Google+ Emily, Author at Southern Weddings Magazine

Southern Weddings Magazine

Author: Emily

I was a little apprehensive when Lisa asked me to take my turn at this column, because John and I do not really do traditional “date nights.” At this point in our lives (sans children), we spend pretty much all of our time together, so it’s not as much of a priority for us as it might be in a few years (plus we are saving for some serious financial goals!). But, when I stopped and thought about it, we do have several things we love to do together, and I hope they might be inspiring to y’all!

Wife’s name: Emily Thomas
Husband’s name: John Thomas
Years married: 2
What do you both do? Emily is the Creative Director at Southern Weddings, and John is a 401k expert
How did you meet? We grew up in the same small town. When we encountered each other in middle school, I immediately had a crush on John, but it wasn’t returned until senior year of high school, when he asked me out on our first date (ice skating!). We’ve been together ever since.
Tell us the story of your wedding, in a few sentences: We celebrated with our favorite people in one of our favorite places in the world under the most perfect blue sky you could imagine. You can take a peek at it all here and here.

Date Night 1. Outdoor movie nights. There are several spots near us that show recently released movies in the summer for $3-$5. We love packing a picnic (Chipotle, anyone?), our special movie chairs (seriously, they save your back when watching a feature length movie!), and a blanket and making a night of it.

Date Night 2. Mystery rides. I have to laugh at this one, because this is actually something my parents used to do when we were kids! Last summer John announced that we were going on an adventure, and I willingly hopped in the car. We took a beautiful country drive to the rural town of Saxapahaw, walked along the Haw River exploring old dams, split a BLT at the Saxapahaw General Store, and finished our afternoon with ice cream at Maple View Farm. It was so fun, and even more exciting because I didn’t know what was coming!

Date Night 3. A walk in the woods. No, I’m not the first one to think of this, but it’s probably the “date” we go on most often, so I have to include it. We love to explore hiking trails in our area. For us, it’s not so much about the exercise, though that is a great bonus. I love walking with John because it’s when we have our best conversations. I think there’s something about being on the move and having uninterrupted, distraction-free time together that just lets the words flow!

Date Night 4. Front porch sittin’. Don’t laugh – I promise we are not 80 years old! John’s parents bought us rockers this spring for our front porch, and a highlight of our summer was sitting out front as the sun went down or late at night, chatting and eating some sort of fruit or dessert. You might feel antsy at first (we do live in a go-go-go world), but if you let yourself just sink into the slower pace, I think you’ll find yourself craving it. No phones allowed, of course.

Date Night 5. Go big or go home. We love trying new restaurants and going out to eat, but we don’t always want to pay for a full meal. We’ve found that a great alternative is to try an exciting specialty food or shop, and really go for it. For example, we finally visited Monuts, a Durham donut shop we’d been wanting to try for months. We went whole hog and split four donuts, and even though that felt very indulgent, we only spent about $11. The possibilities are endless, here, especially as specialty shops and food trucks are cropping up everywhere: crepes, biscuits, hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, popsicles…

I would love to know: Do you consciously set aside time for “date nights,” or do you just kind of wing it? Do you think that might change as you get older?

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Loverly reply

    Those donuts look absolutely delish! Great date ideas Emily!

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    So many awesome ideas! Monuts Donuts has been on my must-try list since I moved here, and surprise dates are the best–even if it’s just being taken to Chick Fil A after a long day :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Monuts = so good! My favorite was the strawberry frosted – it tasted like real mashed berries!

  3. avatar Mandy Volpe reply

    I love the mystery ride idea! Tucking that idea away for the future!!

    Also, now I want donuts. LOL!

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It’s really a joy to get to introduce y’all to a new set of Blue Ribbon Vendors each month, because I just know any one of them would be a joy to you if you choose to work together! This time around, we’re introducing you to a few of them through their answers to some of our favorite BRV interview questions. Click through to their listings to find out more about them!

Name: Vista West Ranch
Where you call home: Dripping Springs, Texas
Favorite part of a wedding day? For me, it’s when the couple checks in — going over all of the activities, making sure that everything is in order, and being able to talk with them as they arrive at VWR. Seeing all of the excitement that is building up before the festivities start is my favorite part.

Name: Two Sweets Bake Shop
Where you call home: Winter Garden, Florida
Best piece of advice for brides and grooms? When considering your dessert options, give some thought to offering a variety of desserts to your guests. Just about every dessert can be created in small portions, allowing guests to select from several offerings. They’ll love you for it!

Name: Tucker Images
Where you call home: Crandall, Texas
How I got into weddings: Since I was young I knew that I wanted to make people happy for a living. I didn’t have a clue how I was going to do that but my junior year in college when I was hired to work with a wedding photographer I quickly started to realize that shooting weddings embodied everything I love: big moments, joyful people, and pretties!

Name: Tres Beau Weddings
Where you call home: Hoover, Alabama
How I got into weddings: I think it started with my sixth birthday party: a “Here Comes the Bride”-themed party! Then, I joke that I just never got over planning my own wedding in 2001. I also went to culinary school and learned about event management while working at Saks Fifth Avenue’s corporate headquarters!

