50 Best Tips From Desert Wedding Experts

What kind of cake works best on a 110-degree day? What’s the latest makeup trend for a shine-free look, even in desert sunshine? You’re about to find out.

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Palm Springs Weddings - Expert Advice
Eye In The Sky Photography / Stephanie Grace Events


With a climate, style, and scene all its own, the Palm Springs area and its fabulous celebrations call for local experts who know the ins and outs. Save time, money, and hassle with their best advice for your big day.

Stephanie Grace
Stephanie Grace Event Design

1. Add flowers to “transitional spaces” for unbroken atmosphere. In spacious venues where you can’t take over the entire property, use flowers as continuous indicators of the party’s theme to guide your guests. They will recognize and follow beautiful, strategically placed design elements as your event moves from one space to the next.

Deborah Quinn
The Pastry Swan Bakery

2. Fondant keeps it all together. For outdoor events, a thin coating of fondant gives the cake a nice look without getting soft. And if a butterfly chooses to land on it, he won’t get stuck!

3. Even in summer, choose your dream cake. The sky is the limit, regardless of the season. No flavor or filling needs to be off limits. “Fresh fruit might soften a bit, but nothing we use would go bad, even in summer,” she says.

4. But … leave your cake indoors if possible. Yes, it’s lovely to admire! Still, especially in the warmer months, don’t let the cake sit out as a centerpiece. Display it indoors and bring it out on a table when it’s nearly time for the cake cutting. It will look and taste freshest that way.

5. Choose a reputable baker. Hot weather can affect your cake if you’re not careful. A trusted local cake designer with a great reputation will know just how to create, transport, store, and display the cake you’ve worked so hard to design

6. If your baker isn’t there, they can’t fix it. “We had a frantic caterer call when a bride and groom ordered a cake from San Diego. It was supposed to be square, but it arrived round.” Pastry Swan created a square cake in record time, while the round one was cut up behind the scenes and served to guests. The couple paid for two cakes, because their cake designer was too far away to correct the error.

David Madison
Madison Workshop West

7. Mingle fruit with flowers. Incorporate citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, and lemons grow locally), champagne grapes, and other exotics like mango, papaya, star fruit, and passion fruit into your flower arrangements for color and texture

8. Choose desert plants. Succulents, in combination with flowers, are a nontraditional addition that won’t wilt in warm weather.

9. Give guests a glimpse of the reception at the wedding. Select an especially vibrant flower to carry through from beginning to end.

10. Save money with double-duty arrangements. David Madison often lines the bridal “runway” with flowers, then moves them into the reception area after pictures and cocktails.

11. Upgrade your napkins. When keeping an eye on the budget without sacrificing style, spend a bit extra on the napkins. An oversized, 20-inch-square linen napkin looks and feels luxurious to the touch and can make up for a less expensive table covering.

12. Get creative with lighting. Ambient lighting sets a mood and adds that ultimate “Wow!” factor. Nothing says romance like a sea of candles (try IKEA for selection and price), an “allée” of luminaria, or paper lanterns strung among the palm trees.

Cathy O’Connell
Celebrations of Joy

13. Hire a wedding planner. They often will save you the cost of their fees, even on a small budget. You cannot underestimate the value that a local professional with their feet on the ground will add to your planning process.

14. There are no rules. Just because Martha Stewart — or your mother-in-law — says you have to do something doesn’t mean it’s true. Really think about who you are as a couple and what would make your wedding emulate your personal style and values. Create new traditions and break the rules.

15. Try to plan everything at the same venue or nearby. Don’t make guests run all over town when they could be visiting with you.

Rev. Richard Cadieux
Joyful Weddings and Marriages

16. Book your officiant early. Avoid being one of the 60 percent of couples who wish they had chosen differently. Find a trained, experienced officiant you click with early in the process. The best ones get booked far in advance.

17. Advance planning means more time to design a memorable ceremony. In addition to adding personal expression to the day, your officiant should be willing and able to coordinate the musicians, photographer, and videographer and line up the processional.

18. Shop around for the right person to marry you. Speak to three officiants over the phone and two in person, perhaps a male and a female. Find out where they are an approved vendor and ask that venue about him or her. Follow your instincts and choose someone who understands you.

19. Seek your officiant’s advice. Officiants are familiar with many site locations and wedding vendors. Ask for referrals about reliable professionals and a venue that won’t disappoint.

20. Consider a “wedding coach.” Less involved and less costly than a full-blown planner, wedding coaches help couples select vendors in their price range, get them on the same page, organize their day, and avoid common pitfalls.

21. Watch the desert’s busy season. Late March to early May and early October through late November are filled with weddings throughout the area. Saturdays at sunset are most popular for the moderate temperature and romantic lighting.

22. Choose vendors who love what they do. Usually it shows when you talk to them over the phone and meet them in person.

Gina Leslie
A Walk Down the Aisle

23. Divulge your budget. Let wedding professionals you’re speaking with know what you want to spend. It will save time on offering unnecessary or unbudgeted services.

24. Cheaper isn’t always better, but more expensive doesn’t mean the best either. Interview your vendors until you find ones that fit your personality and style. Then ask if they can customize something to fit your needs and budget. Every vendor seems to offer “packages,” but there’s no harm in requesting a custom quote.

25. Remember to breathe! Your pros have hand-picked a personal wedding team for your day, setting the stage for a relaxing journey down the aisle. Leave the details to them and enjoy each moment.

