Tropical Wedding at the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo

Karissa & Israel

Karissa and Isreal post ceremony on the streets of Casco Viejo.



From Karissa’s first email I was ecstatic about photographing her and Israel’s wedding in Casco Viejo Panama. We got together at Coffee Commissary 12 months before the wedding to talk about her wedding over flat white’s. As a designer, Karissa, was looking for a place that had a tropical feeling, was easily accessible to guests from LA and San Fransisco, and had a beautiful design aesthetic. She had found the perfect place in the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama.  

The hotel itself is a haven of beautiful architecture and thoughtful design that combines for the perfect place to host a modern wedding in a historic city. Casco Viejo is a beautiful haven of photo gems and rooftop bars with ocean views. It is the historic district of Panama and is a city whose origins date back to 1519. I felt a lot like a polished version of Havana, Cuba or a safe version of Cartegena, Colombia. Seriously, it is so beautiful and contains the perfect mix of modern entertainment and historic surroundings. The American Trade is located in the middle of the historic part of town and is only a few blocks from the ocean. Karissa had fallen in love with this unique blend of modern comfort, tropical location, and historic ruins. And to be honest, so had I.

Karissa, Israel, and a few streets cats (look carefully, they’re everywhere) celebrating as a newlywed couple in the ruins of Casco Viejo Panama.

WEDDING Preparation

The day of the wedding we had almost perfect weather for Karissa and Israel’s rooftop ceremony and reception. My assistant Patrizia and I started in Karissa’s hotel room where she was having her hair and makeup done. The American Trade (and I cannot stress this enough) has the most beautiful hotel rooms of any I have photographed for any other wedding anywhere in the world. The neutral tones and natural light combined for a really beautiful place for the bride and bridesmaids to prepare for the ceremony. 

Israel and his closest friends, brother, and father were preparing downstairs in the Jazz Hall. The bar and walled plants made for a beautiful backdrop as the guys got ready and celebrated with Israel. Everyone radiated amazing energy. 

Back in Karissa’s room, I photographed as she stepped into her dress and then unveiled it for her bridesmaids for the first time. It was a priceless moment. And after a few hugs and tears, we headed to the pool area for her first look with her father. The pool area in the American Trade hotel boasts one of the coolest views of a historic city I have ever seen and made the perfect place for a father daughter first look. More hug, more tears. It was so beautiful to witness and I think I photographed literally every moment. 

One of the things Karissa and Israel had told me before their wedding is that prayer was a huge part of their lives and would be a huge part of their wedding. It is always a help to photographers and videographers when couples communicate important religious practices before the wedding and how they would like us to capture (or refrain from capturing) those moments. And, while on our way out the door of the hotel to the ceremony location the bridal party stopped to pray. It was one of many time during the day this happened and this photo was one of my favorites from the wedding. 

THE Ceremony

When I arrived at the rooftop, I noticed immediately that it was very windy. Sometimes people get concerned about the wind with photography, but I personally love it. Wind means motion, and in the tropics usually means that clouds are being blown in from the ocean. It was hot under the sun (just see the photo below of Israel wiping sweat from his forehead before the ceremony) and having cloud coverage blown in was an incredible blessing. I also have to note that Valeria and the staff at the American Trade were awesome to work with and very attentive in keeping plants and decorations in there place despite the strong winds just before the ceremony.

After a beautiful ceremony conducted by Jimmy, Karissa and Israel’s friend and pastor, the wedding party and I took to the streets of Casco Viejo to get some photos around town. It was important to Karissa to have photos in front of the ruins in her wedding dress, so we headed there first. After a few quick photographs in the ruins and the streets around Casco, it was back to the rooftop for the reception.

I could say so many things about this incredible party, but I think this blog is long enough and it’s time to let the photos speak for themselves. I will say this: the churros were excellent, the tequila never ran out, and we danced until we got kicked out. The way every destination wedding should be.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the full size image. To see the video from this wedding, click here.

Special Thanks To:

American Trade Hotel — Venue

The LIV app — MUA

Annie Martinez — Wedding Decorations

Valeria Arias — Wedding Planner

Patrizia Corbianco — Second Shooter

To see more Antigua wedding photography or to find out about getting married in Guatemala, click the link below.