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With her mantra of “grace not perfection,” it’s hard to think of anyone better to kick off the “At Home” portion of our Southern Newlywed column than Emily Ley. Many of y’all may know her as a great friend to Southern Weddings (she and Lara are BFFs through their work with Making Things Happen) or because you own one of her lovely and intentional products like the Simplified Planner.

Emily exemplifies what we’re hoping to communicate with these home tour/interviews – it’s not about having the “perfect” abode or having everything “done” before you can share it, it’s about finding joy and inspiration in what you have, where you live, and who you share it with. Though Emily shares often and openly about life with her family on instagram, we are so excited to share this first look into her happy Tampa home, courtesy of Shay Cochrane

Names: Emily and Bryan Ley
Years married: 6
Childrens’ names and ages: Brady, 3

Your love story in one sentence: A 16-year-old gal falls madly in love with the cute frat boy with the red jeep and dreams of how cute her married name would be…
Do you rent or own? We own our home in Tampa, Florida. Bryan lived here before we got married. We dream of one day building what we call our “forever home.” One of our favorite things to do is plan this space and mentally draw diagrams of rooms and closets and jack-and-jill bathrooms.

Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? Ha ha! We have two different answers on this. My answer is that we moved in together and my crisp, white, airy, slightly country taste meshed perfectly with Bryan’s masculine, rich leather, hardwood style. Bryan’s answer is that I moved in, filled 19 bags with “donations,” and let him keep his airplane propeller and our vintage ’74 Bronco. (Okay, it might have happened a little like that… but we both adore our space now! He has been very sweet letting me have the reigns on our interior decorating).
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? We live in our kitchen and family room. They’re very open to each other and you can find all three of us here at any given time. This space is very welcoming, full of natural light, and has been organized in a way that really works for our lifestyle. We remodeled this space a few years ago and made all the decisions (big and small) together. It was really fun to incorporate both our styles into one big room that truly feels like us and is still kid-friendly.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? What are some of your favorite sources for home things? Early in our marriage, our house felt very empty because we hadn’t accumulated many mementos and souvenirs (or even photos!) from adventures together. I made the mistake of filling the “white space” with random things (vases, fake flowers, knick-knacks) that had no meaning to us – they simply filled a void (if that isn’t a great metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!). As the years have gone by, we’ve slowly replaced the meaningless stuff with really special things that have specific memories or people associated with them. This is probably my favorite part about our home. Most of our decor pieces come from One Kings Lane, HomeGoods, or Target. We decided early to splurge on furniture that is great quality and may even be passed down to our children.

Who cooks dinner? Well, neither of us love to cook, but we get it done. I’m typically a very healthy eater. Bryan loves pizza and chicken wings and mashed potatoes. We blend our tastes together. On the weekends, Bryan grills a lot – I bought him a Big Green Egg smoker for his first Father’s Day and he’s a champ on it! He makes the best chicken and pulled pork ever.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? I love soups and stews for the week. They’re filling and can be made really healthy (the boys don’t even have to know it!) without tasting like they’re missing something. On the weekend, we eat out on Saturdays and have a big family dinner on Sundays (much like my own mama does back home!).

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Definitely the staple kitchen supplies – nice non-stick pots and pans.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? I would have registered for great everyday dishes instead of our fancy china. We only use it once a year when we host Thanksgiving dinner!

What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other priorities in life (work, personal time, extended family, etc.)? Date night. We try to have an adults only, screen-free date night at least once a month. No cell phones allowed. We typically go to our favorite local spot, Catch 23, and have some wine (we love trying new wines together) and a long dinner. It’s so nice to reconnect and talk over a good meal.

How does your family handle finances? Do you use a set budget? When we got married, Bryan and I decided to put our individual strengths to work financially. We decided that Bryan would be “CEO” and I would be the “Office Manager.” I handle the day-to-day needs (i.e. paying bills that come in the mail) and Bryan manages our long-term, big picture financial plan (i.e. investments, insurance, retirement, etc.). I take an active role in these things by understanding the terms, meeting with our financial advisor with Bryan, and helping to make important decisions, but ultimately, Bryan leads us in this. He’s great with our finances, so I feel really fortunate to have him by my side with these things.

