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4 Under-the-Radar Wedding Destinations in the Southwest

Desert gardens, swaying palms and iconic rock formations set the scene in these underrated locations.

U.S. News & World Report

4 Under-the-Radar Wedding Destinations in the Southwest

Couple sitting at the edge of Grand Canyon

Whether you want a cactus-lined aisle or a breathtaking backdrop, the Southwest offers plenty of enticing wedding venues and romantic, off-the-beaten-path locations.(Getty Images)

When you hear the term "destination wedding," you might picture a barefoot couple standing on a white-sand beach in the Caribbean. However, the Southwest, with its brilliant sunsets, striking backdrops and luxurious venues offers surprising, one-of-a-kind settings. Globetrotting couples seeking unique reception and ceremony venues shouldn't discount these top knot-tying spots.

Las Vegas

Sin City is known for its quirky wedding chapels. Some of them, like A Little White Wedding Chapel, even offer couples the chance to get married via drive-through window. However, those seeking more traditional venues and grand reception sites will find a variety of options in and around Las Vegas. The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, which is just a 30-minute drive east of the Strip in nearby Henderson, features an outdoor venue overlooking a rare sight: a lake in the desert. The hotel's stunning Lotus Court features fountains, fire pits and a beautiful landscape that is unique among Las Vegas wedding locations.

Whether you want to tie the knot at a fun and quirky chapel or at a high-end resort, finding the ideal setting for wedding photos shouldn't be a problem in Las Vegas. Perhaps one of the most popular spots for photos is the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign, located at the southern end of the Strip. Be prepared for a busy parking lot and a long line of people waiting for their turn to take photos. However, this classic photo opportunity is worth the wait.

Palm Springs

The desert cities within the Coachella Valley, including Palm Springs and Palm Desert, offer a touch of classic Hollywood glamour. Green golf courses and colorful, flower-filled landscaping are juxtaposed with picturesque mountains and mid-century modern architecture, making Palm Springs an ideal option for couples seeking outdoor wedding venues. The Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa offers several wedding and reception venues, including the Rose Lawn, which features mountain views, palm trees and a carefully manicured garden. Inside, the hotel's lobby makes the perfect setting for wedding photos, especially for large families and wedding parties, thanks to the grand staircase. Plus, the hotel's duel, curved staircases give photographers ample space to accommodate large groups of people in its impressive venue.


Combining dramatic desert backdrops with metropolitan convenience, Phoenix and the neighboring cities of Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe, make ideal destination wedding locations. Scottsdale, in particular, is home to a number of upscale resorts that are popular among couples of all kinds. The Boulders Resort & Spa offers several outdoor venues that capture the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. For instance, the property's Promise Rock location features a green lawn set among rock formations and desert plants. For large wedding parties, brides and grooms can opt for the Presidential Lawn, which features golf course views and can accommodate up to 250 guests. The resort is also home to a 33,000-square-foot spa – the perfect place for couples to relax before the wedding festivities begin.

Grand Canyon

For adventurous, outdoorsy couples, no wedding venue can compare to the Grand Canyon's breathtaking backdrop. Small weddings can be held at several scenic overlooks throughout the park, although a permit from the National Park Service is required. Along the South Rim of the canyon, couples can tie the knot at Moran Point, which features a dramatic view and tends to be less busy than other parts of the park. Meanwhile, Lipan Point provides views of the Colorado River. Along the North Rim, couples can hold their wedding ceremonies at the Cape Royal Amphitheater or Point Imperial, the highest overlook on the north side of the Grand Canyon. However, couples will need to choose their guests wisely – Point Imperial can only accommodate up to 10 wedding guests.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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