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It is always a joy to introduce y’all to the couples who so graciously let us into their hearts and homes here on Southern Newlywed. I have to admit though, today’s post is extra special to me, because it features one of the couples I, and I’m sure many of you, admire most! Southern Weddings’ Creative Director, Emily, and her husband, John, are incredibly kind, generous, and fun, and they’re also so intentional about enjoying and celebrating both the big and small things of life. I could hardly wait to get my hands on their interview to soak up their wisdom, and I hope you’ll love reading about their marriage and their cheerful North Carolina home as much as I did!

Thanks so much to our Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for these beautiful photos!

P.S. Be sure to keep an eye out for cameos by one of the Thomas kitties (the other is a bit camera shy!), and don’t miss E+J’s very exciting announcement below! :)

The couple: John and Emily Thomas, both 28
Years married: Just about three
Where you live: Apex, North Carolina
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. John and I are an interesting mixture of contrasts and similarities. We are united by our faith, our love for one another, our love for our families and friends, our passion for financial literacy, our love of travel, and our intense love for our cats. We are both introverts at heart who believe life is ultimately a serious business, not something to be frittered away–and therefore, should be celebrated seriously and lived to the fullest!

Tell us your love story in one sentence. Her middle school unrequited crush took an unexpected turn when he proposed a first date in high school–and they’ve been together ever since. (If you’re interested in the long form version, see here.)
What is your favorite part of being married? My favorite thing about being married is being known so intimately. There is no one else on this earth who knows me as well as John, and in fact, there are pieces of me that he has seen that no one else has ever seen. What a beautiful and precious trust that is! I am never afraid to be my whole self with him–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and in turn, I learn more every day about who my true self really is, and how to make that true self better.

Do you rent or own? Tell us a little bit about where you live. We own our home…or as John likes to say, we co-own it with the bank :) I feel like that’s an important distinction, because our goal is to have bought out the bank within the next five years! We live in Apex, a small town conveniently located midway between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. We actually hated this area when we first moved here (so different from small town coastal New England, where we grew up!), but have come to absolutely love it over the last six years. Aside from the amazing restaurants, one of our favorite things about where we live is that it’s a perfect jumping-off point for weekend road trips: Charleston, Wilmington, Asheville, Richmond, Charlottesville, Atlanta, Savannah, and more are all doable drives, and for two people who love adventure and experiencing new things together, it’s heaven.

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Definitely our kitchen items–our pots and pans, our Le Creuset, our baking sheets, our griddler, our food processor, our mixer. We cook dinner almost every night, and I’m always so grateful to be able to use these goods that will last us for many years!
Who cooks dinner? John! (Hallelujah!) When we first moved to North Carolina, he was still looking for a job, so he took on the task of having dinner ready when I came home every night. He quickly acquired skill, and so even once he started a new job, he stayed on as chef. I am the happy dishwasher :)

What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? I’m pretty proud of the collection of go-to recipes we’ve built up over the last six years. You can find many of the recipes we turn to over and over here, and the ones we’d like to try here.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? Blogs, for sure. Some of our favorites: A Couple Cooks, A House in the Hills, Oh She Glows, Gimme Some Oven, Naturally Ella, Damn Delicious, A Cup of Jo, and Cookie + Kate. John also loves to browse the Food Network’s archives.

What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? How easy it is? Eek, I hope that doesn’t sound insensitive, because I know it’s not the case for everyone. But you know that saying, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? I feel “marry your best friend and you’ll never work a day in your life” is true for us. Marriage doesn’t feel hard or like work; as my friend Erin says, “Marriage is our comfort zone and support system. It’s as natural as breathing and just as necessary for making my way through life, with all its good and hard times.”
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? This has mostly been an exercise in me learning to not get grumpy when John expresses an opinion. He is incredibly gracious and accepting of my aesthetic choices and priorities in general (which, of course, I try to make with both of us in mind!), so I am learning to follow his example and try to find a gracious solution–or just go along with his idea–on the rare occasions when he does express a strong opinion.
What most makes your house feel like home? Without a doubt, our cats. Again, living away from our families, it was always at best mildly depressing to travel back to NC after spending a holiday or vacation with loved ones. Though we still miss our parents and siblings (and now nieces and nephews!) all the time, things turned a corner when we adopted our two adorable tuxedo kittens. They’re always so happy to see us, and really make our house a home (as cheesy as that sounds).

