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We’ve gotten into the kitchen with Kristin and taken a tour of Emily Ley’s home, and now, we’re tickled pink to introduce y’all to another Southern Newlywed topic: date nights! Making time for each other and continuing to “date” your spouse is something we believe in fiercely, but we know it’s often easier said than done. Enter our own lovely Marissa and her baseball-playing beau, Brandon. Due to BDK’s profession, these two are on the road constantly, and especially now that they’ve welcomed their first little belle to the family, we’re so inspired by the way they cherish their time together and make dating each other a priority!

Jennifer Pharr

Names: Branch (Brandon) and Marissa Kloess
Years married: 5.6 years!
Children’s names and ages: Emerson Katherine, almost four months old
By day: Brandon is a semipro golfer, facial hair aficionado, Alabama born and raised professional baseball player for the San Diego Padres and Marissa is a professional car packer, monogramaholic, Florabama-raised Director of Advertising for Southern Weddings.
How they met: We met in our Multimedia Practicum class in college. Our desks faced each other, and it was love at first sight (especially when BDK brought the baby squirrel he rescued to class!).

A throwback to the class where M + B met! Awww!

Their wedding: We were married in the sweet little town of Mount Dora, Florida. Our incredible day started at a beautiful church downtown with stained glass windows, and continued with a horse-drawn carriage ride down the cobblestone streets past the park (decked out in Christmas lights!) to the historic Lakeside Inn for our reception. We ended the day dancing and celebrating with our family and closest friends. P.S. The Lakeside Inn even has lemonade and rocking chairs on their adorable wraparound porch!

Michelle March

Marissa and Brandon’s top five favorite date night ideas:

1. Movies in the park: One of my very favorite dates BDK and I have ever had (and his personal favorite) was when he surprised me and we drove three hours to watch the classic Marilyn Monroe movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (one of my all-time favorites!) on a big projector screen in the park. He even packed us a fried chicken picnic for dinner!
2. Be a kid again: While in college, BDK and I were lucky enough to live pretty close to Orlando, Florida. One of our most fun dates (and my personal favorite) was when we went to Universal Studios for the day. No adult roller coasters (we’re both scaredy cats!)–just plain ol’ kid fun. We ditched our cell phones and laughed until our bellies ached, all while surrounded by characters from our childhoods.
3. Singalong: BDK should really be in the music business–he knows all the best bands before they hit iTunes. We love going to small concert venues and seeing bands no one has ever heard of, all while singing our hearts out to songs barely anyone knows! Most small shows are inexpensive (except for the time our car got towed!), and you never know who the opening act will be–we’ve seen now-big-name bands back when they were selling their own t-shirts!
4. Explore the outdoors: While we all know I’m way more of an indoor kind of gal (no tents, and please pass the blowdryer!), one of the last dates we had before our baby girl arrived was a pitstop we made at the Grand Canyon while on the way back from a baseball road trip. It was so much fun to explore the sites and see such an iconic part of our great country.
5. Stay inside: One of our very favorite dates is more of an un-date! Budget-conscious, pajama-friendly, and makeup-free, we LOVE a complete day at home ordering takeout and watching movies. We’ve been known to binge-watch Netflix (House of Cards, anyone?) for hours. Since we travel so much, BDK and I are homebodies, and really enjoy spending time just relaxing and hanging out. These nights (or days) in are sometimes the best way to recharge our batteries and reconnect when everything is a bit hectic.

A little reminder We have great things in the works for this column, but we’d love your help! 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!

Jennifer Pharr and Michelle March are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa

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October 21, 2004 was my half birthday, and it also happened to be the day that was supposed to be my first date with my future husband. He was going to take me to the NC State Fair to eat cotton candy, nibble ham biscuits and visit the farm animals. Unfortunately, I woke up on that fateful Thursday morning with a dreadful 102 degree fever and a throat that felt as if I had swallowed a bucket of nails. One trip to student health later and a diagnosis of strep throat in hand, we spent our first “date” on my sofa, watching the state fair coverage on the news. He did bring me cotton candy and diet coke to make me “feel better,” and we managed a first date redo a few days later. The rest, as we now know, is history.

I am convinced that this next hint for a happy marriage is one of the most important, potentially the most fun, and likely the one that’s most easily pushed aside. Hint #4: Keep Dating. As in, continue to carve out dedicated, uninterrupted time to invest in one another; forever and ever, amen.

Y’all, dating is so important. You really got to know your sig-o by going on dates, having adventures and spending quality time together, right? It’s where you learned about his favorite foods, he learned about your love of all things monogrammed and the two of you started to form a bond stronger than pecans and sweeter than honey. Unfortunately, after marriage (and even while planning a wedding), life gets busy, and suddenly there doesn’t seem to be time to dedicate to uninterrupted quality togetherness. The pressure of life starts to overwhelm the calendar and that sweet regular date night is the first thing to go.

I would argue that you must make dating a priority because it’s a simple way to remind yourself why you started this whole marriage journey in the first place: a way to connect to your spouse and continue to get to know him and fall in love. Continuing to date, on purpose, gives you a chance to break away from the busy and focus on what really matters.

Dates don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be all-day affairs. They just need to involve you, your other half and limited unnecessary distractions (insert cellphones here). Certain dates and adventures become lifelong favorite memories just because they are with the one that has your heart, and the accumulation of those memories and experiences is what enriches a relationship over a lifetime.

Kyle and I both have busy careers and other important commitments, and we haven’t added the complication of littles to the mix quite yet. I can imagine this hint will only get trickier to execute with time, but continuing to date is something I am fiercely passionate about, and plan to fight tooth and nail to maintain no matter what life throws our way.

