How does a professional wedding photographer get married? By inviting 50 people to Antigua, Guatemala, for a destination wedding. That’s the story for Brogen Jessup, a wedding photographer, and David Russo, a UI/UX designer, who said “I do” in a former convent in the Latin American destination.
The San Diego-based pair knew from the start that they wanted the wedding to be a celebration of marriage traditions from around the world and that they loved Mayan architecture. That became the base for the search, which led them to Santa Clara Convento, Pensativo House Hotel, and their local planners Saguzo Eventos. “Antigua is a small cobblestoned town abundant with textile weaving design, tropical plants, artisanal makers, colorful architecture, and romantic courtyards,” says the bride. “It’s a cultural experience but also quick for guests to access from the airport.”
Logistics aside, the wedding was, simply, inspired by the idea of love. David included a passage from Plato’s Symposium as part of his vows, and the pair’s guests shared their own monologues on love during the reception. Brogen incorporated various cultural traditions into the day, including a henna design on her hands, second-line parade through the streets, lively music from a mariachi band, Turkish rugs, and burning of copal incense. It was important, she says, to “share the beauty and rituals of union” and draw upon her experience photographing weddings around the world.
For Brogen, the easiest part of the wedding was the styling—”It was so much fun!” she admits —and the hardest? Choosing a photographer! “It was obviously a very tedious and difficult decision for us,” Brogen says of booking Kami Olavarria. “We couldn’t be more happy with our decision to hire Kami.”
“Such an honor to wear his work,” Brogen says of her couture gown by Adam Zohar. “I still feel like it’s too good to be true.” Her dress was inspired by an Israeli mandala, and she paired it with ivory Steve Madden boots for an additional edge.
Because her dress didn’t have a train, Brogen added a dramatic 60-inch ribbon to her bouquet to give a "sense of flow" to her look.
All the flowers for the day, including the bride's stunning bouquet, were a collaboration between California-based Native Poppy and Guatemala-based Addy Florales. Brogen's bouquet featured foraged blooms and garden clippings from locals as well as pops of pale pink anthuriums.
“Do a first look early and spend the day with your soon-to-be,” Brogen advises. She and David got ready very early on the wedding day so that they had ample time to enjoy one another’s company before the official festivities began. “Create a timeline that has extra padding so that you're not rushing from one thing to another,” she adds.
Brogen and David are no strangers to adventure—Brogen travels often for work, with David coming along, and he actually proposed on a trip to Iceland in 2017. “Not only was I surprised when he got on one knee but he created the most epic drone video of the proposal,” she says of the moment, which happened on narrow overlook. “I think we are both still surprised we didn’t fall off the cliff with excitement.”
David collaborated with Klein Epstein & Parker on the bespoke black suit that he accented with a vintage turquoise bolo tie and camel-colored woven mules. His groomsmen wore rust-hued suits from River Island, a find that really excited the couple: “We wanted our groomsmen to be able to keep their suits but still spend less than rental prices,” Brogen says.
“We wanted something silky to contrast the cement venue and all the textures of Guatemala,” Brogen says of the nude-hued bridesmaid dresses with fringe. They carried coordinating bouquets of dried palms and locally foraged flowers.
The wedding party took to the streets of Antigua for photographs and to admire the quaint town’s famed architecture. “The aesthetic of Mayan architecture was the foundation of the wedding vision,” the bride adds.
Antigua is a small cobblestoned town abundant with textile weaving design, tropical plants, artisanal makers, colorful architecture, and romantic courtyards.
“Our theme was to mix cultural rituals, artisanal handmade goods, and a bit of modern edge,” Brogen says of the day, which included a celebration at an old sacristy, creative floral arrangements, plenty of local handicrafts as décor, and nods to the idea of love.
The ceremony took place in a vaulted space of the sacristy to echo an ancient chapel. The florists lined the aisles with overflowing arrangements of dried palms, pink anthuriums, and foraged local flowers. They also burned copal incense to purify the energy of the space.