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? To be honest, at this point, we have made very few splurges–our priority is definitely paying extra on our mortgage! It can be frustrating to feel like there are so many areas of our home that are not “finished” or that don’t look like I know they could if I had more money or time, but having a firm goal is very empowering and motivating. Also, a plan makes me feel more in control when progress seems slow, so I have two spreadsheets I update regularly: one where I track the improvements we’ve made and the improvements we’d like to make in each room, and another where I keep a list of purchase priorities, ranked in order of importance–I refer to it whenever we have money to spend! In the meantime, I wait patiently for the right furniture pieces to pop up on Craigslist or at our local flea market. (I keep a running list on my phone of the pieces I’m currently searching for and relevant measurements.) I shamelessly do careful research and then ask for easy-to-purchase home things like pillows, sheets, and frames for Christmas and my birthday. Lighting can also make a huge difference, and is not that hard to install, even if you’re not an electrician. We switched out the fairly ugly chandelier and pendant lights in our kitchen/dining room with finds from Home Depot and Overstock for less than $200 total. For those who are local to Atlanta, I’m super jealous that you are so close to the Ballard Designs Outlet–such a great resource, where we’ve purchased several items!

What is your favorite memory from your wedding? We both agree that it was without a doubt walking down the aisle to meet each other at the altar. We did a first look, which was joyful but not particularly emotional, so I didn’t expect the intense wave of emotion that hit all of us–bridal party, families, guests–as the music swelled.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? Our photographer, Tanja, took the most beautiful landscape photo of the coastline down the hill from our venue at sunset, and we had it printed on an oversize canvas for our living room. I love that it’s not a huge photo of our faces, and that every time I look at it, I’m reminded of our beautiful day–what incredible weather we had, and what it felt like to be newly married and taking portraits on that beach in the pinky glow.

What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? This might not be the answer for everyone, but aside from when we’re at work, we are almost always together. We grocery shop together, we exercise together, we work in the yard together, we watch the same TV shows. We don’t really believe in “divide and conquer,” and although sometimes it’s less efficient, we feel our choice makes up for it in companionship and closeness.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? John makes me dinner every night, which is a pretty big one!

Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? I would have to say our guest room! I feel like it’s one of the most “put together” rooms in our home, and it houses some of my most triumphant flea market finds (the dresser, bed, and nightstand). The real reason it’s my favorite, though, is because we live far away from all of our family and many of our friends, and establishing a comfy, welcoming place for when they come to visit was one of our highest priorities after we moved in. The reviews have been positive so far :)
How does your family handle finances? Do you use a set budget? Uh, yes. I’d say our passion for financial independence and using our resources wisely is one of the most powerful unifying forces in our relationship! We believe so strongly that the more financially free you are, the more choices you have in your life–about, to name just a few, where to live, where (and how much) to work, how to raise your children, and what causes to support. Over the last few years, we have worked really hard to pay off our student loan debt and both of our cars, save for retirement, and chip away at our mortgage–all while tithing. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy commercial, I believe you can do this, too. As this is one of my biggest passions in life, I blog about it often in my Marvelous Money series. I’d love to see you there!

Do you have children? One on the way!!! We just shared the news this week. I am 17 weeks with a due date of January 15. It took a full year of concentrated conversation amongst ourselves and close friends, soul searching, and prayer before getting to this place and really being able to define why we wanted to have kids. I think we worked out all of the nerves in that time, so now, we are just excited!
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? Every single night as we fall asleep, I say to John, “I love you. You’re my best friend.” Even if it’s been the busiest day and we haven’t had any other meaningful connection, I take such comfort in that knowledge. Marriage is the best.