Do you have children? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? We do! Brady Ley is our sweet little boy. He’s three years old. He’s fantastic. Being his Mom and Dad is the greatest thing on Earth. We’ve dealt with infertility for a long time and continue to struggle with Baby Ley #2, but our faith and our commitment to each other make room for lots of hope and gratitude.

In 2014, our family is most excited about… growing together more. Brady is learning new things each and every day. We are in a unique situation (purposely) in that I work part-time running a full-time business and am able to be home with Brady in the afternoons and on Fridays. The name of the game in 2014 is to soak up these precious moments as a family of three. Hopefully, that will be changing soon, so we’re relishing every second that we’re able to spend with just Brady. We have much to be grateful for.

What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? I am a big believer in love languages. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying hard to learn Bryan’s love language. When we were first married, I would leave little love notes for him around our house or a surprise bag of M&Ms (his favorite) in the driver’s seat of his car. Acts of kindness and surprises are definitely my love language, so surely, that would be his too, right? But it wasn’t! And it hit me, recently actually, that his love language is in our finances. Sounds super strange, I know. Bear with me and get to know my husband here: Bryan takes his role as “Ley Family CEO” and co-provider for our family very seriously. In the past (and gracious, I’m still not perfect at it), I’ve been careless sometimes with excessive random Target trips for things we don’t need or too many trips to Banana Republic (my weakness). These excessive expenditures made Bryan feel frustrated. When I stepped back and realized that my respect for our finances was what made him feel the most respected and loved, it hit me like a ton of bricks! So, I serve my husband by respecting our finances more.

What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? The most surprising thing about being married is that marriage takes work and effort. My parents are incredible role models for us after having been married 37 years. The amount of respect they have for each other is remarkable and inspires us to always take a step back and remember what really matters most when things aren’t easy. Bryan and I have grown so much over the past six years, facing infertility and a high risk pregnancy together, living eight hours from our hometown and my family, and raising a son, all while pursuing our own careers. We’ve become pretty good about telling each other when we need a hug, when we need some time to ourselves, or when we just need a good glass of wine, Netflix reruns, and a hand to hold on the couch.

What is your favorite part of being married? Living with my best friend. No one makes me laugh like Bryan does. And on that same note, no one can make me laugh at myself like Bryan does. He encourages me to not take life so seriously and to truly soak up the joy in our journey. His lightheartedness is what won me over when we were just kids working at a restaurant together. Well, that and his handsome, crooked smile. :)

Huge hugs to Emily for giving us this glimpse into her family’s life! Be sure to pay a visit to her site, blog, and instagram.

A little reminder before you go: We have great things in the works for this column, but we’d love your help! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – not just folks who write blogs (though we love them, too!), but also your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
15 Comments
  1. avatar Kat reply

    Oh, y’all!! I LOVE this new series!!! What a great way to talk about Newlyweds in the South!! Emily’s home is so beautiful… I can’t wait to see what other women you feature!!! xo!!

  2. avatar Friday Favorites: 4.25.14 | Elizabeth Robertson Williams reply

    […] a website called Southern Weddings?  I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.  I loved this glimpse into wife, mom, designer, and blogger Emily Ley’s home.  It seems so welcoming, simple, and […]

  3. avatar Bonnie reply

    What a sweet feature! I just love Emily and this new little spot on SW for newlyweds has my heart singing! It is so great to read about other young couples and discover what unique ways they pursue each other in their marriage. Emily’s home has me so inspired to find special ways to incorporate both my husband and my personalities more into our little home!

  4. avatar Lara reply

    Yay! So happy to have you on SW, Em!

  5. avatar Maureen reply

    So glad you featured Emily Ley! I’ve loved her for years!

  6. avatar Nicole reply

    Love!! And Love Emily’s insight into love languages.

  7. avatar Emily reply

    I have to agree with Miss Emily on the best part of being married! Living with your best friend is the best :)

  8. avatar Wanda reply

    I loved this interview and glimps into Emily Ley’s family. I feel very related with her when she spoke about honoring and showing that she loved her husband. My husband feels more love when I take care of our finances too. It does sounds weird, but it’s just the way they are. Thanks for sharing the Ley’s family, I enjoyed it a lot.