26. Know your venue options. Nearly every kind of venue is possible here: lagoons and palm groves, celebrity homes and polo estates, resorts and boutique hotels, country clubs and museums. Keep an open mind as you explore.

27. Consider Palm Springs a “destination wedding” location. We couldn’t be better located for those coming from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, or the surrounding areas — a stunning and warm poolside oasis, without the price tag of flying to and from an exotic destination. (Though, for those flying, the Palm Springs airport offers supreme convenience.) The desert has the charm of a small-town environment with a big-city experience if you know where to look.

Judith Twine
The A-List Makeup Studio

28. Choose a makeup artist with a full mobile studio who is flexible to your needs. “I go to my brides wherever they are. The last thing they need is another errand to run!” says Judith Twine. A professional will work with you to achieve a polished look, relieve stress, exude confidence, and help you look stunning and feel beautiful for your wedding photos and video.

29. Get airbrushed. The lastest in Hollywood makeup trends on location, airbrush makeup minimizes pores and the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, blemishes, acne, freckles, discoloration, and age spots for a softer, younger look. It also evens out skin tone on necks, chests, shoulders, back, and legs without rubbing off on clothing. The complete application including eye shadow, lips, and eyelashes takes about 45 minutes and lasts up to 18 hours, even in desert heat. Brides love that it feels light and looks flawless.

Jaclyne Breault
Heavenly Blooms

30. Add unexpected floral details. Couples have been asking for floating pool arrangements, a floral monogram to hang on a gate welcoming guests, cascading arrangements for the sweetheart table, and coordinating floral accents for their getaway car — or golf cart.

31. Back up the boutonniere. Ask your florist to create an extra groom’s boutonniere, so when you take photos after the ceremony his boutonniere will look fresh and photo-ready.

32. Be warned: hydrangea is thirsty! “We try to discourage the use of hydrangea in warm-weather weddings; it wilts easily and requires a lot of water,” says Jaclyne Breault.

33. The color trend for 2010 is bright yellow with navy blue and/or dark gray.

34. Follow “homespun chic”trend with simple bundles of monochromatic flowers in chic containers (vintage finds work wonders), hand-painted signage, antique pieces placed here and there, and an abundance of candles. Candlelight adds affordable ambiance and glows beautifully in the desert night.

35. Keep aisle petals perfect. Safeguard the aisle from trampling feet before the ceremony by draping a length of ribbon across the aisle at the last row. Consider a custom-designed rose-petal pattern for the aisle: your monogram, a print pattern, or swirls created in one or more petal colors.

36. Vary your heights. A mix of high and low centerpieces at your reception adds depth and dimension to the room or event area.

37. Choose simple décor. The desert’s natural beauty is already the perfect backdrop. Accent the setting with candelabras with floral decor, hanging lights, lanterns in trees, a floral arch, or beautiful standing arrangements. Consider ceremony flowers and decor that can be moved and used at your cocktail hour or reception.

38. Welcome baskets can be pricey. How about sending a personal welcome note with a small floral arrangement in your wedding colors to your guests’ rooms? A native plant or flower in a coordinating container or a single stem in a unique vase says, “We’re happy you’re here.”

Joey Lizotte
Artisan Event Floral and Decor

39. Mirror your personality to your planner. You’ll be working closely with each vendor you hire, sometimes in close contact over several months. Select someone who complements your style and makes for easy communication.

40. Get settled and stay put. The Coachella Valley is bigger than you think! Keeping activities and venues centralized throughout the wedding weekend; many venues offer options within walking distance for guests.

41. Most blooms get fussy in these hot temperatures, so find a floral designer with proper refrigeration and lots of experience. Your flowers will look lush from ceremony to last dance.

42. Chose hearty flowers that can survive a wedding without water. Orchids, roses, and calla lilies do just fine. Wispy, delicate flowers like dahlias and peonies become impossible to work with and won’t open up.

43. Spend more on reception flowers, as more time is spent there. Choose just a few bridesmaids. Bouquets are labor intensive; the cost of each one adds up.

Vanessa Preziose
Vanessa Preziose Photography

44. Fall in love with your photographer. Her portfolio needs to reflect your personal style. There should also be some chemistry between you. He or she will photograph some intimate moments; make sure the real “you” comes out.

45. Let your guard down and relax. Allow “true” moments to be captured, as opposed to creating the moments. Keep an open mind and be willing to be adventurous during your portrait session.

46. See each other before the ceremony. Consider capturing the groom’s first look at the bride before the ceremony, followed by a personal portrait session of the two of you. Capturing these special moments on film avoids cramming all of your portraits within the hour after the ceremony. Dedicate that time to family and bridal party photos.

47. Don’t worry so much about getting your dress dirty. This goes for photos and otherwise. Rest assured, it will get dirty regardless.

48. Trying to “copy” other wedding photos you have seen doesn’t always yield beautiful or genuine results. Let your photographer create fresh, new images that are all your own and that don’t look like anyone else’s.

Mellany Miller
Mellany Miller Photography

49. Plan for sunset photos. Time your ceremony early enough to take romantic, post-ceremony photographs at sunset. This takes advantage of the beautiful “golden hour” light.

50. Consider more than just price. When the day is over, what remains are memories and the images that keep those memories alive. Interview several photographers, choose one with whom you feel comfortable, and don’t let price be the deciding factor.


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