Name: Tracy Melton Artistry
Where you call home: Dallas, Texas
Favorite part of a wedding day? Well the ‘getting ready’ part, of course! :) I love getting to spend that precious time with brides and their best ladies. It’s always such a fun time filled with laughter, love, hairspray, and lipstick – which just so happen to be a few of my favorite things!!

Name: The Southern Barn
Where you call home: Fort Lonesome, Florida
How I got into weddings: The Southern Barn at Lonesome G Ranch began when our son was married on the ranch. This was the beginning of many weddings for our family and friends. When the word about our passion to create beautiful unique Southern vintage style weddings spread, The Southern Barn name was created.

Name: The Reason
Where you call home: Atlanta, Georgia
How we got into weddings: Our love for marriage got us into weddings. We want to give our clients something that no matter how far in the future, they can always look back and remember why. We’re best friends and married. We get to work together; it’s simply the best thing ever.

Name: The Chef Next Door
Where you call home: Huntsville, Alabama
Favorite part of a wedding day? It’s a tie: either seeing the bride’s face as she sees her reception for the first time… hopefully, her dream come true! Or the hug from the bride and groom at the end of the night. I’m sweaty, my hair is in a dirty bun, and I smell like food, but it’s that hug that makes my job worth doing and solidifies that I am where I am meant to be in the world.

Name: Swanky I Do’s
Where you call home: Orlando, Florida
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? I love the emphasis on details and hospitality, and that venues range from barns to waterfront properties.

Name: Suite Paper
Where you call home: Cameron, North Carolina
Favorite part of a wedding day? I’m a sucker for the kiss!

Check out all of our favorite vendors in the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory! I also wanted to mention that we’re working particularly hard to expand some of our areas of slim pickings – namely, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. If you would like to recommend someone (or nominate yourself!) for any of these states, please email emily at!

emily Written with love by Emily

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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As the Southern Weddings team has grown (from three ladies in 2009 to seven ladies in 2014!), we’ve realized the importance of carving out intentional time to be and think and dream together. Our team is small but mighty, and when we’re all on the same wavelength we are better for each other and, most importantly, better for y’all. So this year, we extended Marissa and Kristin’s “team photo visit” by a few days and spent the time dreaming, strategizing, and, yes, having a whole heap of fun together at Fearrington Village.

Lara did a masterful job packing our three days together full of eye-opening sessions, insightful discussion, and straight-up fun. A few of the highlights:

Before the retreat, we were each asked to choose an “item of note” to share, and then we discussed them to open one of our sessions. To give you a few examples, Lisa chose a UT commencement address, I chose this TED talk, and Lara chose this podcast by Andy Stanley. This was a great way to get everyone engaged even before we got started.

We got to room together! We intentionally paired up with someone besides our usual partner in crime (usual partners in crime = Marissa + Kristin, Lisa + Emily, and Morgan + Nicole). Instead, Kristin and I roomed together, Lisa and Nicole were together, and Lara and Morgan were together. (We gave Marissa and Emerson their own room!) This was an invaluable way to carry the conversation out of the boardroom and ensure some deep bonding.

One of our first sessions was about thinking big. What would make Southern Weddings a successful company in each of our eyes in five years? 25 years? Why would we each continue to work here over the long term?

We interspersed huge questions like those with more practical sessions, like swapping tips on great phone, email, and conversational skills; how to efficiently handle email; tips for better instagram photos; and how best to approach a subjective disagreement (something that happens often, and that you must be comfortable with, when working in an office of seven opinionated and design-minded individuals!).

Invigorating business and mission sessions were broken up by pure fun, including Irish dancing lessons from yours truly, tea time, conversation starters, and a bouquet competition! It was so fun to see y’all guess whose bouquet was whose on instagram. Can you guess below?

For our final session, we split up into groups of two or three (Emily + Lara, Nicole + Lisa, and Marissa, Krisin, and Morgan) and had a deep + brief brainstorm about the three ideas sparked during the retreat that we felt MOST needed to be implemented. Let me just say, the excitement was high in the room when we came back together to present to each other!

In fact, I think we’re still riding a bit of a high from the experience – but one that’s cooled into a ferocious desire to do what we do better, smarter, and with even greater love. We can’t WAIT to share what’s coming down the pipeline with y’all over the next few weeks and months, starting with Volume 7 of the magazine!!! (In case you haven’t done so yet, be sure to place your pre-order today!) And as always, we are so grateful to y’all for encouraging us, believing in us, and being excited right alongside us. Big SW hugs all around!

P.S. Our amazing stay at Fearrington deserves its own post – more details and photos coming soon!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Kyla Fetzner reply

    It sounds like y’all had such a productive, fun, and refreshing time together! I love that you keep the heart and mission of SW at the center of all that you do :)

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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Obviously, beautiful photographs are near and dear to our collective Southern Weddings heart… photos of our own families, and of our families-in-the-making, and of the hundreds of couples who share their most precious moments with us every year! The desire to document life beautifully doesn’t end with a wedding, which is why we’re always eager to hear how others keep up with preserving photos and memories in the digital age. We’re happy to welcome our friend Jenny Collier today to learn more about how she records the life of her growing family! – Emily

I began journaling my family shortly after my husband and I were married. Living in California at the time, I started a blog to keep my family back home informed of what was going on in our lives. At the end of my first year I used a website called Blurb to turn my blog into a book, and from there, my fascination with memory keeping began.