For us, date night is occasionally getting dressed up and trekking to our favorite Southern eatery tucked up a windy road from our house. They have great live music on the weekends, to-die-for grits of the day and provide a sweetly Southern atmosphere for an intimate and cozy dinner conversation. Other times it’s strolling downtown to grab frozen yogurt and snag a bench outside to sit and chat. No matter what we do, if we are doing it together, in an effort invest in each other and our relationship, it makes more difference that we can quantify. After all, why on earth would we stop doing something we LOVED doing before we got married?

I asked the SW gals about their favorite date memories (big or small). Lara loves visiting Fearrington Village and the beltie cows with Ari! Nicole’s most favorite date with her beau was an spontaneous Fourth of July adventure to the coast for a picnic and a day of catching rays. Marissa reminisced about a day spent playing hooky from school, riding roller coasters and giggling her way through Universal Studios with BDK. Lisa has the sweetest memories of her first camping adventure with her cute beau and his family. And Emily loves going to outdoor movies with John — they’re usually less than $5 per ticket (or free!), and they can bring along a picnic supper. From once-and-a-lifetime visits to amusement parks to regularly visiting the Fearrington cow, regardless of the details, the most important part is that memories are made and quality time invested.

So I am extending a challenge to each one of you. Join the Keep Dating movement. Take turns planning dates. Get creative and see what you can dream up. Make a date jar full of ideas and keep it on your counter. Be committed and block off your calendars. I promise that the time invested in planning and participating in the Keep Dating movement is so worth it!

Have a creative date idea to share? Spill the beans! Have a fun date memory? We want to hear about it!

P.S. Catch up on past hints here: #1, #2, #3!

P.P.S. Lovely session by Jo Photo, one of our Blue Ribbon Vendors! See more from this session in our Facebook Friday series!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
  1. avatar Samala C. reply

    I loved reading this! I could not agree with you more regarding setting that special time together. Having been married and divorced with 3 children, it was a lot harder when the kids came into the picture. But kids or no kids, making one another a priority will keep you both rediscovering why you grew to love one another, and give you more reasons to keep the love alive!

  2. avatar Madi Reid Sanders reply

    Sig-O! Love it! Great post Kristin!
    Sending BIG southern hugs!

  3. avatar Stephanie Huxter reply

    GREAT post Kristin!! Oh we are so passionate about this subject! Life is busy for all of us, but dating our spouse really does need to be a BIG priority! It’s the way we stay connected, in love, and on the same page. When your marriage is happy and good, other priorities in life seem to fall in place. Our favorite date night – having a fire pit in the back yard with a bottle of red wine! All of our life, dream, funny conversations seem to happen there! Cheers to the Keep Dating Movement!

    • avatar Kristin reply

      Stephanie! Am I allowed to invite myself (and Kyle) over for a double-date in your backyard? It sounds dreamy!!

  4. avatar Brittany Lott reply

    This is so sweet and absolutely 100% true! It is so important to invest quality time and effort into your marriage.

    • avatar Kristin reply

      Brittany!! Yes, yes, yes! I couldn’t agree more. Quality time is so important.

  5. avatar keep dating | Piwo z Lody reply

    […] am not married, duh, but read this “tip for a happy Marriage” that said to keep dating.  I thought that it was sweet. I […]

  6. avatar Jessie at Gramercy Studio reply

    I loved reading this post & totally agree. Dating (and engagement) are really special times not to be rushed through. It is easy when you know you found the one to neglect this time – but it is really precious and should be enjoyed. I believe taking the time to work through things and learn about each other when dating relieves a lot of tension and fear when you do get married.

    Lovely post and VERY lovely photographs. You are stunning!

  7. avatar Hints for a Happy Marriage: Get Away – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] rejuvenate you. Put some of those past hints in action: laugh out loud, put down your cellphone, go on a date. The WHOLE point of this hint is to recharge your batteries and to take time AWAY from the daily […]

  8. avatar Hints for a Happy Marriage: Take a Deep Breath – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] I, and even for our future children. I long for dinners eaten at our table (more on this later), date nights, and the occasional lazy Saturday morning sipping coffee in our pajamas. So, I try my hardest to […]

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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Y’all, we are all busy enjoying summer in the South, quickly checking off #SummerDoin after #Summerdoin. I have already picked fresh blueberries, tried my hand at making fried green tomatoes and served some friends homemade peach ice cream – made with fresh peaches from the farmer’s market. Don’t miss out on the chance to print out the Summer Doin’ Challenge and join in the fun!

Speaking of fun, wouldn’t it be thrilling to open your order from the Southern Weddings Shop and find a $25 Golden Gift Card? And wouldn’t it be MORE fun to take that $25 gift card and plan the most perfect Southern Summer date night?

All you have to do is scurry over to the Southern Weddings Shop and make a purchase between now and midnight on July 31st (TOMORROW!!). We’ll be tucking a Golden Gift Card (also known as a $25 AMEX gift card — think Mr. Wonka’s Golden Ticket) into one lucky person’s order over the next two days! How fun, right?

Just in case YOU are the lucky recipient of our Golden Gift Card, we’ve rounded up a few ideas for planning the perfect Southern summer date night with your winnings:

Oh my heavens alive, even if you don’t win, these all sound like a lot of fun, but remember what they say — you can’t win if you don’t play! Now scoot on over to the Shop, make a purchase, and YOU could be the proud recipient of our $25 Golden Gift Card! Remember, all purchases made between now and July 31st at midnight are eligible. Best wishes!!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
1 Comment
  1. avatar Victoria reply

    Loving all the Southern Livings lifestyle things lately and dreaming of a separate launch one day.. :) Printed off both of these charts for a little summertime fridge eye candy and inspiration! Thank ya! :)

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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