For an instant escape from the everyday, Palm Springs delivers. Guests will thank you for the reason to take a much-needed vacation and unwind in a scenic hot spot. (So don’t expect to see many regrets in your RSVPs.) The locale makes it easy to surround your wedding with as little or as much activity as you want for a wedding that lasts all weekend. Casual, optional get-togethers — a mixed-doubles tennis tournament, a lunch-and-shop afternoon, happy hour downtown, or lounging by the pool — ensure extra time with those you love most.
PLAN THE WEDDING:
Start with a smartly planned date
As a prime vacation destination, the Coachella Valley has a busy calendar throughout the year. Start planning early and be flexible with your date, especially if you’re hoping to have all your guests stay at the same property.
Consider an all-in-one venue.
Plenty of boutique hotels and golf resorts make it easy to host the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception, and brunch and reserve guest rooms in one place. Your entourage can settle in for a few days of quality time and never worry about transportation or where to meet.
Choose off-days and times.
If you don’t mind the heat, summers are quiet in Palm Springs. You may find a deal in the off-season (May through September).
Experience the area before the wedding so you can share your insights and favorite places with your guests.
PLAN THE WEEKEND:
Turn to the pros
Tips from STEPHANIE GRACE, Stephanie Grace Events:
Avoid overwhelming your guests. Some will want to get out and see the sites, especially on a first visit. Allow time in the itinerary to let them experience the area in their own way.
Try not to let the other activities outshine the big day. Remember, the wedding is the pinnacle of the weekend.
Watch your budget. From welcome bags and favors to hosting group events, be thoughtful and inclusive of all elements when creating your budget.
Tips from CHERYL JABLOW, Social Frog Designs:
Communicate with guests prior to arrival and while in town. Provide enough information that they feel prepared to explore independently. Less questions for you means less stress in the days surrounding your celebration.
Use print enclosures in your save-the-date cards or invitations.
Establish a wedding website for all weekend details and local resources.
Make a fun video to tell your guests about all you have planned for them. Include it with your save-the-date or post it on your website.
Send e-mail updates or mini newsletters with activities for guests to consider.
Consider thoughtful welcome baskets and include a note of thanks, an itinerary, and/or any last-minute changes to the weekend plans.
Tips from GINA LESLIE, The Walk Down the Aisle
Choose an interesting wedding invitation that includes an intriguing agenda of activities, from sporting events, golf tournaments, and pamper parties to rehearsal dinner celebrations.
Welcome them with a personalized "PS survival kit." This could include munchies and beverages, sunscreen, and shades, or blank postcards and area maps.
Get playful for the rehearsal dinner with casual fare and games that allow guests to loosen up and get their Palm Springs on!
Tips from CATHY O CONNELL, Celebrations of Joy
Give your guests time to relax. Don’t plan too many things for them to do.
Plan with guests’ tastes in mind. If they are outdoor fanatics, hire a guide for a group hike. If they want to see old Hollywood haunts, hire a private driver for a tour
Don’t do everything at one place. And if one affair is uber elegant, plan others to be casual. Change table configurations, add a theme, and offer interaction and variety.
PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND
More than 120 mountainview golf courses in the greater Palm Springs area attract pros and players every year. Maybe a wedding weekend tournament for guests? Or make it "guys only," while the ladies hit the spa. See the Palm Springs Life Golf Guide.
Miles of hiking trails, views, and waterfalls fill the rough desert landscape of the Indian Canyons, which belongs to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Admission is $9. 1-760-325-3400. Or, mosey through the canyons on horseback on a daily trail ride. 1-760-327-1372 . Spend a day with wildlife at The Living Desert in Palm Desert. Leopards, wolves, giraffes, owls, snakes, hawks, meerkat, bighorn sheep, and other wild creatures from deserts far and wide wait around the bends of this landscaped park. 1-760-346- 5694.
Contemplate the desert’s vast and versatile beauty at Joshua Tree National Park, 45 miles north of town. Year-round activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, camping, and stargazing. 1-760-367-5500.
Designer stores along the ritzy El Paseo in Palm Desert offer fine clothing, accessories, art, and antiques. Eat lunch at a sidewalk café or a second-floor restaurant with mountain views.
Stroll through the boutiques of downtown Palm Springs, then indulge in a white-tablecloth lunch or dinner in the garden at Le Vallauris (1-760-325-5059) or Spencer’s Restaurant (1-760-327-3446), both walking distance from downtown.
In Old Town La Quinta, wander through a European-style village of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Lunch on the patio at Hog’s Breath Inn (1-760-564-5556), with its Clint Eastwood movie memorabilia.
Bargain hunters head to Desert Hills Premium Outlets (1-951-849-6641) in Cabazon for 130 outlet stores.
Create your own group tour: Big Wheel Tours (1-760-779-1837) offers custom hiking, biking, or Jeep tours designed around your interests. Choose from a menu of Jeep, Hummer, and all-terrain vehicle tours with Elite Land Tours (1-760-318-1200).
Hop on a Segway to tour Palm Springs’ midcentury modern architecture with Robert Imber of PS Modern Tours (1-760-318-6118). Or, see it for yourselves by picking up a Palm Springs architecture map at the iconic Visitors Center as you enter town.
Rent a scooter from Eagle Rider (1-760-779-5001) at Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert or Scoot Palm Springs (1-760-413-2883) at Ace Hotel & Swim Club and cruise the town in a mini brigade.
Your concierge can guide you to world-class restaurants. A few local faves include Sherman’s Deli & Bakery (1-760-325-1199), an unassuming, New York-style deli with tall, tasty sandwiches and colossal desserts. Share a few crispy, oven-fired pizzas at Matchbox (1-760-778-6000), which overlooks the downtown strip. There’s always a wait (but worth it) at Tyler’s (1-760-325-2990), serving juicy burgers on the tented patio. Acqua Pazza (1-760-862-9800) and other restaurants at The River at Rancho Mirage cater to groups. There’s not a bad choice among the top local steakhouses.
A block from downtown, Palm Springs Art Museum (1-760-322-4800) features contemporary, modern, and Western art and performances in its Annenberg Theater. Or catch worldclass theater or a concert at McCallum Theatre (1-760-340-2787) in Palm Desert. Local casinos throughout the area also have lineups of music, comedy, and more. Balloon Above the Desert (1-760-347-0410) offers beautiful hot-air balloon tours with champagne toasts at sunrise and sunset. Prices range from $150 to $175 per person.
Don’t leave without hopping on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1-760-325-1449) for a 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride to an elevation of 8,516 feet. At the top: Mount San Jacinto State Park and wilderness area with scenic hiking trails and two restaurants. Bring a jacket; it’s usually 30 to 40 degrees cooler. Group rates are available in advance.
One of the best late-night scenes involves hotel hopping through the bars and lounges of Palm Springs. The fire pits blaze, the music is chill, and there’s plenty of people-watching. See the "Trendy Boutique Hotels" section of our Location Guide for the best in hotel nightlife.
The old-school cocktail lounge tradition continues at Melvyn’s at Ingleside Inn (1-760-325-2323). Nightly entertainment at this piano bar has changed little through the decades — and that’s a good thing. New on the scene, Tormés Jazz Bar & Restaurant (1-760-327-1773) wines and dines with live entertainment. Melissa Tormé, the daughter of the restaurant namesake singer and musician, opened the venue in 2010 with her entrepreneurial husband.