  9. avatar Kaya reply

    I love Emily Ley!!! And her home! Her office is inspiring me to update mine.

  10. avatar Lisa reply

    Love this so much! I’m definitely taking heed of her words about not accumulating stuff to “fill the void” in my own mostly-bare apartment–other than picture frames filled with amazing memories, the rest can come with time!

  11. avatar Home Tour, Part II + a giveaway from Kenroy Home! | Emily Ley reply

    […] week, Southern Weddings featured my little family and home as part of their new (awesome!) Southern Newlywed series! (Shay Cochrane took some amazing photos […]

  12. avatar Denise reply

    What a great idea to feature newlyweds! So much build up with the wedding that many forget the marriage!

  13. avatar Southern Newlywed: Date Night with Marissa and Brandon – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] gotten into the kitchen with Kristin and taken a tour of Emily Ley’s home, and now, we’re tickled pink to introduce y’all to another Southern Newlywed topic: […]

  14. avatar Allison reply

    Oh, I just love this! I can’t wait to read more!

  15. avatar Kitchen counter tops… – Best Home Decorating Ideas reply

    […] Source: southernweddings.com […]

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Every January, the Southern Weddings gals sit down and come up with a list of team goals for the year. One of our most important goals for 2014 was to create a space in the SW world for our married readers. There are a lot of y’all! We love that you’ve stuck around past your own I do’s, and want to honor that. We had no interest in starting a spin-off site, though — given our mission, including content in our mix for newlyweds just makes sense. After all, we adore weddings, but we adore life after the wedding, too.

We are very delighted to say that Fridays are the new home of the Southern Newlywed column (there’s a new category for these posts, too!). Regular weddings content will continue Monday-Thursday (and most Saturdays and Sundays!), but at the end of the week you can expect to find inspiration for life as a newlywed, straight from the hearts and homes of some of our favorite Southern couples. We are already giddy with excitement over our upcoming features, and hope you love them as much as we do! Most especially, we hope that you’ll find our Newlywed posts have the same heartbeat as the rest of our content – and that they help in the lifelong journey of building a marriage more beautiful than your wedding.

But on to today’s post! Y’all already know our dear Kristin, but we figured there was no one better to kick off our “in the kitchen” posts than this prize-winning baker and all-around lovable gal. Big hugs to Laura’s Focus for these sweet photos!

By day: Kyle loves colleges sports and does sales and marketing for Virginia Teach Athletics (Go Hokies!). Kristin loves marriage and does sales and client relations for a wedding magazine (Go Southern Weddings!).

How they met: We met during our fall semester of college in Chapel Hill. During the first few weeks, we exchanged pleasantries before, during, and after class. Fast-forward to early October. I needed someone for my sorority grab-a-date function and thought I might ask Kyle (after some serious advance research and networking through connected friends). Unknowingly, I had caught Kyle’s eye on the first day of classes so when I asked, he said yes. The rest is history (a long, juicy, marvelous kind of history that I will happily tell you over coffee, just ask). You can read more on his side of the story here.

Their wedding: It was the most lovely, heart-filled day. We got to celebrate with the people that mean the world to us, and we got to eat Thanksgiving dinner in June (I was like a pig in slop). Even with scorching summer temperatures, and temporarily losing the departure candles, it was the most perfect weekend filled with what mattered most to us — family, faith and fun! Oh, and it all took place smack dab in the middle of Chapel Hill, which is one of my most favorite places on the planet. You can see some of our favorite photos here.

Meal planning: We sit down on Sunday afternoon and I meal plan. Wonderful Nicole made my messy notes into a printable – download three versions here. I ask Kyle for feedback on anything he is in the mood for, and I also use the weekly grocery sales flyer to help me make decisions. We have a few go-to meals that make the rotation each week to reduce the stress of having to come up with 5+ new suppers (I tried this during our first few months of marriage and it eventually wore me out).

