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My husband and I celebrated our first anniversary (!!) earlier this month, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I felt around this time a year ago. Excited was the number one adjective, of course, but if I’m being totally honest, I was a little bit nervous, too–I had heard so many times that “the first year of marriage is the hardest.” A year later, I can confidently and gratefully say that this year has been the best of my life. There were hard moments, certainly, but thanks to the preparation we did before our wedding day and the commitment we had made to living out our vows daily, I’m so proud to have made it to our first anniversary more in love with my husband than ever. As we’ve heard time and time again in real wedding interviews, preparing for marriage intentionally plays a big role in setting couples up for success once they make their sparkler exit and real life settles in. You can find tons of inspiration and ideas for marriage prep in this year’s Sweet Tea Sunday series, and today, we thought we’d round up some favorite reads from our team, plus some friends, that helped us prepare for marriage!

Photo by Anna Paschal

Love Does. While there are so many great books to help prepare for marriage, Love Does is one of my all-time favorite books, period. It’s full of sweet stories of love in action, and the faith it takes to not only love someone, but take action on that love. One of the best lessons to learn pre-marriage! – Marissa

I actually read His Needs, Her Needs a few years after getting married, but I’d recommend it for engaged couples as well as those married longer–not necessarily because I agreed with everything the author said (I didn’t), but because it is guaranteed to prompt interesting and lively conversation about lots of sticky subjects if you read it together. I appreciated the author’s practical approach and emphasis on making changes yourself instead of “working on” your spouse! – Emily

This recommendation is especially for my Catholic sisters :) I first read Theology of the Body Explained for Beginners (Christopher West’s synopsis of Pope John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them) in college, and it was a game-changer in the way I viewed the meaning and purpose of marriage. Dave and I both re-read it while we were engaged, and it definitely helped us enter into marriage with our minds and hearts in the right place. – Lisa

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. I discovered this book several years into our marriage and I wish I had had it from the beginning! This book is a wonderful resource full of practical advice for navigating common struggles in marriage and strengthening your relationship through the power of prayer. – Amber

The Five Love Languages. KPW and I met in a Interpersonal Communication class and fell in love over a shared interested in Tar Heel basketball and communication theory. We love learning about ways to communicate better and the reasons why we communicate the way to we do. Learning about the different love languages and how to use them to love each other better was a powerful lesson during our marriage prep and something we still refer to on a regular basis! – Kristin

The Love Languages Devotional Bible. This is our favorite devotional to read together. It has really helped us to carve out time together to be still, while strengthening our relationship. Learning each other’s love language and how we can each show love in that specific way, has made our marriage more intentional, fun and has helped us “rekindle the flame” when life gets hectic! – Laura

The book that I would recommend is kind of more for after you’re married, but it is one of my favorites and I think it would be worth digging into even before getting married. The title of the book is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I was gifted the book by my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday shortly after getting married and it holds so much amazing content. It is all about looking at the true purpose of marriage and how it can be a way to grow closer to God. It has been a great way for me to connect on a deeper level with my husband and grow in my own faith. – Rachel Green

I loved reading The Meaning of Marriage because it allowed me to see my marriage with new perspective. So often, couples think that it is their spouse’s duty to make them “happy” and that is simply not true. That mindset and expectation will have horrible repercussions down the road in any relationship. That is a lot of pressure and responsibility for your husband/wife to carry and it’s nearly impossible to achieve. The Meaning of Marriage taught me that my view of marriage had always been so self-focused, and it needed to change. I find purpose as a wife and as a woman through my relationship with God. He gives me purpose and peace that passes all understanding, and because of that, I have the freedom to love Michael without expecting ridiculous things in return from him. This book lives in my bedside table and has changed my life. I HIGHLY recommend it to ANY couple! – Katelyn James

What books would you add to this list? We’d love to hear!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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Like most 20 and 30 somethings in America today, the Southern Weddings gals are big fans of Mrs. Joanna Gaines and HGTV’s Fixer Upper. BIG fans. So when we got the chance to interview one of the sweetest couples from Season 3 (the owners of one of my all-time favorite exterior transformations!), there may have been some squeals and a little happy dance done in the SW office. Luke and Rachel Whyte were kind enough to share some Fixer Upper secrets in addition to their newlywed advice, and as diehard fans, we all loved comparing what their house looked like done-up for the show and after a few months of loving and living.

If, like us, you’ve always wondered what goes on while the Fixer Upper cameras are rolling (and after they’ve packed up!), this post is for you!