Thank you so much for sharing, Thomases! Keep up with Emily and John (and baby Thomas, too!) on Emily’s blog, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

lisa Written with love by Lisa
14 Comments
  1. avatar Abby Nyquist reply

    Congrats Emily + John! So exciting! Your house is also adorable!!

  2. avatar Maureen reply

    Love Emily’s design style and I am SO HAPPY for them!

  3. avatar Kyla Fetzner reply

    Congratulations Emily and John! :)

  4. avatar Julie reply

    Swooning over your beautiful home, Emily!

  5. avatar This Weekend reply

    […] A sweet (and realistic!) newlywed house tour. […]

  6. avatar courtney reply

    You’re such an inspiration, Emily!

  7. avatar Shannon Shaughnessy reply

    Hooray Emily & John! So excited for you two!

  8. avatar Amy reply

    Yay!!! How fun!! Your house is beautiful! My birthday is January 15 too! Congrats!

  9. avatar Rachel Nordgren reply

    YAY! I absolutely adore this home tour and I couldn’t be happier for Emily and John! Those walls are going to be holding so many new and precious memories soon :)

  10. avatar Brent and Anna – Live View Studios reply

    I didn’t realize you all were in Apex! We are over in Fuquay – we should grab coffee together sometime :)

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As y’all know, we’ve spent this summer looking back to our childhoods for date night inspiration–we’ve eaten popsicles, scribbled with sidewalk chalk, gone for bike rides with our beaus, and lots more! While there are tons of fun experiences to be had during the summer (and we’ve hope you’ve been sharing yours with us via our #PassThePopsicles hashtag!), we recently shared our absolute favorite dates on our YouTube channel, Southern Weddings TV. Check it out below!

What’s your favorite summer date night idea? Let us know in the comments!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Janae reply

    My favorite summer date night is going to the drive-in!
    Janae
    http://www.hiyallblog.blogspot.com

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As y’all may know, every summer, we welcome a lovely intern to our office! Elizabeth has been a huge help to us with everything from photo shoot prep to packing up shop orders over the last few months. She fell heads over heels for Laurie and Brian’s gorgeous wedding, so we invited her to introduce them to y’all today! -Lisa

I have read quite a few real wedding interviews this summer and have loved every one of them, but Laurie and Brian’s story truly captured my heart. My love for their wedding is partially due to the fact that their initial relationship, jokingly referred to as “work husband and wife,” that turned into a romance is simply so sweet. However, I am also completely smitten by this wedding because Laurie and Brian incorporated so many details that I dream of having in my own wedding someday, many years down the road! I have always wanted to design my own wedding dress, and the dress that Laurie created with the help of a custom dressmaker is stunning, if I do say so myself. Laurie and Brian have spent their fair share of time in banquet halls throughout their careers, so they wanted something different for their big day–an outdoor Southern wedding at Southwood House, surrounded by dripping Spanish moss, was the perfect contrast.

Thanks so much to Cassidy Carson for sharing this charming day with us!

P.S. We were thrilled to see that Laurie’s Southern Weddings Planner made an appearance in these photos! Can you spot it?

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. The search for the perfect wedding dress was one of the biggest challenges. We had a fairly short engagement, so any dress ordered from a boutique would have to be rushed and leave no time for alterations. I never found “the” dress, and most of the time, left the bridal boutiques frustrated and overwhelmed. While searching Pinterest, I found a custom dressmaker located in Brian’s hometown, Salt Lake City. As luck would have it, we were visiting his family the upcoming weekend, so I quickly made an appointment with Penelope and the rest is history. I had the best time designing my dress, and within three weekend visits to Salt Lake City, I had my wedding gown!

