Two of the loveliest people I’ve ever met are Cary and Ryan Ray. Ryan photographed my wedding (!), and when Dave and I headed to Texas for our engagement pictures, we finally got to meet Ryan and Cary in person for the first time. Individually, they’re each so thoughtful and incredibly talented, but when they’re together, the joy and energy they find in their relationship is palpable. After Instagram-stalking the progress on their Dallas fixer upper for a while, Emily and I were so delighted when they agreed to give us a tour on Southern Newlywed. My favorite thing about it? It’s just as inviting as the people who live inside. Let’s take a look!
The couple: Cary (28) and Ryan (29) Ray
Years married: 6.5
Where you live: Dallas, Texas
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Ryan was a surfer boy from California with an unordinary childhood. We met at church in Texas (our story is pretty funny/crazy) and married a year later. He has been a photographer for seven years and is incredibly passionate about photography, working with couples, and weddings. He LOVES to cook (which really worked out for me because I unfortunately do not), and I think he would like to pursue hip-hop dancing at some point… I grew up in a small town in west Texas and moved to the Dallas area to attend college for news anchoring. I’d always loved decorating, but my passion for it didn’t happen until after I was married and we had our own home. I love decorating, design, eating what Ryan cooks, and spending time with friends and family. I’m also a new online shop owner, and that has been incredibly fun!
Tell us your love story in one sentence. We saw each other at church and he came to say hello and I offered my phone number and we had our first date at Starbucks and I told him I was going to marry him two months later and he said okay and then he proposed a year later and we’ve been crazy about each other since. (That wasn’t a run-on sentence or anything…)
What is your favorite part of being married? I think my favorite part is knowing and loving another person so much and feeling safe with them. We know each other’s quirks, how to push each other’s buttons, how to make the other person laugh, and how to encourage and push each other. We go to each other all the time for opinions on life, work, and projects. Being loved for all of your weirdness and feeling safe with who you really are is such an amazing part of being married. We will always have each other’s back and be best friends.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? You obviously learn a lot about the other person, but the really surprising part is how much you learn about yourself. It can expose a lot of not-so-pretty parts you weren’t even aware of. But, in the not-so-fun things that marriage can reveal about yourself, it’s amazing that it can show you what needs to be changed for the good. It’s an opportunity to give and receive grace, love another person deeply and well, and be challenged every single day.
Do you rent or own? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? Tell us a little bit about where you live. We own our Texas home. It was built in 1999 and was a real fixer upper when we moved in. It was dark, yellow, and there were just so many seashell fixtures and hardware. We’ve worked on it for the past four years and really love how it’s turned out. It’s not perfect, but it’s home. Our hopes and plans are always changing and evolving. It’s much like a canvas to me, and I just love how our home evolves as I evolve in what I like and am inspired by.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? The office area downstairs off of our dining area. It was truly an eyesore and such an odd room when we moved in. It had two pairs of french doors from two different rooms, a giant window looking into it, and was screened in on the other exterior side. It was topped off with aggregate floors and a water fountain. We were super confused about it, but it has made for one of our favorite rooms in the house because we were able to start over and bring it back to life!
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? We had a lot of hand-me-down furniture and an excessive amount of fake plants when we got married and moved in together. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to lend to new things, so we made what we had work. We tossed the things we really didn’t like and compromised for the things each of us did. Over the years, we’ve grown into our own and learned what we really love and appreciate, so it has been fun blending our own styles into one: both the masculine and the feminine, the newer and the older, and all different shapes, textures, and colors. Blending styles makes for so much interest and allows both of us to feel at home.
What most makes your house feel like home? All of the personal touches. I love vintage art, antique pieces, throw blankets, and books. I really feel that the things you can’t just buy at a chain store are what makes spaces look personal and layered. They offer history and personality. I love to think about the stories my vintage pieces have and who they might have belonged to.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? What are some of your favorite sources for home things? We have splurged on our main pieces of furniture that we use all the time, and a few other special pieces here and there. We have utilized Craigslist, eBay, flea markets, estate sales, and outlets to fill it all in. It is amazing what people throw and give away!
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? Coming from a small town, you almost always have a large wedding in your church or close by. There is so much beauty in tradition, but we opted to get married in Mexico instead. The swine flu was on the up and up, but about 30 of us jumped on airplanes and flew on over to a resort. We have never regretted it, and it couldn’t have been more fun!! My favorite part was probably our first look. We met on this beautiful bridge with tons of trees around us. One of my most favorite photographs is of Ryan wiping a tear away from my eyes in that moment. We had been through so much at that point and it was very special to have a private moment alone before saying our vows. That, and the crazy dancing at the reception. :)
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Our dishes. A friend of mine told me I needed to get good white dishes and that I wouldn’t regret it. I didn’t love white dishes at the time, but I took her advice and we still use them every single day. Classic options like that are timeless.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities (work, personal time, extended family, etc.)? We have a goal to stop working at certain times and to not use our phones at dinner. We always spend time together in the evenings. We aren’t perfect, but we do strive to always prioritize each other.
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We love dinner and movies. This sounds very vanilla, but we really enjoy it! We often set date nights just to end up staying home together. From time to time, we really enjoy afternoon dates at a new restaurant, or a drive looking at homes in the country.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? When we got married, we read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Ryan really feels loved by acts of service, and I feel loved by quality time and words of affirmation. So basically, I keep the dust bunnies out of the house and he gives me back rubs and tells me what a great job I did. :)
Do you have children? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? We are adopting a little boy from Taiwan. His name is River! We have been praying for children for six years now, and God has answered our prayers through adoption! We have a story that has a lot of struggle, but so much grace from the Lord in every part. He always has the big picture and He’s always there in the deepest part of our struggles, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… That it gets better and better with time. We really struggled the first few years of marriage. When two imperfect, stubborn beings come under one roof, there’s bound to be issues. Not everyone struggles in their first years, but we sure did. It’s just a part of our story that we are always okay with sharing. When we both grasped that we were never going to be able to change the other person, and rather, focused on our own hearts and sin, that’s when I really feel we started progressing. It takes work!! But it’s always always worth it.
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? There’s so much beauty in imperfection and even the most mundane parts of life. We have Instagram and Facebook and all these social media outlets to show our projects or what we’re up to. That’s all great, but I think it’s important for people to know that those things are just not what life is about. There are so many days when doing laundry, cooking, running errands, and cleaning seem to take up so much of our time, but what I’ve learned so much in marriage is that it’s not really about the things we’re doing, it’s how we treat each other and love one another while doing them. That’s what really counts.
Thank you so much to Cary and Ryan for sharing their hearts and home with us! Follow along with them here:
Cary’s shop | Cary’s Instagram | Ryan’s website | Ryan’s blog | Ryan’s Instagram
Photography: Ryan Ray