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Antigua Guatemala Wedding Venue : San Jose el Viejo Wedding

San Jose el Viejo is another one of those magical ruins that’s available for your Antigua Guatemala wedding. Where else but in Antigua Guatemala can you get married in the ruins of a church that predates the formation of the U.S.A in 1776. In Canada and the U.S, thesetypes of buildings would be completely off-limits to the general public but in Guatemala, you can enjoy the gift of having your wedding in these stunning ruins.

Some history about San Jose el Viejo

Around 1736 a modest chapel was begun in the Tortuguero District of Antigua. It was intended to house the splendid statue of Saint Joseph, which was the work of the great sculptor Alonso de la Paz. The little hermitage became the house of worship of the needy people of this populous district. Because of their ignorance, the people did not get the King of Spain’s permission before construction began. The request was made in 1742. Because the law had not been followed, His Majesty ordered the church closed in 1744. In 1745, a new request was sent to the King, which explained the need for the church by the citizens of this community. Eventually, the necessary approval was obtained and the chapel reopened. There is no definite date of the reopening of the church, but it is reported that San Jose el Viejo was damaged in the earthquake of 1751. The building of a more spacious church was undertaken, but the lack of funds caused the work to proceed very slowly. It was not completed until 1761 and Dedication occurred in February, 1762.

Consciousness of earthquakes is apparent in the construction of San Jose el Viejo. The walls are relatively low for the proportions of the church and they are heavily buttressed. The details of the facade are not consistent, or even orthodox, but the general baroque effect is not unpleasant. The single nave is very well lighted and has more architectural merit than the facade.

Earthquake of 1773

The building was irreparably damaged during the earthquake of 1773. Until Antigua was made a National Monument in 1944, San Jose el Viejo was used as a barn for the adjacent farm (now the school). It still remains in better condition than most of the churches that experienced the earthquakes of 1762, 1773 and those that ocurred during nearly two centuries since the destruction of Antigua.

What can a San Jose el Viejo wedding look like?

The front of the church can be transformed very simply with the right lighting and decorations. As an example, we’ll show a before and after shot of the front entrance.


Once we get past the beauty of the exterior, it’s truly on the inside that the splendour and magic can come out in this wonderful venue. Here’s two examples of the “before” of the interior.


Here’s the “after” …


So you want to shoot or plan your San Jose el Viejo Wedding …

Get Directions

We can help arrange the venue, plan the wedding, find an experienced photographer & videographer who knows the ruins, lighting and best time of the day to shoot your wedding. In our experience, having foreign photographers/videographers works best when they have a couple days to scout the weather, lighting and topography of the ruins.

If you’re looking to do it yourself, here’s some details that will help you along

  • Will you want to have both the reception and wedding ceremony here at San Jose el Viejo? This will help with costing.
  • Getting your dates finalized as far in advance as possible is absolutely critical.
    • Some venues are booked 2 years in advance and you might have to be flexible on your dates, if you leave it to the last minute.

If you’re looking for any help or just to have a chat, we would love to offer our unique North American perspective on how to execute your event flawlessly in the most transparent fashion possible.

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