I love almost any arrangement of fresh flowers, so I had the hardest time settling on just a few types of flowers! I wanted the bouquets to feel whimsical, but not so loose that they competed with the draping Spanish moss and greenery around our venue. Ultimately, we decided on David Austin and garden roses, peonies, hydrangeas, and succulents, as a nod to our life in California.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We did do a first look. The majority of our guests traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to celebrate with us, and we wanted to soak up as much time with these friends as possible. Since most of our photos could be taken before the wedding, we decided a first look would allow for additional time to make this happen. Looking back, there are so many reasons to do a first look. Seeing each other before the ceremony calmed our nerves, and let us pray together and enjoy a few quiet moments before the celebration began!

I love the theme song from Steel Magnolias and thought it would be a beautiful entrance for the bridesmaids. I searched high and low for a bridal processional, but never found a song better than the Steel Magnolias theme. Our talented string quartet created an arrangement that included a powerful crescendo for my grand entrance, and kept the song flowing until I made it to the end of the aisle. I think I had chills and tears the whole way.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote our own vows, but mixed in a few lines from more traditional vows. I always seem to be fighting some sort of illness, so I joked with Brian that “in sickness and in health” needed to be included. On a more serious note, our favorite line was “With God’s grace, I promise to encourage and challenge you to become the person God has created you to be.”
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? One of my dearest childhood friends read 1 John 4:9-19. Her sweet pastor of a husband was our officiant, and together, they did an amazing job sharing the Lord’s meaning of marriage.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The only non-Southern detail about our wedding was the groom! Our ceremony and reception took place under the Southern oaks, our wedding favors were jars of local Tupelo honey, our menu consisted of a biscuit bar, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, shrimp and grits, and banana pudding, and my family provided the sweetest Southern accents to the evening!

With careers in corporate America, Brian and I have attended our fair share of events in banquet halls and ballrooms. We wanted the feel and ambiance of our wedding to be completely different. Since my family lives in North Florida, we decided a Southern wedding would be best. Our dream wedding included a ceremony under the oak trees and a family-style dinner, served as if you were at a backyard garden party. When we discovered Tallahassee’s Southwood House and Cottages, we knew it was a perfect fit. The property is filled with giant oak trees and provided plenty of room to host both our ceremony and reception. There is a beautiful, historic home located on the property that we used to host our cocktail hour (and provide a cool haven for our guests).

Describe your wedding cake and dessert. We both love traditional yellow cake with buttercream frosting, so this decision was easy! The best compliment was when our photographer remarked, “That’s the best piece of wedding cake I’ve ever had. And that’s say somethin’.” We also served banana pudding for dessert, as well as chicken and waffles and chocolate-covered strawberries for late-night bites.

