C California Style

The welcome dinner at Villa Cetinale designed by Kate Holt and Laurie Arons.
Mindy Rice-designed gift baskets carried by a donkey at the Mexico session.
A welcome gift at the Napa Valley workshop designed by Laurie Arons and Jill Sassa from PS Paper.
Mindy Rice sourced corn husk florals and Mexican tiles for the tabletop, which also features place mats calligraphed by a local artist and Casa de Perrin tableware.
Jose Villa. PHOTO: Joel Serrato.
An invitation suite at the Napa Valley workshop; calligraphy by Janis Anzalone and paper by PS Paper.
The “getaway” car at the Italy workshop.
Kate Holt of Flowerwild and Laurie Arons designed the farewell dinner at the Villa Cetinale in Sovicille. The flowers were sourced from nearby Florence and Siena.
At a recent Mexico workshop, florist Mindy Rice and planner Lisa Vorce designed the welcome dinner in a 350-year-old sugarcane warehouse. PHOTO: Jose Villa.

Kodak Moments

by C California Style

Jose Villa’s international workshops bring the art of wedding photography into focus.

“Photographers tend to place certain things in a frame that don’t make sense,” says renowned wedding lensman Jose Villa. “I hate when I see a dress in a tree, or wedding shoes hanging from their heels on a painting—a shoe doesn’t live on a painting!”

Blending authenticity with the soft-focus graininess of film and editorial-style art direction for fine art results, Villa has established himself as an industry heavyweight (with a more than 156,000-strong Instagram following) in his 14-year career.

He began sharing his expertise a decade ago, launching an annual workshop for aspiring photographers. With a rotating cast of influential experts such as event planner Laurie Arons, Style Me Pretty blog founder and editor Abby Larson, makeup artist Mar Romero, videographer Joel Serrato and florist and event designer Mindy Rice, the Santa Ynez-based Villa escapes to his native Mexico, holing up in a 350-year-old hacienda in Jalisco to stage teaching-friendly photo ops spanning gift-laden donkeys to sunset-lit agave fields.

The intimate gatherings (which last year expanded to Sovicille, Italy, and California’s Pope Valley) have also become something of a trend incubator. Pinterest-ready vignettes feature gowns by emerging Israeli designers Galia Lahav and Inbal Dror and accents such as custom linens embroidered with original art motifs. “It’s a great vehicle for getting inspired,” says Arons, who is given free rein to experiment with au courant bold hues in place of the typical blush and buttercup.

Rice, meanwhile, can pursue her self-described “let’s pretend that we meant to do that” moments: improvising a table runner from terra-cotta tiles and repurposing wax bags as vessels for cathedral candles. “People are warming up to richer colors like fuchsias and reds, and incorporating things other than florals,” she observes, noting a trend away from wild, foraged arrangements toward “tailored with a trailing vine element,” an embrace of organic touches such as heirloom tomatoes, and the rise of hellebores over peonies as the new hot flower.

Days wind down over micheladas and tamarind margaritas. “It’s so fun. And by the time the week’s done, someone has cried and you know everyone’s quirks,” says Rice. The sign of a good party if ever there was one. josevillaworkshops.com.

By Melissa Goldstein.
Edited by Kelsey McKinnon.