We are so stoked to bring to you this excellent guide to planning a desert elopement from McKenzi Taylor, founder of Cactus Wedding Collective, an OG pro in the elopement game. Here she shares why you should definitely consider a desert elopement, along with eight pro tips for pulling it off with style and romance. Enjoy!
From the Australian outback to the Grand Canyon, deserts are the new frontier for micro weddings and traditional elopements. But how can a landscape, known for its vastness and heat, be a good place for an intimate, stylish, and romantic wedding?
While the desert is huge, if you know where to look, you’ll find hidden gems everywhere. Rather than being dry and dull, the desert is a diverse, colorful landscape with cool, calm locations that put you and your love at the center of the universe. But it’s still a landscape that many couples overlook. At least, that’s what I’ve found here in Las Vegas where I live and work. It’s time for that to change.
As a wedding coordinator and photographer specializing in Las Vegas desert elopements, I’m here to offer the many reasons you should consider looking into this landscape as an option. From why deserts are so beautiful to how you can personalize your ceremony, here’s why Destination: Desert is the next big thing for adventurous couples.
What the desert brings to your special day
Every venue and elopement destination has its own unique qualities. Having spent a lot of time photographing in the desert for business and pleasure, here’s what I know the desert can bring to your day.
Nature always plays its part
When you get married in the big outdoors, no two ceremonies are exactly the same—shifting clouds create shadows on rocks and mountains, or recent rain that’s caused desert flowers to bloom. And of course, the huge horizons, sunsets, and sunrises. These are the gifts from nature that make each desert wedding unique.
Privacy and intimacy
If you’re looking for a location that gives you and your partner a chance to be completely in the moment and free from distraction, the desert can give you that. First, mobile signal isn’t guaranteed, which removes any temptation for guests to jump straight on their phones after the service. Many desert wedding venues are in national parks, where occupancy is limited to protect the environment, creating a naturally intimate space. For example, the maximum guest count at our most popular desert venue, Red Rock Canyon, is 50—including the couple—making it perfect for micro weddings.
Minimum decoration needed
The desert’s charm is its huge size. It has the ability to put things into perspective and take you away from modern life. The pristine landscape has no problem making its own impression, but for a wedding, it’s just as nice adding a few touches to the ceremony site to make it your own. Rugs, macrame arbors, desert-inspired florals, and upcycled wooden benches are little decorating touches that blend with the desert landscape while identifying your special site. You really don’t need much.
Eight quick tips for a successful desert wedding
We’ve organized hundreds of Las Vegas desert elopements and micro weddings for couples across the United States and the world. Here’s how to make the most of it.
1. Fall and winter are gorgeous
These are the busiest seasons for desert weddings. Daytime temperatures during fall and winter are a comfortable 70-80°F (20-27°C), the chance of rain is low, and the desert looks green and vibrant. Winter desert weddings look especially stunning at sunrise when there’s a chance of a delicate frost and morning dew (you’ll need to wrap up, though, as temperatures only tend to reach 60°F (16°C)).
2. Avoid the heat of the day
To make sure you and your guests are comfortable, ceremonies in the morning or evening are best, especially if you’re eloping during the summer. Temperatures in the Las Vegas desert can reach 100°F (38°C).
3. What to wear
You’re not getting married in a traditional location, so feel free to throw the rulebook out when it comes to traditional wedding day outfits. We’ve seen couples get married in jeans and Converse, cowboy hats and boots, and pinup vintage dresses, as well as full wedding gowns and formal tailored suits.
4. Book an experienced photographer
Wedding photos are the lasting memory of your special day. Make sure they’re taken by a professional photographer who has experience shooting outdoors and, if possible, in desert conditions. They’ll understand how to avoid overexposure and unwanted shadowing.
5. Pre-book your transportation
Many couples end up without cell service, so book your ride to and from your desert ceremony venue ahead of your date. The last thing you want is to be stranded.
6. Add unique touches
Consider throwing a mini desert reception, including desert flowers in your bouquet, or incorporating live music for a first dance.
7. A touch of color goes a long way
Any hint of color in your outfit, accessories, or flowers will pop against a desert backdrop.
8. Pack an extra bag for the day
Bring a bottle or two of water, an extra layer if it gets cold, and makeup for touch-ups before your official wedding shoot. It’s unlikely the wedding site will be near amenities or the parking lot, and the last thing you want is to have to dash back for these things. On that note, bring comfy shoes. While you won’t need to hike a mountain, you may need to walk over some unstable ground.
So, are you a match with a destination desert wedding?
Desert venues have so much to offer. It’s possible to use it as a blank canvas and get playful to make it your own. For adventurous couples looking for an alternative wedding venue with minimum frills for a micro wedding or elopement, the desert is great. It’s certainly not for couples wanting a large, traditional wedding. My final note, which is about destination weddings in general, is if you choose this route make sure you trust your vendors. Trust that they know how to create a magical ceremony in this environment.
You’ll find more information on desert weddings on the Cactus Collective Weddings blog. If you have any questions about getting married in the Las Vegas desert, we’re the people to talk to, so contact us.
About McKenzi Taylor
McKenzi Taylor is an elopement expert based in Las Vegas. She started her photography business in 2008 but ventured into her elopement coordination business, Cactus Collective Weddings, in 2017. In that time she’s helped well over 500 couples elope in Las Vegas and knows a good match for an elopement when she sees it.
Keep scrolling for more desert inspo, just because.