For something truly different, a wedding in the ruins of a 300 year church in Panama City might suit.
Set in the UNESCO world heritage district of Casco Antigua in the old town, and exuding romance, the historic landmark Church of the Society of Jesus sits next door to Hotel La Compañía, which offers the fully curated weddings within the visually stunning remains of the church, and is itself steeped in history.
Newly renovated and launched last year as part of Hyatt’s Unbound brand, the hotel started life as a Jesuit priests’ convent in what is now the Spanish Wing (hence the church next door.)
This part of the hotel dates back to 1688 and now houses 20 guestrooms.
Later additions include the French Wing, built in 1739 as Panama’s first university, and the most recent building, the Beaux Arts style American Wing, with 23 guest rooms that started life as a department store in 1904, during the building of the Panama canal.
Due to fires and destruction, the restoration of the hotel was a complete rebuild of much of the structures, involving historians, architects and designers.
The result is 88 newly minted rooms that echo their respective past while bringing the space together into a cohesive hotel space.
The history, as well as the renovation process, is proudly displayed through photos and artifacts — although the ancient human bones found in the wall, thought to be that of a revered priest, were removed by authorities for “evaluation” and haven’t been returned, much to general manager Fidel Reye’s chagrin. (“It could have been St Christopher,” he opined.)
Weddings here can also take place in the gracious lawns in the courtyard, with its ancient avocado tree and fragrant herb gardens, both of which serve the kitchen, and are beautifully lit during the evening hours.
Guests can also enjoy brand new touches, like the rooftop pool and Capella lounge overlooking the historic district and beyond to the sea, where cocktail hour extends into the night.
Rooms are spacious and comfortable and echo the different styles of their heritage — the 45 French rooms are particularly evocative, with iron balconies overlooking the lively street scene.
Nor will the food disappoint. Overseen by executive chef Luis Artigas, the church-like surroundings of the El Santuario restaurant is a standout, blending Panamanian and central American flavors, as well as Indian, thanks to its tandoori oven.
Other outlets include the 1739 wine cellar which hosts wine tastings and private dining, and the fun surroundings of American Bazaar, which replicates the building’s department store past with artifacts while offering tastes of home.
Whether as a wedding destination, a bookend to travels further afield (a Panama canal cruise, for instance) or as a place to call home while exploring the many aspects of Panama City, Hotel La Compañía wins the day for history, comfort and charm.
Prices from $325. Copa Airlines flies from JFK (round trip from $280) and 14 other US cities.