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Our most astute readers might recognize Jillian and Hayden from our most recent print issue, V9, and I’m thrilled to be showing you even more images today the blog! My favorite part of their home tour? While it’s not their forever home, it’s evident the two of them are doing a wonderful job at living intentionally and joyfully right where they are. And their dog is pretty cute, too :)

The couple: Jillian and Hayden Pottkotter
How many years have you been married? Two
Where do you live? Houston, Texas

Tell us a little bit about your apartment. Why did you choose to live there? Our apartment has two bedrooms and is in an established neighborhood tucked away in the middle of Houston. We found this “diamond in the rough” completely by accident when we were looking for a park to take our dog to when we first moved to the city. We would go on walks every evening, dreaming of being able to live in this area that we had fallen in love with. We like that our complex is an older, smaller community in the middle of a “normal” neighborhood, filled with families, pet owners, and frequent get-togethers among neighbors. We even have a nightly “Yappy Hour” where we walk our basset hound, Watson, to the park to romp around with other residents’ dogs!

What are your favorite things about apartment living? What are the biggest challenges? One of the things we love about apartment living is how cozy it is. We did not have a ton of furniture or decor when we were first married, so it would have been very daunting to move into a large space right off the bat. Apartment living enables us to utilize every space, making our home more comfortable and livable! One of the biggest challenges about living in an apartment is not having a yard or garden for ourselves and our stir-crazy dog. We so look forward to one day having immaculate gardens and a yard to call our own! There are also many things we cannot change about our apartment, such as our giant mirrored wall or the small windows, but we are thankful for lessons in contentment and the gentle reminder that material possessions aren’t worth yearning for anyway. At the end of the day, what matters the most is who you share your home with, not your 80’s jazzercise mirrors!

Which room in your apartment is your favorite and why? We see the most life lived in our living room, which is what makes it our favorite room. Whether it be spending time with our Young Life high school friends, relaxing with a glass of wine and The Office at the end of the week together, or our friends coming over to watch college football (gig ‘em, Aggies!), this room embodies exactly what we imagined our home to be. We prayed that our home would be a place where people would feel comfortable, valued, and welcomed. We hope that our living room will always be a place for this!

Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? Luckily, we have pretty similar taste when it comes to what we want our house to look like. I have also been fortunate that Hayden has trusted me when it comes to decisions about decorating; I defer to him when it comes to maintenance. I think the most important thing we have learned is to share our vision, listen to each other’s opinions, and decide on details together. We won’t make decisions without consulting one another and making sure that we will both love the outcome.

What most makes your apartment feel like home? We love that many things in our house hold a memory or sentiment—from the sand dollars found in the ocean on our honeymoon to the vintage oar from my grandfather’s home on Lake Superior—these things tell the story of who we are as a couple and truly make this apartment our home. We both desire a “collected home,” not filled with things we could have bought from a store, but a home filled with meaning, stories, and character.

What are some of your dreams and plans for where you live over the next five years? We plan to stay in our apartment for the next two years, until I finish medical school. Our future is uncertain with regard to where my residency will take us next, so we cannot really make any concrete plans until then. No matter where we end up, we would be thrilled to buy a fixer upper and spend time making it our own. We would love to stay in Houston, but would also welcome a new adventure with open arms, as long as we get to do it together!

Photography: Kimberly Chau | Styling: Jennifer Laura Design

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
1 Comment
  1. avatar Wynelle Cowdery reply

    Absolutely adorable. So proud of you both especially Hayden as I was his Spanish teacher and he was an awesome student.
    I wish you both all the best. Keep up the great work! So creative and welcoming. Blessings and a big hello from England!

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Friends, it took me two and a half years to order a wedding album. Ugh! You, too? If you’re in the same stalling-and-searching boat, I’ve got great news for you!! Shutterfly has a beautiful wedding photo book offering, and I think it’s just what you’re looking for, you bargain-hunting but aesthetically-gifted gal :) Here are eight reasons I love their premium wedding photo books and think you will, too.

Isn’t this album a beauty? We teamed up with Sarah, a bride whose Texas wedding was featured in our last issue, to create it. She gave the Shutterfly process two thumbs up!

1. The quality is superb. Let’s start here. For lack of a better description, these books feel good: they’re substantial, they’re luxe, and they have all the bells and whistles you want and expect for your one and only wedding album. Starting with…

2. Layflat pages. Boom. That’s disruption, friends! Layflat pages used to only be available in albums ordered from a professional photographer, but no more. With this premium feature, your gorgeous photos can stretch across two pages without interruption from the binding – a hugely luxe feature. All books are printed on double-thick paper, too.

3. The customization options are impressive. Sizes range from 8×8 to 12×12 (we used the 12×12, with an impressive 24″ wingspan, for our wedding book, and the sweet 8×8″ size for our newlywed book). Cover options include two pretty colors of cloth, leather, a hard matte photo, and antique white linen, among others.

4. They’re not too precious. Yep, you heard that right! While the quality is great, you’re not paying so much for a Shutterfly album that you’ll feel like you need to keep it under lock and key, like a friend of mine who paid thousands for her album. Your wedding album is meant to be enjoyed, passed around, and kept out on your coffee table to be admired often!

5. They are ridiculously affordable. Especially compared to albums ordered from professional photographers, especially when you take into accountShutterfly’s ubiquitous coupon codes, and especially when you consider the quality you’re getting for the price.

6. The layout process is simple… Start with a professionally-styled template (which range from super minimal to fun and colorful), choose page layouts within the template, then add or subtract elements to suit your aesthetic. Two of our albums were based on Modern White, an elegant and simple option.

