Tips for Planning A Desert Wedding in Arizona | PMA Photography

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I'm Amber, a Harry Potter obsessed wedding and brand photographer for those who are anything but ordinary based in Phoenix, Arizona.

When I don't have a camera in my hand, you can find me hiking with my husband, snuggling pups, or planning my next Disney trip.

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Tips for Planning A Desert Wedding in Arizona

Nothing says Arizona like a desert wedding.  People travel from all over the world to get married with our iconic desert views and amazing weather.  I mean, highs in the 70’s while so much of the country is covered in snow.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  With that amazing weather and our beautiful desert comes a high, beating sun during the day and cool nights.  Here are some tips for making the most out of your desert wedding!

Bride and Groom share a kiss with epic views of the superstition mountains during their The Paseo wedding by Arizona wedding photographer PMA Photography.

 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, everyone in Arizona knows you need to hydrate!  Us natives carry Hydroflasks like a badge of honor all year long.  Make sure that you are getting enough water on your wedding day and the day before.  The sun can really sneak up on you, especially in a long dress or a full suit.  Don’t worry, you can have your mimosas and shots before the wedding.  Just be sure to double fist with water!

 

Perfect Ceremony Timing: One Hour Before Sunset

The Arizona wedding season is in the Spring and the Fall, which means two things.  First, the sun sets pretty early, which means you need to plan to have enough sunlight for photos!  Second, the sun can create some pretty harsh light and shadows during the middle of the day.  A skilled photographer can work with the sun for most of your photos, but we have no control over how the sun falls during the ceremony.  

The solution?  Having your ceremony start about one hour before sunset.  This provides the best, even lighting for the ceremony and a few dreamy sunset photos with you and your boo before the reception.  If you choose not to do a First Look, then you would want to time your ceremony about an hour and a half.  This will leave a bit more time for your portraits, wedding party photos, and family photos.

Bride and Groom pose during their Superstition Mountain Cloth and Flame wedding by Arizona wedding photographer PMA Photography.

 

Plan Time to Cool Down Before the Ceremony

You would be surprised how hot a 70 degree day can feel in the desert.  Especially when you are wearing a full suit or dress with many layers.  Make sure you plan for 15 – 20 minutes to run into the a/c before the ceremony.  It will give you a chance to cool down and do any last minute touch ups.  (Plus, it gives your photographer time to photograph the reception, grab a snack, and run to the restroom!)

 

Sunset Photos are Key for Desert Wedding Magic

Want to know a secret?  Almost all of your favorite desert wedding photos were taken at Sunset!  Seriously.  About 15 minutes before sunset, the desert gets this romantic, golden light.  As the sun continues to set, everything just gets more creamy and romantic.  Pro Tip: This is also when the Superstition Mountains change color!  So, you will want to be sure to plan for some sunset photos with your new hubby/wifey.  

A trick for this: plan for your guests to start entering the reception just after sunset and for your grand entrance to be about 10 – 15 minutes after sunset!  

 

Consider Air Brush Makeup

Ok, I know I keep talking about how hot the sun is.  But, it’s totally something non-natives don’t realize until they spend some time out in the desert.  Even in the winter, it can be face melting!  As in, melting off your face of makeup!  For this reason, air brush makeup is a super popular option for Arizona weddings.  Talk to your makeup artists to see if they offer this option and try it out!

Bride and groom share a romantic kiss in the desert at their Superstition Manor Wedding by Mesa wedding photographer PMA Photography.

 

Cake, Cake, Cake

Another popular option for Arizona weddings is outdoor receptions.  As the sun sets, the desert cools and the stars come out.  This is the perfect time to bring out your cake.  You want to keep the cake inside (maybe even in a fridge) while the sun is out.  Otherwise, your cake may start to melt and slant in the sun!  I’m not even kidding.  If it is going to be a particularly warm day (I’m looking at you April), you may also consider doing a fondant layer on the cake.  This will help it stand up to the warmer weather.

 

Choose Sturdy Flowers for Desert Weddings

Hydrangeas, while beautiful, are not built for the Arizona desert.  I have seen them and some other delicate flowers wilt within a matter of an hour outside.  I suggest sticking to more sturdy flowers that will be able to handle being out of water in the sun.  Think about it.  Your bouquet will be taken out for 2 – 3 hours of photos before the ceremony.  Get a little break before another 2 hours for the ceremony and more photos!  And boutonnieres are even more fragile, as they don’t have any water all day or night.

The best person to talk to about this is your florist!  Tell them you are having an outdoor desert wedding and want some help choosing flowers that will last.  They will 100% be able to guide you in the right direction.

Brid'es large, wild desert inspired green and peach wedding bouquet by PMA Photography.

 

Venue Scouting = Shade Scouting

As I may have mentioned a time or two, the sun can be brutal no matter what time of year.  This comes more into play with your guests.  I have seen weddings in February where half of the ceremony seats are empty because they are in the sun.  So, when you are scouting out wedding venues, I would check out the shade situation.  

If you can, tour the venue around the same time of year you would like to get married.  (The sun is in different spots in the sky, creating different shadows, during seasons.)  Then, check out the shade situation for the ceremony.  If you can, choose a venue that has plenty of shade for both you and your guests during the ceremony.  If not, you can always have a sunset ceremony!

 

Plan for Drastic Weather Changes After Sunset

A 70 degree day can easily drop into the 40s at night.  In the desert, as soon as the sun goes down, so does the temperature.  The sand and dirt that makes up the desert floor cannot hold heat, so as soon as the sun leaves, so does the warmth.  

If you are having an outdoor reception, be sure to plan for the cool weather.  You can have heaters set around your reception area.  Depending on your venue, another option could be campfires/fire pits!  (Did someone say S’mores?!)  You can also give out pashminas or leave blankets around for guests.  You may also want to consider having a cute jacket to wear in the evening if your wedding day outfit doesn’t already have one.

Wedding reception at a Cloth and Flame wedding by Phoenix wedding photographer PMA Photography.

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