Admittedly, I love to cook, but I am cautious with trying no more than two new recipes each week, depending on how much available ‘free time’ I have in the evening. I try to go to the grocery on Sundays and then once during the middle of the week to pick up fresh bananas, fish, and milk, as needed. Because of our schedules and commitments, meal planning is a must, otherwise we would eat cereal for supper at 9:00 every night. It gives us a roadmap for the week, as well as the ability to detour when something unexpected happens. It also helps protect regular meals at the table, which are incredibly important to us.

The cooking: I love to cook, so I take responsibility for this “chore” most nights. Kyle is a great sous-chef when I need a little help getting supper on the table (see: salad prep, setting the table, drinks, etc.).

Favorite meal-related memory: After dating long distance for nearly six years, I don’t take the chance to eat together at our dinner table during the week for granted. However, if I had to pick, I think my favorite “meal-related” memories involve birthdays. Growing up, during your birthday week, you got to pick out your favorite meals and mama made them (she can cook circles around me). We have brought this tradition over into our little family — celebrating with our most favorite foods and meals during the given birthday week each year!

Favorite meal-related disaster: I tried a new recipe and didn’t pay attention and added way too much spice. The results were inedible. Kyle tried to choke it down, but after a few bites, he gave up. We threw the meal in the garbage, opened a bottle of wine, and waited on the pizza delivery man (definition of a detour).

Top ten favorite recipes:
1. Heidi Swanson’s Baked Oatmeal: This recipe reheats great and will last for a few days — you can even make ahead on Sunday and reheat a serving each morning. You can get creative with fruit — use whatever is in season/fresh/available. I love to make it with with blackberries, peaches or raspberries. I also like to mix the oat mixture and milk mixture together before adding to the baking dish because I think it blends better and cooks more evenly.

2. Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup: My favorite soup, EVER. It is delicious, and similar to potato soup (disclaimer, it does still have a cauliflower flavor so you must like cauliflower). We eat it at lunch, but it can also be served for supper with paninis or a big salad.

3. Roast Vegetables: This is the only way I eat cooked carrots. We love to roast vegetables in the oven. Chop everything ahead of time to reduce prep time. Great with grilled fish or grilled chicken for an easy (healthy) supper.

4. Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries: One of our 2013 goals was to try one new food each month, and as a result, we fell in love with roasted brussels sprouts. We probably have them once a week. We roast and eat them plain, with fresh squeezed lemon, or with just straight balsamic when they come out of the oven (I don’t make the PW recommended syrup).

5. and 6. Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken and Embarrassingly Easy Crock Pot Salsa Chicken Thighs: With our busy schedules, crock pot meals are a lifesaver. These two variations of Mexican chicken make a regular appearance at our dinner table: over rice, on salad, in soup, in tacos, etc. The shredded chicken freezes and reheats really well for those nights when you need supper in a pinch!

7. Chicken Rollatini with Spinach Alla Parmigiana: Easy Italian and the leftovers can be frozen? Yes, please! I love that you can make the filling ahead of time, buy the thin-cut chicken, and prepare dinner in a matter of moments. I serve this stuffed chicken with a big garden salad and some homemade garlic bread.

8. Black Bean Cakes: The actual restaurant recipe for my favorite dish at Lucky 32? I almost passed out when I stumbled across this recipe online. These are remarkable — great with roasted sweet potatoes and a green vegetable for a meatless meal. They can also be flash frozen before being cooked for future meals!

9. Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas: Can you tell I love Mexican food? I also love recipes that can use similar ingredients in different ways (hello, crock pot shredded chicken) or can utilize my favorite ‘semi-homemade’ rotisserie chicken from the grocery.

10. Salted Chocolate Chip and Sour Cherry Cookies: This recipe took the crown last year during my family’s annual cookie competition. I am a big fan of simple desserts — chocolate chip cookies, Rice Krispie treats, preacher cookies — but this Salted Cherry Chocolate Chip cookie is prize-winning and sure to be a crowd pleaser!

