attire, and urge your guests to do so as well! Leaning into the desert feel with boho sleeves, hats, and Sedona hues help set the stage.
How should you decorate for a desert wedding?
How you decorate for your big day will really come down to your vision. “This is a personal choice, but staying true to the desert destination and incorporating a Palm Springs theme or mid-century modern is always popular,” Santalla says. “The desert can be decorated to fit every couple whether it’s boho, mid-century, Spanish villa, or even country style wedding.” For a classic desert feel, think of natural tones, plenty of palm fronds, and macrame hangings.
Most importantly, however you choose to decorate, you’ll want to be prepared to protect your guests against bugs and dehydration. Have water and bug spray stations set up to keep everyone comfortable as you celebrate the occasion.
What’s the best time of the year to have a desert wedding?
By now it’s probably clear: Summer is likely not the time to have an outdoor, desert wedding. “If you are not someone who cannot handle heat well, I would steer away from some of those hotter months,” Santalla says. “Most couples dream of an outdoor wedding and the best months for that in the desert would be October through April. During these months you can expect nothing less than perfect weather and those unforgettable desert nights under the beautiful desert sky.”