bride and groom walking into sunset of beautiful desert wedding

34 Desert Wedding Ideas for an Unforgettable Celebration

Jun 28, 2022
By Wedding Spot

Deserts have become popular locations for engaged couples seeking a scenic, romantic, and secluded location for their big day. Fans of rustic charm, epic skylines, and bold landscapes are drawn to the simplicity of the desert. If you’re looking for a breathtaking wedding venue, decor tips, or other desert wedding ideas, you’ll find help and inspiration in the list below.

Full of amazing scenery, unique wildlife, and captivating flora, the desert has inspired truly magnificent and creative weddings all over the world. In this list, we explore a variety of designs, setup options, and other desert wedding ideas we love.

Discover 34 desert wedding ideas that are anything but dry

Just because the desert is dry doesn’t mean your wedding has to be! Bring some glamor to the arid landscape with these one-of-a-kind desert wedding ideas.

Desert wedding theme ideas

Whether you’re hosting a desert-inspired wedding at a comfortable indoor venue or are planning a dazzling wedding that actually takes place in the desert, there are a variety of unique wedding themes and subthemes you can explore.  

1. Desert-themed

Not all couples who love the flair of desert weddings want to host their wedding in the literal desert. If you’d like to incorporate the wild, wild west into your wedding design but want to avoid venturing into dustbowl territory, consider hosting a desert-themed wedding instead. Use vibrant textiles, succulent centerpieces, dry grasses, turquoise accents, and other desert-inspired decorations in your wedding design.

2. Destination

A destination desert wedding takes place in — you guessed it — the desert! Some of the most popular desert wedding destinations in the United States include:

  • Abiquiu, New Mexico
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Joshua Tree, California
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Zion National Park, Utah
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Chihuahuan Desert, Texas

If your dream wedding is an astonishing ceremony in no-man’s-land, look for a wedding venue located in one of the country’s most impressive desert landscapes.

3. Boho

Embrace a boho subtheme if you love mixing textures. Blend copper, leather, terracotta, and macrame accents with clay tones or warm sunset colors to create a whimsical bohemian atmosphere in the desert. Add oversized pillows, wicker chairs, and other stylish seating options to the reception area for additional comfort and flair.

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4. Sophisticated

Hosting a desert wedding doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice sophistication. Crisp high-quality linens, geometric designs, towering candlesticks, ivory roses, and modern place settings create a chic and sophisticated wedding design in the desert.

5. Ranch-inspired

The desert is an ideal setting for a southwestern ranch-inspired wedding. Embrace rustic wedding decorations like burlap or tin, and add southwestern flair by incorporating dusty desert tones, rich textiles, or even cowboy hats. Commission a custom live edge wooden table for the head table for an elevated ranch design.

Desert wedding ideas for decor

Whether you’re developing the color scheme for your desert wedding or are still developing a design concept, these decor ideas can help.

6. Open tent

Take advantage of the wide-open desert sky with an open-tent wedding. Instead of using a traditional tent with a covered ceiling, opt for an open concept using just the frame of a tent instead. Decorate the frame with string lights or lanterns for al fresco dining under the desert sky.

7. Cactus paddles

Cactus paddles are incredibly versatile wedding decorations. Widely varying in size, shape, and flowering blooms, cactus paddles can be used as signs and display cards at your desert wedding reception. Select medium-sized cactus paddles that will catch the eyes of wedding guests but won’t overwhelm the rest of your table design. Guests will be able to easily identify their seats with the aid of these adorable table markers.

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8. Air plants

Requiring little maintenance, air plants can be used in ceremony or reception decorations at your desert wedding. They are great for use on tabletops, arches, or tucked into textured walls.

9. Geometric arch

Choose a dramatic geometric wedding arch that both blends in with, and stands out against, the scenic desert backdrop. Select a triangular or heptagonal arch and dress it up with thistles, ferns, lisianthus, desert grasses, Sahara roses, or even a rustic animal skull.