The couple: Rachel (27) and Luke (27) Whyte
Years married: 3.5
The littles: Haven (22 months) and James (3 months)
Where you live: Waco, TX
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. We moved to Waco nine years ago to attend Baylor University. We got married the year after we graduated, and have been here since! When we decided to stay in Waco, we did it for a very specific reason: we wanted to invest in the city. We knew that Waco was growing and that if we were to stay, we would get to watch it undergo a major transformation. This was one year before the Fixer Upper phenomenon began, so as you can see, we were right! And we most definitely made the right decision. Luke is a young adult pastor and I am a wedding photographer. I’ve also had the privilege to work as a photographer for Magnolia and for Fixer Upper. We have two little babies under the age of two. Life in ministry, owning a business, and having a toddler and newborn isn’t easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Tell us your love story in one sentence. We are two broken people who, because of God’s grace, have been redeemed so that we can tell His story of redemption.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? It’s amazing to watch your life change and family grow, and at the same time, still feel like those two crazy college kids who first fell in love. Sometime we look at each other and say, “How are we parents? How do we live here??” It’s all so surreal. Life moves so fast. And it’s a lot easier to become friends and teammates than I would have thought before getting married.
Tell us a little bit about where you live. We live in Woodway, which is essentially a suburb of Waco, in our own home. We live very close to Lake Waco and we love to go on walks and experience nature there.

Tell us about the process of moving in together. When we first moved in together after we got married, I recycled most of my old college decorations. Now living in this house, we kind of started from scratch. It’s been fun to blend our styles. When we sat down with Joanna for our design meeting, we both stated our biggest preferences. Luke wanted to incorporate Colorado and the mountains, and I wanted a big, bright kitchen. We got both of those things and more. Joanna did an amazing job combining our styles and we couldn’t be happier with our home!
Where did you live while your home was being renovated for Fixer Upper? While our home was being renovated, we decided to live as nomads rather than finding semi-permanent housing. We stayed with various friends and acquaintances and were astounded at the hospitality we encountered. We also traveled quite a bit since it was the summer. We stayed in 17 different beds total during the 11 weeks. We did not peek at all during our renovation process. Luke loves surprises and I agreed to stay away so that we could be surprised together.

What happens after “reveal day”? Do you keep all of the furniture and decor? On reveal day you meet Chip and Jo at a location near your house. You get all mic-ed up and then they drive you to the house. You close your eyes and Chip and Jo lead you to the canvas, and they pull it back to show you your new home! It really is like what you see on TV. We kept some decor but not any furniture, as we had our own. There is a separate budget to buy the furniture and things used to stage your home, but I would expect that most people have their own furniture already.

Did Magnolia renovate your entire house? What about rooms we didn’t see on the show? There were two rooms and two bathrooms that were not renovated for the show. We did them ourselves after moving in, which I don’t recommend. In hindsight I wish we would have included that in our budget so that Magnolia could have done the renovation for us.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? I personally really love our kitchen. I also love our master bath, but haven’t gotten to spend as much time in there since having two babies! We just recently finished the Whole30 diet, so I spent a lot of time cooking creative meals. It’s such a blessing to have a large kitchen!

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? We use our knives most often. Like I said, I’ve been cooking three meals a day for a month, so I’ve been getting really good use out of them!
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you know now? I would get fewer serving and entertaining pieces. You only have so many parties and host so many showers!

What most makes your house feel like home? Being a photographer you might expect this, but I have a ton of photos up around our house, and they really make it feel like home. I love adding more as we have more kids and move through new stages of life.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? I try to buy quality, and buy once. I’m not a big bargain shopper, although I wish I was!

What is your favorite part of being married? I love getting to do life with my best friend.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? We have defined boundaries and we stick to them. We also communicate when things feel off and are willing to adjust accordingly.

How does your family handle finances? We have a set budget, but we both seem to make incidental purchases quite often, so we have a big “miscellaneous” section in it.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? We send each other encouraging texts sharing things we’re thankful for about each other.

Do you have children? We have two kids, Haven and James. We hope to have one or two more, and adopt as well. Our biggest desire for them is that they would grow to love Jesus and give their lives to serve Him.

Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… that if you submit yourself to the process of being refined and sharpened by your spouse, you will slowly but surely start to grow in the same direction. It’s dying to yourself. In the moment it is painful, but long term you see the life and beauty it brings.

Big hugs to Rachel and Luke for sharing, and to Sarah Best for the Whyte family photos! Keep up with Rachel on her website and blog and Instagram! And if y’all have questions about the light fixtures, paint colors, or materials used, feel free to leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Meredith reply

    LOOOOOVE!! So fun having them interviewed! Love their beautiful home!

  2. avatar Michelle reply

    Love this post!! Question- where are the kitchen stools from? I know it’s not about paint or light fixtures but I thought I’d try and see if y’all knew!

  3. avatar Kate reply

    What brand is the real couch?

  4. avatar Dulcey reply

    What paint colors were used in the craft area and master bedroom?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Dulcey! I’m pretty sure the color in both the office/craft room and the master bedroom is “Agreeable Gray” from Sherwin Williams!

    • avatar Heather reply

      Do you happen to know if that is the same color that was used in the other living areas of the house? I was wondering about the paint color in the living room and above the wainscotting around the stairs.

  5. avatar Tomasz Kornas reply

    That house is amazing!

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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