Villa, who captured Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra's wedding last year, opened up about his big-day must-haves.

By Sarah Schreiber
September 23, 2019
Courtesy of Jose Villa

If you're in the thick of wedding planning, you've likely already discovered the importance of prioritizing a select few vendors or details. This priority list, of course, varies by couple. The same is true for the vendors who actually bring weddings to life-they have priority lists of their own. The difference? Theirs come backed with years of industry experience. To help you shape up your own big-day musts, we've tapped the biggest names in the wedding sphere-from planners and photographers to florists-to share their three wedding must-haves. Follow along with The Insider to learn which wedding-related details professionals can't live without.

It's been a career-defining year for Jose Villa, the celebrated fine art photographer who captured Nick Jonas and Priyanka's wedding at the end of 2018. Though the three-day celebration in India may have been his biggest high-profile wedding, it certainly wasn't his first (the pro cites photographing Martha Stewart's niece's nuptials as another significant career highlight). Since Villa got his start nearly 20 years ago, he's established himself as one of the world's most sought-after photographers, who is often tapped for events that are as high stakes as they come.

Villa recently reflected on his career's origins in an interview with Martha Stewart Weddings, recalling his very first time photographing a wedding. "I remember being super nervous—and telling my client, 'I don't want anyone to talk to me!'" he laughs. "I didn't know how to pose people—so I let the day unfold and got those candids. I learned that I had to direct a little more. But man, shooting a wedding is not easy."

Today, Villa, is still learning—and rediscovering what he loves so much about wedding photography. He recently returned from shooting a celebration in Cuba and says that the country changed his perspective "on how I photograph. I see light differently, now—that was a fun moment of personal growth." Though he's always evolving, he also has a firm understanding of what goes into a next-level event. Luckily, he's divulged his big-day essentials, born out of both professional and personal experience. From destination venues that can house your guests under one roof to involving children in your event, these are the elements Villa says he couldn't be without.

Related: The Insider: Celebrity Wedding Planner Mindy Weiss' Top Wedding Essentials

A unique hotel venue where everyone can stay.

"Right now, I'm really into unique hotels around the world," says Villa. "I got married locally, about 20 minutes away from home. We had a small wedding—52 people. Now, I would try to find a unique place where everywhere could stay together. I think that's part of the destination experience: being together, traveling together, experiencing amazing adventures." As for the unexpected destinations he wants to see more of right now? "Imagine hiking Machu Picchu after you get married! I always wanted to go to Peru or Greece, or have a wedding in those locations."

A stress-free experience for guests.

The best destination events are those planned by gracious hosts who think of just about everything, says Villa. "I'd want to contribute more," he says. "I feel like it would be amazing to contribute more to flights and hotels, so people don't feel stressed." This isn't a reality for everyone—but Villa notes that "experiences are more important than favors or gifts." If getting your guests to paradise isn't an option, make paradise amazing for them once they get there through creative, personal parties, excursions, and activities.

A wedding planner who understands you.

You can't throw the wedding of your dreams without a planner who "really knows your vision and understands you, the couple," says Villa. "Right now, I'm loving Lynn Easton. We've worked together for years," he adds. "I love working work with Lynn—we understand each other."

A guest list packed with kids.

Kids bring innocence and awe to weddings—and if he were tying the knot again tomorrow, Villa says that he'd absolutely include children on his guest list. "I'd include all of my nieces and nephews," he says, noting that he didn't necessarily feel the same way when he and his husband, photographer Joel Serrato, wed nearly eight years ago. "All of that was different then. Today, I'd make an effort—especially with a same-sex marriage."

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