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10. Living backdrop or archway

Use mosses, succulents, and other sturdy plants to create a low-maintenance, yet dynamic, living background. Use real plants to decorate the altar, create an organic entrance arch, or build a unique living backdrop for your wedding photo booth.

11. Stylish rugs

Use stylish rugs with lavish prints to break up the red-brown palette of the desert floor. Choose an extravagant Persian rug to stand on as you say your vows or pad the aisle with magnificent tribal textiles. Rugs can also be used to designate separate areas at the wedding reception, such as satellite food stations, the bar area, or the gift table.

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12. Macrame hanging planters

An excellent accessory for couples on a budget, hanging macrame planters make a terrific addition to desert wedding designs. Woven planters can be used to suspend lush ferns over reception tables, to embellish the wedding arch, or as aisle markers holding lush floral arrangements.

13. Blue tones

Give your desert wedding decorations a dash of color by adding touches of blue here and there. Create colorful accents that mesh well with the red and brown tones of the desert by incorporating turquoise, azure, teal, and other water-like hues in your wedding design.

14. Succulent centerpieces

Use drought-resistant succulents in the centerpieces at your desert wedding. Create thematic structures using simple vases, baskets, geometric planters, or copper accents. Use lush garlands or king proteas in your design to incorporate a dash of desert sweetness into your wedding centerpiece ideas.

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15. Terracotta pots

The warm red to orange tones of terracotta pottery make it an excellent addition to any desert wedding. Whether you use terracotta tones in your wedding scheme —selecting sunbaked tones for table runners, napkins, or candlesticks — or use terracotta clay pots in your wedding table design, the medium matches the bohemian style of desert weddings perfectly.

16. Mirror-top head table

Both modern and chic, a mirror-top head table is sure to impress guests at your desert wedding.

Ceremony and reception ideas for a desert wedding

In addition to your location and decorations, consider incorporating desert wedding ideas into your ceremony and reception plans.

17. Grand entrance/exit

Kick things off right by making a grand entrance to your desert wedding. Arrive in style on the back of a camel or depart in a dune buggy to really "wow" your wedding guests.

18. Desert bouquet

Choose a desert-inspired bridal bouquet that blends the sharp shapes of striking succulents with soft desert flowers and delicate dry grasses. Look for a mix of succulents and cacti peppered with burnt red yucca or pale florals that captures the spirit of life in the desert.

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19. Hydration stations

If you’re hosting a wedding in the desert, whether in the early evening or the heat of the day, keeping guests hydrated should be a top priority. Upon arrival, greet wedding guests with personalized reusable metal water bottles. Set up a hydration station where guests are encouraged to fill up, cool off, and fight the dry desert air.

20. Outdoor games

In the wide-open spaces of the desert wilderness, there’s plenty of room to play outdoor wedding lawn games. While we recommend shying away from easily punctured inflatable games, such as giant bowling or inflatable dice games, there are a variety of other options to choose from. Giant Jenga, cornhole, limbo, and ring toss are all wedding crowd-pleasers.

21. Textured blankets

The temperature in the desert can shift dramatically in a short window of time, with cooler air moving in quickly as the sun sets. Ensure guests are warm and comfortable in the evening by providing thematic blankets for your friends and family to enjoy. Choose blankets with minimalist designs that provide contrast against the landscape or offer vibrant tribal textiles to add another splash of color.

22. Spicy guest gifts

Send guests home with a gift that captures the spirit of a desert wedding. With a few affordable crafting materials, it’s easy to design thematic satchels or jars filled with dried peppers, a chili-based spice mix, or similar culinary treats that bring the heat.

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23. Relaxation lounge

Give guests a cozy, covered space to escape the sun and enjoy a cocktail or two in a tented boho-inspired relaxation lounge. When designing the boho lounge for your wedding reception, have fun mixing colors and textures, like wood and leather. Add large throw pillows, plush rugs, and low-topped tables where guests can relax, snack, converse, and enjoy the splendor of your desert wedding.

Desert wedding ideas for cakes and cocktails

Let the natural beauty of the desert surroundings inspire your wedding cake design and inform your cocktail menu, but don’t forget food safety!

