Oh, Sam. My heart went out to you when you described the homesick tears that ensued after moving away from family and friends in Louisiana to start life as a newlywed couple in North Carolina, as I know a little bit about that myself. Belles, it made the rest of her interview all the more sweet, however — in that light, I loved reading about the ways she’s crafted a home that reflects both her and Kevin (think: cozy), the ways they’ve made the most of their time in a new place, and the ways they’ve prioritized their relationship in this season of their lives. Whether it’s a paint color or an interview tidbit, I know you’ll take something away from this sweet feature.
Big hugs to Ashley Bosnick for these photos!
The couple: Samantha (25) and Kevin (25) Hale
Years married: 3
Where they live: Charlotte, North Carolina
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Kevin and I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and went to LSU (Geaux Tigers!). After graduating, we got married and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we have lived for three wonderful, challenging, joyful years! Kevin is an actuary, solving math problems in uptown, and I teach 5th grade to the sweetest kids in Charlotte.
Tell us your love story in one sentence. We met in three-year-old Sunday School, Kevin asked me to be his girlfriend in 8th grade, we dated throughout high school and college, we got married, and now, we’re living the dream as newlyweds.
Tell us a little bit about where you live. We have rented our house for the past three years and just signed a lease to continue renting. It was a hard decision for us with so many different opinions out there regarding renting or buying. However, at this point in our lives, renting is perfect for us. The future is really unknown as far as location, and buying is a long-term commitment that we aren’t ready for. So, until then, we will continue renting and saving for a down payment on that dream house, wherever and whenever that may come. When we were moving to Charlotte, we had no connections or ideas of where to move within the city. We drove around for hours and hours one weekend with my best friend Chels in the car. She told Kevin to turn down the street where we now live, we spotted a “for rent” sign, and the rest is history. Little did we know that our neighborhood would be one of the greatest blessings–it’s close to uptown, and within walking distance of restaurants, Starbucks, and cute shops. We love it!
What is your favorite part of being married? Coming home to Kevin Hale. It is such a sweet relief each night to come home to each other and just be married. I love the companionship marriage brings–it really is a gift.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? Kevin would probably say my grouchiness in the morning ;) But really, I think moving away surprised us more than anything. I think we both expected it to be completely dreamy and the greatest adventure, which in some ways, it has turned out to be. Initially though, it was really challenging, and I think we grew as a couple because of those surprisingly challenging days, and having to truly “leave and cleave” to one another.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. We were just finishing college when we got married, so we came into marriage with very little furniture, kitchen appliances, linens, etc. Everything in our first home has either been given to us or bought a little at a time. When we began registering for household items, Kevin’s only request was that our house would be cozy. With that in mind, my goal was to keep the same palette of colors throughout (neutrals and blues), pictures of friends and family on the walls, and quality linens and furniture to make our guests feel at home. With only 800 square feet of space, it’s not too hard to accomplish coziness!
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? Years from now, when I stop and think about our first home, I think the dining room will be the first room to come to mind. Each night, after work, we come together at the table to pray and eat dinner together. As we eat, we talk about our days and what’s on our hearts. I know that as our lives get busier, our time in that room will be something I always treasure.
What most makes your house feel like home? It’s not a specific thing that makes our house feel like home, but rather, who I’m coming home to. During our first year of marriage, as we were struggling to adjust to life 800 miles from the only home we had ever known, I would belt out the song, “Home” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros as I cried homesick tears. I finally bought a print to put in our house with the quote from that song: “Home is wherever I’m with you.” It sums up the truest lesson I’ve learned in marriage: I’d follow him anywhere on the planet, and that place would be home.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? When decorating, I usually find an image in a magazine, on Pinterest, or on a blog that I love, and then see what I can find at thrift stores, on Craigslist, or at Target or HomeGoods. Items that I know we will have for a long time (furniture, drapes, linens, pillows, and dinnerware), I will splurge on at PotteryBarn, Restoration Hardware, or a local design store.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? As our pastor was preparing to announce us as husband and wife, I was practically bouncing. The anticipation and excitement could be felt throughout the room. “I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Hale,” was met with applause and tears. So many people who had watched us grow up cheered as we walked down the aisle of the church we had grown up attending, as husband and wife. Our bridesmaids and groomsmen were literally hollering in the back of the church as they greeted us. Those were such sweet, joy-filled moments.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? In our home, we have a gallery wall in the hallway displaying pictures from the wedding day. I plan on incorporating the vows we wrote to each other there at some point, as well.
