I think it’s safe to say that the entire Southern Weddings office, led by yours truly, is smitten with Abby and Alex. We had the pleasure of featuring their beautiful wedding in our latest issue (you must pick up a copy to see it if you haven’t already!), and after getting to know them a bit, knew they’d be perfect for our Southern Newlywed column, too. Even with just eight months of marriage under their belt, they have lots of wisdom, as well as the coziest home, to share. Friends, please enjoy this holiday tour! P.S. You better believe that if their Chattanooga move goes through, we’ll be knocking on their new door in a few months to see their new digs!
Big hugs to our friends at A Bryan Photo for these sweet photos!
The couple: Abby Bowlin, 26, and Alex Bowlin, 25
Years married: 0 years, 8 months!
Where you live: Birmingham, AL
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Alex and I are settling into married life, meaning we are still thrilled by Chinese takeout on the sofa, and we squeal when we get to buy things like house plants (okay, only I do the squealing). Alex is a true outdoorsman who would give anything to grow a beard, and I’m a wannabe foodie who recently launched a calligraphy business. We are bonded by our faith and intense love for our families, and we think marriage is just about the best thing ever.
Tell us your love story in one sentence. We pretty much agreed on our first date that we could get married, so he put a ring on it five months later.
What is your favorite part of being married? We love that time together gets to be our default mode. It hit us on our honeymoon that synchronizing schedules was a thing of the past. No more driving across town to hang out or meeting for a quick coffee date before work. Our coffee dates now happen on our own front porch, and it is quite glorious.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? I have been the most surprised by just how much fun boy roommates can be. I was scared to trade in my BFFs with their fully accessible closets for wet towels and drawers full of camo. As it turns out, Alex is tidier than I am, and he kills bugs like nobody’s business! Double whammy!
Tell us a little bit about where you live. We rent our little bungalow, and we’re already sad about moving out one day. Our church is in our neighborhood, along with a handful of close friends, so we’re pretty much set in the community department. Birmingham has really boomed in the last few years and has incredible restaurants and a thriving artistic community. We love our city for its culture and our neighborhood for its small-town feel.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? Thankfully, our photographer is also my employer (hey Bryan!), so we have an incredible collection of fine art prints from our wedding. Most are in frames, some are in a fine art box, and we also have a stack of Polaroids from that day sitting in our living room. I love to see friends and family go straight to that stack when they visit; we all get to relive the day together!
What most makes your house feel like home? Our wall of Found Frames is like a permanent scrapbook. It tells the story of our families, our travels, and our road to marriage.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? We’re definitely still trying to find that balance. Our greatest tip is to over communicate and be really honest about needs/expectations of time spent. We have found that if we secure a couple of nights each week to be at home, just the two of us, then we both feel rested and connected. When we feel connected, we also feel free to work on personal projects or hang with family and friends.
What is your approach to decorating your home for the holidays? Since we are just beginning our collection of Christmas decor, simplicity is our theme this Christmas. I am a huge fan of greenery, so I stocked up at my local wholesale florist for eucalyptus garland, lamb’s ears and all things evergreen. Alex and I picked leaves from a friend’s magnolia tree for our mantel adornment, and I finally let Alex move in his prize buck (Buckey) to join in the reindeer fun. I have found that I really lean towards understated Christmas decor, although I doubt that will last as we just ordered chicken ornaments in honor of our girls!
What is a favorite holiday tradition your family has created post-wedding? Since this is our first Christmas as a married couple, I’m curious to see what traditions will “stick” over the years. So far, I’ve been making homemade Chex Mix like my mom always did, and we’ve been enjoying our church’s daily Advent devotional. Christmas movies at the Alabama Theatre are up next!