We have so many fond memories of our special day, but one that stands out is a sweet moment during the reception. Before the wedding, we decided to make sure we spent as much time on the dance floor as possible. We knew guests would follow our lead, and we wanted everyone to have a good time! At one point in the evening, I noticed that the dance floor was not packed, and I immediately felt the need to get the party going again. But then I took a moment to look around and soak it all in, and it was the prettiest sight! I saw our friends and family chatting away, enjoying their desserts, and socializing with old and new friends. Everyone seemed so genuinely happy to be celebrating with us–it was exactly what I dreamed for our wedding day!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Brian and I met while working as consultants for a Los Angeles media and entertainment company. Over two years of traveling and working together, we became close friends. In fact, our coworkers joked that we were “work husband and wife!” After finishing our consulting project and no longer seeing each other every day, we both made an effort to keep hanging out. It was not long before we realized our friendship was the foundation for something more. Overall, I am pretty open-minded; however, three of the things I’ve always said I’d never do included living in LA, dating a guy that has the same occupation as me, and specifically, dating a guy as boring as Brian James. As each of these things became very true, I am convinced God has a great sense of humor. Luckily, I realized Brian is not as boring as I had originally thought–in fact, I kind of think he’s the best!
Tell us all about the proposal! From Brian: I really wanted the proposal to be a surprise. We had spent plenty of time discussing marriage in the months leading up to the proposal, so any sign of a plan would be an absolute giveaway. To keep the element of surprise possible, I did not make any plans that would seem out of the ordinary. We went on one of our favorite hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains. From the top, there is an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and the beaches of Malibu–it’s definitely one of our favorite places in the world. No other place seemed more appropriate to drop to a knee and ask Laurie if we could spend the rest of our lives together. We followed the hike with drinks at a beachside restaurant to privately celebrate before letting our family and friends know the good news!
When did y’all get married? May 30, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 165
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something borrowed and old was the Bible my dad gave my mom when they were dating. My something blue was a gold ring with an aquamarine stone gifted to me by my two older sisters. The ring was a Christmas present I received during middle school–it was the “real” (in other words, not from Claire’s) piece of jewelry I owned. My wedding dress, shoes, earrings, and bracelet were all new.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? In the months before our wedding, we both read through “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller. We had individually read it before our engagement, but reading it again together allowed us to talk through the key points of the Lord’s purpose for marriage and what story we want our marriage to tell.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Planning a wedding in six months was a bigger challenge than I had originally expected. Several venues and vendors we inquired with were already booked. However, the biggest challenge turned out to be the wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. Every bridal boutique gave their “shock face” when I told them our wedding date. Luckily, we found a dressmaker who was able to make a gown in a short amount of time, and J.Crew had gorgeous options for bridesmaids dresses (and great sales, too!).
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We adore our photographer and were so grateful to have her as a part of our wedding! Since we live in California and she lives in Tennessee, we were pretty sure we would not meet until the day of the wedding. Luckily, Cassidy made a trip to Southern California with her husband to visit family, and we decided to meet for an engagement photo session and dinner in Malibu. It was love at first sight! Cassidy has the ability to make you feel at home as soon as you meet her, a perfect character trait for a wedding photographer. Our photos are filled with natural smiles and laughs because we felt so comfortable with Cassidy snapping away on our wedding day.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? There are so many decisions involved that, at some point, the wedding planning will become overwhelming. On the days when it seems less enjoyable, step away and head out to do something fun. We spent time at the driving range, a great way to soak in some fresh air and forget the wedding planning woes. Also, never forget the real reason for the wedding–the beginning of your marriage. Even without flowers and a pretty dress, that is a beautiful thing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are having the best time being newlyweds! We spend a lot of weekends traveling around the West coast and exploring this beautiful part of the country. While we definitely hope to start a family in the near future, right now, we are working on the stories for our grandkids!

Photographer: Cassidy Carson Photography / Videographer: SugarPop Films / Planner: Shannon Reeves Events / Venue and Lighting: Southwood House and Cottages / Florist: Missy Gunnels Flowers / Cake and Dessert Baker: Debbie at Hopkins Eatery / Caterer: Andrew’s Catering / Rentals: Terri Smith Details, In Tents Events, and Silver Lining Linens / DJ: Greg Tish of GT Entertainment / Paper Products: Feathered Heart Prints / Bride’s Gown: Penelope’s / Hair Stylist: Jenny Dease / Makeup Artist: Melissa Peters Makeup / Bride’s Shoes: Loeffler Randall / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Heidi Long Dress in Silk Chiffon” in Misty Rose by J. Crew / Menswear: The Black Tux / Ceremony Music: Katie Fair of Shaker Lakes Chamber Players / Officiant: Derek Casseaux / Guest Favors: Smiley Honey / Reception Music: Kyle LaMonica

Written with love by admin
4 Comments
  1. avatar Wedding venues reply

    Perfect wedding cake love it!

  2. avatar Cassidy Carson reply

    Thank you ladies for such a wonderful feature! Laurie and Brian’s wedding was definitely one of my favorites. And that moss!!!

  3. avatar Richard_1 reply

    Beautiful people and a great set of photos! The whole wedding great. The kind of wedding little girls always dream of.

  4. avatar Rachel reply

    AAA this looks so perfect it’s unreal. Someday i’ll have my dream wedding just like this lucky couple!

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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