24. Food covers

Protect your delectable wedding menu from sand, sun, bugs, and other contaminants with food covers. From collapsible mesh covers and wooden baskets to glass displays and hanging veils, a variety of food covering options are available to fit every wedding style and budget.

25. Cactus cake topper

Make a statement with a bright white wedding cake that stands out against the sandy backdrop of your desert wedding. Top a pristine multi-tiered cake with a cactus paddle or blooming cacti for desert wedding cake that is both simple and refined.

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26. Sophisticated succulent designs

Whether gathered in a bountiful bunch on the top tier of your cake or spiraling around it, succulents are splendid additions to any desert-inspired wedding dessert. With so many sizes, shapes, and varieties available, small succulents make stunning wedding cake accessories. Aloe vera, agave, cacti, and other succulents are frequently used in fantastic cake designs.

27. Cactus pies

Serve guests at your desert wedding individually-sized cactus pies. With a whimsical cactus design displayed on the pie crust, cactus pies can be filled with apples, cherries, or fresh berries.

28. Ombre cake

Select a wedding cake that matches the gradient of the desert sky by choosing a cake with an ombre design. On a classic white multi-tiered wedding cake, display a blue or blush ombre that darkens toward the bottom tier of the cake. The cake ombre will complement the flowing fade of a sunrise or sunset in the sandy desert plains.

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29. Berry rose mojitos

This refreshing cocktail consists of a delicious mix of lime, strawberries, sugar, mint, and sparkling rose. Serve berry rose mojitos in custom glasses or in copper mugs to incorporate another metallic accent into the desert wedding theme.

30. Desert rose

What better signature cocktail to have at your desert wedding than a desert rose? Made with four simple ingredients, this cocktail is sure to fit your theme. 

Dream venues for a desert wedding

There are a wide variety of desert wedding venues available for couples in the U.S. From golf resorts to botanical gardens, here are just a few of the most beautiful venues this country’s deserts have to offer. 

31. Steele Herb Garden at Desert Botanical Garden

Since the 1930s, the Desert Botanical Garden has been inspiring visitors from all over the world. Now, the garden specializes in hosting intimate desert weddings for up to 75 guests. Offering 140 acres of gardens that display more than 50,000 plants, couples who host their wedding at the Desert Botanical Garden do so against the backdrop of incredible scenery. Capture the Arizona sun setting behind Camelback Mountain as you snap photos of your dream wedding day.

32. Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center

The Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center is located inside a gorgeous, restored schoolhouse in Arizona. With the ability to accommodate events with 10-250 attendees, the Inn also offers overnight accommodations for up to 60 guests. Wedding pricing begins at $3,000 with additional artistic, cultural, and authentic culinary experiences available for guests to enjoy.

33. Desert Willow Golf Resort

Located in Palm Springs, California, the Desert Willow Golf Resort sits at the feet of the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains. Couples who wed at the resort can do so against an awe-inspiring background, complete with a sparkling lake, mountain vistas, and lush desert greenery. A popular location for desert-loving engaged couples, the Firecliff Ballroom and the Palm Desert Terrace are just two of the fabulous event spaces available at Desert Willow Golf Resort.

34. Rancho de los Caballeros

Located in the Sonoran Desert in Wickenburg, Arizona, Rancho de los Caballeros is a classic “jeans-and-boots” venue offering an authentic Western style. The family-owned and operated resort sits on 20,000 acres and displays impressive Latin-inspired architecture, wooden beams, stone floors, and manicured lawns. The wedding venue can host up to 300 guests with event pricing starting at $9,000.

Put your favorite desert wedding ideas to use!

With a list of subthemes, decor tips, venue options, and other desert wedding ideas at your disposal, it’s time to start planning! Schedule a meeting with your partner, wedding planner, or wedding party to discuss your ideas, find further inspiration, and connect all the dots.

Next up, we explore additional outdoor wedding ideas that span a variety of settings, seasons, and styles. No matter your theme, budget, or the size of your guest list, there’s something for everyone in our list of 63 outdoor wedding ideas for any couple.

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.