When I received the book in the mail I absolutely poured over it — it contained all of our precious memories in one little package. From then on, I made it my mission to continue to write the story of our lives; eight years later I am still journaling and turning those memories into books. They are my most treasured items, because they tell our stories: of moving back home, building our family business, my pregnancies, and our children’s lives – their milestones, funny words, and so much more.

I teach a photography class for moms and often bring these books along with me to share. So many of my students have started this tradition for their own families, but every single one of them wishes they had started it sooner. I hope hearing about my process at this point in your journey might be helpful for y’all!

There are so many really beautiful ways to preserve your memories these days in book form – I know the Southern Weddings team adores Artifact Uprising, and I do, too! Shutterfly and MPix also have great book options. Today, I wanted to explain my process, which starts out with a blog. I use Blogger, a free blogging platform, to record my memories. My blog is set to author-only (so no one can see it but me) and is solely used to create the end product, which are my beloved coffee table memory books. Once a month, I sit down and compile our photos and memories into posts. Each event gets its own post; I also share our Instagram photos for each week in separate posts.

I also create a monthly post for each child with the things they said and did that month. Since these have essentially become my children’s baby books, I rely on these pages to jog my memory of when they hit certain milestones!

At the end of the year, I use Blurb’s blog-to-book option to create my keepsake. Just an hour or two of work for me per month is so worth it when I receive that book in the mail – especially when my little ones can now pour over our memories from the year themselves!

Thank you so much, Jenny!! In honor of memory keeping everywhere, the kind folks at Artifact Uprising have offered up a $100 gift certificate to their site. We adore Artifact’s clean design and flexible software – PERFECT for timeless wedding albums that will start you down the road of documenting your family’s life! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tell us: How do you preserve your family’s memories? Did you order an album from your photographer? From somewhere else? As your family grows, do you or do you plan to print out photos every year, or make an album for, say, every five years? We’d love to hear!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Kristy reply

    This is genius! I never knew there was an option like this out there. Thanks so much for this, Jenny! I now have a new project.

  2. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up + Happy Birthday, Morgan! – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] blue in a Southern summer–gorgeous! We’re giving away $100 to Artifact Uprising! Enter here. Nicole shared a day in her life–this gal has hustle! We rounded up our favorite ACC-inspired […]

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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My husband is a summer baby through and through – he’d rather we just skipped right on over winter and moved straight back into the warmer months. Luckily for him, in the South, it does seem like our summer months stretch on and on, filled with bright blue skies, days at the beach, and sudden thunderstorms that send us running for cover. Sarah McKenzie and the ladies of Two Be Wed designed this wedding inspiration around the gorgeous blue tones of a Southern summer – just the thing to tide us over now that Labor Day has come and gone!

From Sarah McKenzie: Ashley of Two Be Wed and I collaborated with some amazing vendors for our Summer Blues inspired shoot for the Develop Retreat for Photographers. Summer Blues was inspired by the many shades of blue found in a Southern summer, from the ocean to the rain, from a bright sunny day to a dark moody thunderstorm. No color has quite the range of expression, from vibrant cobalt to deep indigo. We wanted to show its range by using different shades, patterns, and textures. Korie of the Weekend Type created it perfectly in the invitation suite and escort cards with a watercolor blue ombre. The palette provided a soothing ground for the warm floral tones to pop right off of – clean and classic whites with pops of orange mastered by Maxit Floral Design. Continuing the mixing of colors to our tablescape, a patterned napkin and individual ranunculus created a cozy and comforting invitation to the table. Our cake was minimal but soft and elegant, just like our bride and bridesmaids. An effortless Oscar De La Renta reminded us of soft cloud floating in a sky of jewel tones. This shoot captures the essence of an elegant Southern Summer Wedding.

Photographer: Sarah McKenzie | Style & Design: Ashley of Two Be Wed | Florals: Maxit Flower Design | Hair & Makeup: Adorne Artistry | Cake: Buttercup Bakery Houston | Stationary: The Weekend Type | Linens: Over The Top Linen | Bridal Gown: Oscar De La Renta from Casa De Novia | Bridesmaid Dresses: BHLDN | Vintage Rentals: Recollection Vintage Rentals

Sarah McKenzie and Two Be Wed are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Sarah McKenzie reply

    Ekkkkkk!! Thank you so much for the feature!

  2. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The deep blues are lovely and I like that the ruffles and lace soften it. The lace on the bride’s dress is gorgeous.

  3. avatar Charmaine (Rustic Folk Weddings) reply

    Loving that Oscar De La Renta gown!

  4. avatar Mikkel reply

    Love the blue and orange combination. Especially love the white calligraphy on blue watercolor, the sheet backdrop for the ceremony and that super sweet photo of the bride with her bridesmaid! Well done!!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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