La Antigua Guatemala has become THE wedding destination for Central America!
by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian
November heralds weddings in La Antigua and guests come from all over the world to celebrate. Antigueños recently founded Asociación Destino Antigua to provide better service and to promote the city’s tourism. Due to the continual increase in the wedding segment, they have helped co-found the Honeymoon and Wedding Guild through the Chamber of Tourism.
Guatemala’s finest wedding planners, many tour operators and hotels are sponsoring a familiarization trip for wedding planners from the U.S. to visit Antigua. Yes, the city is closer to New York and San Francisco than those cities to each other, making it very accessible with the increase in flights from different destinations.
What does Antigua have to offer? A unique experience. Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the city’s setting as an exquisite destination. Talented Guatemalan artisans create extraordinary events with special decorations, flowers, candles and cuisine. The colonial monuments offer a fabulous venue for wedding guests and let’s not forget the city’s great weather and fabulous views.
Architect Norman Muñoz, conservator of the city, welcomes foreign weddings, as they provide a lower impact on the city’s traffic and guests get to learn more about the colonial capital and the importance of preserving it. The National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala has five monuments and the funds from these activities help provide for their maintenance.
He says he is amazed by the creative decorations provided by Guatemalan artisans and delighted that weddings have provided so many new jobs for the city’s inhabitants. Julio Aceituno, president of the Wedding Guild, reports that “effortlessly, this industry was born in Antigua because of its beauty. Antigua also offers a great experience at about 30 percent of the cost for a comparable event in the U.S.—but add the 16th century touch and inviting your guests to a World Heritage Site!”
Historic venues typically include the impressive ruins of Las Capuchinas and Santa Clara; church settings include La Merced and the Cathedral. While the Porta Hotel Antigua has always been a favorite spot for weddings, the new wedding flare began in 1997 with the renovated church at Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. Couples often prefer the hotel setting, such as the Camino Real, to keep the entire affair within one spacious, full-service and elegant setting.
When visiting Antigua for a wedding, Guatemalans usually spend Saturday night here and invite more guests, while the average stay for foreign guests is four nights in the colonial capital with 80 guests. Ninety percent of these guests visit the city for the first time. Additional tours are available—whether a cultural walking tour, coffee plantation tour, canopy-zip line or a day of golf at La Reunion.
Many guests also stay longer to enjoy Lake Atitlán and Tikal. The wedding segment provides an estimated $22 million per year to the country’s economy.