How does your family handle finances? Kevin is a numbers guy, so naturally, he is in charge of the budget. We use a spreadsheet to itemize purchases and keep track of how we are using money and where we can cut back. When we first got married, we discovered that since he was in charge of money, I rarely knew where we stood, which caused stress on both sides. Now, we try to sit down once a month and look at everything together, so we are both informed and we both take ownership over how we are spending.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? I recently read a book called Boundaries, and if you struggle with balance like I do, I definitely recommend reading it. In the book, the author discusses the importance of saying no and setting boundaries in order to have a life filled with grace and truth. That may look like leaving every Friday night open for time together, no matter what, or making it a priority to go to bed at the same time each night. Setting those boundaries now ensures that our marriage is the top priority, and lays a strong foundation for the remainder of our marriage.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? When first moving into our home, we had to downsize and return several of the appliances we had registered for that weren’t necessary, due to lack of cabinet space. With that in mind, I wouldn’t have registered for a waffle maker, panini press, toaster oven, or toaster. We should have just considered what appliances we really use on a daily basis and registered for those. Also, we would have registered for guest bedroom linens and pillows, as well as lamps, rugs, and drapes.
Who cooks dinner? We generally try to tag team. If I know that Kevin has a lot going on at work or with studying, I try to step in and do most of the cooking, and vice versa. We prefer to eat out, but try to stick to only using that option once or twice a week.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? Honey-lime chipotle quinoa bowls are a favorite. So good! We also love burrito bowls or fish tacos. Chicken with a variety of vegetables is an easy, go-to option as well. We try to keep our weeknight meals fairly light and healthy. I’ll usually prepare a bigger meal that takes more preparation during the weekends. For example, in the fall and winter, I love to make Ina Garten’s winter minestrone, which takes an hour or two to prepare.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? My mother in-law is the best cook! She is my go-to when I need recipes for a party or a weekend meal. I also love using Foodnetwork.com (especially Ina Garten’s recipes), Kay Ewing’s cookbooks (get them on Amazon!), and cookbooks from churches.
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We love to go to concerts held in parks around Charlotte. We will go to dinner beforehand or bring our dinner with us, and enjoy a night outside listening to music. This past year, we got season tickets to Broadway musicals that came to Charlotte. Before each musical, we would try a new restaurant in the uptown area. It became something we looked forward to each month!
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Kevin gets up early and makes me coffee and breakfast each morning before I leave to teach. He prays over me before I walk out the door. As a non-morning person, it makes the beginning of my day a little less rough! I try to sneak cards into Kevin’s bag before he leaves for work, and I iron his clothes for him the night before.
Do you have children? No children yet! Of our friends from LSU, we were the first to get married, and we joke that we will probably be the last to have babies. Kevin is working on becoming an FSA, which involves a lot of studying. When he reaches that level, we will hopefully begin having children. Till then, we are going to go on as many trips as possible!
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… that unclear expectations lead to conflict. So many times, I want Kevin to know what it is that I want or need without me having to explicitly state it. I wish someone had told me that it is okay, and even necessary, to communicate those wants and needs clearly, so that he can either meet them or let me know that they’re unrealistic.
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? In regards to traveling, Kevin and I have adopted the idea of trading off who chooses the location for each summer’s vacation. I chose Costa Rica last summer, Kevin chose Canada this summer, and next year, I hope to go back to Europe! Each year, on our anniversary date, we bring out the same journal. In it, we record important events of the previous year, as well as goals for the next year and future years. It has been a great way to thank God for all of his provisions in the previous year, while also watching how our goals change over time.
A little reminder: we’d love to hear from you! 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!