In honor of our Southern Newlywed kick-off, we’re giving away a copy of The Newlywed Cookbook! Someone gave this book to John and I during our engagement, and it’s turned out to be one of our favorites – it’s very thoughtfully done, and both realistic and adventurous, a tricky combination to pull off! Enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter widget below – we’ll choose a winner next Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last but certainly not least: We have great things in the works for this column, but we’d love your help! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – not just folks who write blogs (though we love them, too!), but also, your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

Until next week, friends!

emily Written with love by Emily
11 Comments
  1. avatar Mary reply

    Oh I am SO excited for this!! And Kristin is just too cute!

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    Love this peek into Kristin’s heart and home, and can’t wait to try out her genius meal planning system!

  3. avatar Christina L Frederick reply

    What a wonderful new column! I am excited for southern newlywed Friday’s and adore Kristin’s post to kick off the series! I’d love a piece of that pie!
    xo Christina

  4. avatar Abi Losli reply

    I love this column already! What a great idea, thank you.

  5. avatar Erin reply

    Such a good idea for a new column! Can’t wait to see more! :)

  6. avatar Mandy V reply

    Love this new series for us Married gals!

  7. avatar Laura reply

    Loving this new column! Can’t wait to see more!

  8. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] editorials that help inspire your own meaningful beginnings to married life to the secrets behind Kristin’s meal planning, we hope you love it all as much as we […]

  9. avatar Happy Birthday, Kristin! – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] be sharing “ingredients” to the “recipe that makes KNW wonderful”—did I mention she’s a fabulous cook?—on social media. Follow along with the hashtag […]

  10. avatar Southern Weddings Blog Feature | Virginia Wedding Photography reply

    […] I was thrilled to get a call from Kristin Winchester, the Director of Advertising for Southern Weddings Magazine! She came up with a really great idea of a new Friday feature on the blog focusing on newlyweds and what happens after the big wedding day. The first story for “Southern Newlyweds” will feature Kristin herself and her sweet husband, Kyle. Together they made a delicious pecan pie, a recipe passed down from Kristin’s grandmother, and some colorful chicken enchiladas. Here is a peak at my favorites and here is the link to the Southern Weddings blog post! […]

  11. avatar A Day in the Life of the Southern Weddings' Marketing Director – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] After a quick lunch of cauliflower soup and a salad with KPW, I head back upstairs to continue the afternoon. I have some corporate […]

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We have some big news this week! Many thanks to feedback from y’all, everyone who filled out our annual survey, and our own brainstorms about making Southern Weddings the very best it can be, a few things are changing around here!

Starting next week, we are launching a brand new series: Southern Newlywed! Every Friday, we’ll be sharing fun posts aimed at our sweet readers who have tied the knot, but aren’t quite ready to stop their regular visits to Southern Weddings :) We are SO excited about what we have up our sleeves for this series, and we can’t wait to share. And don’t worry–if you miss any posts during the week, you’ll still be able to find them in the Weekly Round-Ups, which are scooting to Saturday. That’s all I’ll say for now, but be sure to check back next Friday for the first Southern Newlywed post!

This week’s Facebook Friday engagement session is by our lovely Blue Ribbon Vendor, Robyn Van Dyke. Go take a look on our Facebook page–as well as this adorable dog, there are really cute farm animals involved! :)

Last week on Southern Living, we explained the Southern tradition of house parties. They’re a wonderful way to honor friends without having a giant bridal party! Read more here.

Catch up on this week’s features!

We admired the loveliest Lowcountry oyster broil rehearsal dinner.
With 100 days to go to her wedding, Meredith shared her ceremony plans!
We celebrated Southern Weddings’ birthday with a look back on six wonderful years!
It’s been a fierce battle for the top Southern delicacy! Vote for your favorite in the Final Four.

We love real weddings!

Natalie and Parker‘s wedding (above) was full of monograms and pearls–two of our very favorite things!
After meeting at a country dance group, it was only natural that Hannah and Kyle filled their wedding with country-inspired details.
Leanna had always dreamed of being married at Lowndes Grove Plantation, and her dream came true when she and Ike said “I do!”

Have a wonderful weekend!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar New Look & SW Feature! » Robyn Van Dyke Photography Blog reply

    […] we were super pumped to have Laura & Fitch‘s engagement session featured on Southern Weddings Facebook Friday today too! Yeehaw~!Pin […]

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