“Natalie from Native Poppy and Bea from Addy Florales collaborated on the most epic floral installations I’ve ever seen,” Brogen says of the decor. In fact, she made a point to hire a mix of Californian and Guatemalan vendors with one added similarity—they are both run by women! “It was pure magic watching women from different lives and cultures work together seamlessly to create a unique event.”
The bride made her grand entrance alongside her father to “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky. She met David at the end of the aisle, where they stood on a Turkish rug to exchange vows.
The couple wrote their own vows, which led to nary a dry eye. David’s monologue included a passage from Plato about soulmates.
“Don’t follow any rules and question every tradition and Pinterest influence decision,” Brogen suggests. She admits it was easier said than done, as she definitely caught herself veering, what she calls "too bridal" at times.
A mariachi band led the couple and their 50 guests through the streets of Antigua to the reception location. “It was one of our favorite moments from our wedding day,” the bride says.
We both cried like babies when we saw the reception space.
“We both cried like babies when we saw the reception space,” Brogen says. “The hanging installation featuring three Guatemalan woven rugs was the perfect backdrop to our massive floor seated lounge covered by local and foreign textiles.”
The couple enjoyed a few minutes alone before cocktail hour. “Fashion, culture, and art are huge part of our lives so we integrated that wherever we could,” Brogen says.
The couple had two signature cocktails, a French 75 made with Spanish cava and Hendrick’s gin, and a spicy mezcal cocktail.
The hotel turned into a boho bride’s dream with leather sofas, woven poufs, antique glass tables, and foraged blooms. Market lighting hung above the space and candles floated in the fountains. “It could not have been more beautiful,” recalls the bride.
For the convenience of their guests, Brogen and David hosted the reception in the courtyard of the hotel where everyone was staying. They sat all 50 guests at one long table covered with silk linens, straw chargers, and tall taper candles.
Tall taper candles and massive arrangements anchored the farmhouse-style table for the dinner party. Each place setting was accented with amber-toned glassware, a straw charger, linen napkins, and stoneware plates. The centerpieces echoed the floral arrangements during the ceremony, including forage blooms, dried palms, and anthuriums.
Brogen didn’t DIY anything but her mom sure did. The mother of the bride made 55 chair tassels and 55 pom-pom name holders as well as 50 crochet welcome baskets. Other handicrafts were sourced from local Guatemalan artisans.
Dinner included plenty of Latin American flair, like flaming shrimp tossed with Chile Copan hot sauce, pumpkin ravioli, and torrejas.
Guests waved their napkins and cheered as the newlyweds made their grand entrance during the reception.
The couple took their first spin on the dance floor to “Wicked Games” by Chris Issak.
“We had several couples stand during the ceremony and tell us their thoughts on what marriage is and what it takes to foster a healthy relationship,” Brogen says. “We were able to turn out towards our guest and soak in all the love.”
“I can’t remember eating it but we both had it all over our face during cake cutting!” Brogen says of the epic party and their three-tiered wedding cake, which was inspired by the destination wedding locale.
Ceremony Venue Santa Clara Sacristy
Reception Venue Pensativo House Hotel
Wedding Planner Saguzo Eventos
Bridal Gown Adam Zohar
Bride's Veil Rue De Seine
Bride's Hat Janessa Leone
Bride's Shoes Steve Madden
Hair Amber Kelley
Makeup Lindsey Jones
Bridesmaid Dresses Mango
Mother of the Bride Dress Calvin Klein
Groom’s Attire Klein Epstein & Parker
Groomsmen Attire River Island
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Mineralogy
Stationery & Paper Goods Four Things Paper
Entertainment Dustin Girard
Catering Pensativo House Hotel
Cake Arte De Pastel
Neon Sign Neon Narwall
Transportation Antigua Tours
Accommodations Pensativo House Hotel
Photography Kami Olavarria