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!
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.