7. …but it can be as complex as you want it to be. The Shutterfly layout tool is extensive and flexible, with tons of page layouts, the ability to tweak those layouts, and great font and color options. Even if you go to town with customization, though, it’s still easy to use!

8. They’ll even design your book for you. What? Yes! Intimidated by the thought of sorting through all your photos and laying out a cohesive design? Try the new Make My Book Service, where a Shutterfly designer will curate your wedding photos and make a beautiful wedding book for you. You’ll pay a $9.99 fee, but only if you end up ordering the book.

Of course, Shutterfly’s premium photo books aren’t just for wedding albums – I had so much fun creating a newlywed life and honeymoon album, too! Think of your wedding photo book as the first volume in a personal library of amazing memories, beautifully captured :)

Now that you know how easy and affordable it is to make a quality wedding photo book, I hope you’ll have one in your home soon! Happy creating, friends!

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, a site we’ve used and loved for years. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the urgency of wedding planning – that if you do it right, you only get one chance, but if you do it right, you only need one chance.

I also shared that I feel confident we (John and I) “did it right” – that we honored our one precious and beautiful wedding day, and that the meaning we found in that celebration has buoyed our marriage for the last five years.

But on a practical note, how did we create a meaningful wedding day? I think the answer of what makes a wedding day meaningful will be different for everyone, but today I would love to share with you ten things that made our wedding day meaningful. Hopefully they will get your wheels turning for your own!

1. Our wedding location. We both grew up and our relationship was born on the New England shore. It’s where I feel most at home, the place from which we both set out into the world, and the landscape I find most beautiful. Getting to share one of our favorite places with our far-flung guests was very special.

2. Our ceremony venue. We chose to get married at the chapel on the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy. My Dad was in the Coast Guard and taught at the Academy for most of my life, so I have years and years of fond memories with the base as a backdrop. I’m also kind of painfully patriotic (ha), so I loved being able to share this part of my heritage with our guests, some of whom might never have stepped foot on a military base before.

3. My bridal party. I chose four bridesmaids to stand beside me – my two sisters, and my two future sisters-in-law. I loved that my wedding gave me a chance to honor these amazing ladies, to recognize them as important people in my life, and to thank them for all they have done for me!

4. My veil. One of my sisters-in-law was married just two months before me, and she and I decided to have a veil commissioned. We both wore it at our weddings, and then one year later, my other sister-in-law wore it at hers! We are eagerly anticipating the next family wedding where it will make an appearance, and I’m already hoping my daughter and nieces will choose to wear it one day! I deeply value family traditions and legacy, so it was very meaningful to me to get to create a family heirloom from scratch.

5. Our portrait location. Bear with me here :) There is a very crazy story about how we came to take our portraits at a particular home, but the upshot is that it totally strengthened my belief that dreams can come true and that most people are generous and kind, something that has changed the way I move through the world ever since.

6. Our pastor. Our pastor from our church in North Carolina agreed to fly to Connecticut to officiate our ceremony, and it was without a doubt one of the most meaningful parts of our wedding. He has played such a formative role in our faith walk, and his presence and gentle guidance helped our ceremony stay centered on Christ.

7. Serving communion. We served communion directly following our vows. We chose to see the symbolism in our first act as a married couple being one of serving others while honoring our Lord, especially since we chose to serve our parents and grandparents first. We loved seeing so many beloved and familiar faces coming forward, and it was really special to have a brief moment with each individual guest.

8. Our cocktail hour picnic. Instead of joining our guests at cocktail hour, John and I had a picnic, just the two of us! Our caterers packed up a sampling of everything that was being served that evening, and we got 15 minutes or so to simply bask in our newly-married glow. Those few minutes are an iron-clad memory in my mind, and I’m so grateful.

9. Creating an aesthetic experience. I am an unapologetic lover of beautiful things and singular experiences, and it was a true joy to plan so carefully for so long and then to see all of my dreams and plans come to fruition under that perfectly blue September sky. Thoughtfully creating an immersive experience and then getting to enjoy it alongside our loved ones was very meaningful for me.

10. Giving a toast. At our reception, both John and I gave brief toasts. I believe deeply in saying the words that truly matter, and so I very carefully considered how I would thank and honor both my parents and John’s parents. Though I’ve had occasion both before and after to do the same, I think the sentiment shared in that setting will always hold more weight than any other.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there :) Though I’m sure your list of ways to make your wedding meaningful will be different than mine, I hope my experience might help get your wheels turning! I’m cheering you on!! :)

All photos by Tanja Lippert

P.S. Want to breeze past the logistics and budget to dos so you can focus on what matters most? Pick up a copy of the Joyful Wedding Planner ASAP – hundreds of brides have used it to plan their weddings, and I couldn’t recommend it more!

emily Written with love by Emily
4 Comments
  1. avatar Mollie reply

    I love the idea of a picnic after the ceremony, but I must ask… how did you get photos done and have time for a picnic!?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Mollie! Haha happy to offer some insight! Our cocktail hour was about 1 hour. We used 15 minutes for our picnic, then the other 45 for portraits! Then we joined our reception! :)

  2. avatar Kirsti reply

    Thank you, Emily for sharing these tips! My fiancé and I have tried to keep our focus when making decisions during our planning process for our May 2018 wedding to have a wedding that truly represents us!

  3. avatar Kirsti reply

    Oh my goodness gracious! I just read your post Dreams Do Come True and it’s like we are soul mates! This is EXACTLY how I found my wedding venue – a lot of scouring on Google and then writing letter and eventually meeting with the oh so sweet owners that are willing to let us invite 200 of our guests to their home in May!

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