How do you navigate the holidays with your extended families? Thankfully, both of our families live in Alabama, so we’ll be spending the couple of days leading up to Christmas with Alex’s family and will head down to be with mine on Christmas day! We are fortunate to have flexible families who are simply thankful for the times we can all be together.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? Since we are renting, we vowed to only invest in items that we can take with us to our next home. That means no to painting the walls and yes to refinishing an inherited buffet. I am an avid antique hunter (I can’t say no to ironstone), and I think vintage treasures make a home’s furnishings feel collected over time. At the same time, I love modern design elements, and hit up Target and Domino Magazine’s online storefront to find trendier pieces.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? We totally agree on this one. Our favorite moment took place during our ceremony; our family and friends joined as we collectively sang “Come Thou Fount,” our favorite hymn.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Poor Alex. He graciously goes along with my design ideas and style (usually). Thankfully, cowhide rugs and antlers are very much in style, so those are basically his only decor items that have found permanent places in our house. Our most famous design compromise to date was our dining room chairs. I was craving ultra-modern metal, while Alex is a big fan of cross-back farm chairs. After he announced that our future children would NOT be forced to freeze on metal seats, we compromised on our modern (but not cold) acrylic ghost chairs.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? We love our dining room because it is right in the center of our house; everyone congregates there. Hosting family and friends is our favorite thing to do, and we have been known to squeeze up to seven people around our four-person table.
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? We registered for beautiful Italian pottery that sits in our china cabinet. We use it to serve guests for special occasions, but get to enjoy it as decor every day!
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? There are a few random kitchen gadgets that I never thought I’d use but have bought since our wedding as I become a bit more kitchen-savvy. My list includes a citrus squeezer (hand squeezing is for the birds…and those pesky seeds!) and a pastry blender (I’m trying my hand at homemade quiche!).
Who cooks dinner? I’m tempted to say that I usually cook dinner, but it’s probably 50/50. My cooking usually involves a researched recipe, new-to-me ingredients, and a sink full of dishes. Alex, on the other hand, has this crazy awesome talent of impromptu meal creating. He somehow uses whatever food we have and only a cast iron skillet to make dinner. It’s always delicious, and his “House Scramble” is something to write home about.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? We’re all about the bowl movement for the weeknights. Haven’t heard of it? You just make food and place it all in a bowl. Our favorite combo is quinoa + black beans + veggies + pork. Try it. We like to splurge on the weekends by visiting our favorite restaurants. You can’t beat a burger at Melt or El Barrio’s Saturday brunch.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? We would eat all organic, farm fresh food if possible, and we love to find chefs and cooks who create recipes with whole foods. I love the Sprouted Kitchen blog, and Alex and I are currently obsessed with Vivian Howard, the star of A Chef’s Life. I made her raw veggie salad for Thanksgiving, and only a few family members turned their noses up at the brussels sprouts. Oh, and Alex is currently looking into buying a heritage hog to butcher and eat?!?!
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We have made it a Sunday tradition to head to Whole Foods after our church’s afternoon service. We eat at their central restaurant for dinner and shop for groceries afterwards. Our bank account isn’t necessarily loving this tradition, but what can we say? We’re suckers for cheese samples.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Alex is service-oriented by nature. In fact, when Bryan came over to shoot us in our home, I admitted that the most natural setting would be Alex making us coffee while I chat away at our counter. Knowing that Alex feels deeply cared for by acts of service, I try to surprise him with a swept porch or freshly folded laundry (it’s the little things, right?). Oh, and I try to never leave the grocery store without a sweet treat for my man.
Do you have children? We don’t have children yet, but we’re both hopeful for a big family (and feel called to adoption as well).
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… that marriage is sooooo much better than engagement. Whew.
This year, our family is most excited about… our potential move! As sad as it will be to leave Birmingham, Alex has a job opportunity in Chattanooga, TN. We’re both Alabama natives, so this season will be full of adventure as we explore a brand new (but still Southern) state!
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? Alex is a hardcore animal lover. He also loves his parents’ farm. So how do you fulfill those kinds of loves in a small house with no yard and close neighbors? You build a chicken coop and adopt the stray cat from down the street. We started with two hens, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, and we have since added Ree Drummond and Boots with the Fur (Boots has lots of feathers on her feet. What a cutie). We feel like such hipsters with our fresh eggs, just living the urban farm life. In actuality, Alex takes care of the chickens, and I just decorate their coop and collect the pretty eggs.
P.S. We’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – 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!