Who doesn’t love a good friends-to-lovers story? Country music star Thomas Rhett and his wife, Lauren Akins, have the sweetest real-life friends-to-lovers story, and we can’t get enough of them.
With the upcoming release of Thomas Rhett’s sixth album, Where We Started, here’s a breakdown of his relationship with Lauren from being friends as kids to welcoming their fourth daughter.
2005: They Briefly Dated, But Decided They Were Better Off As Friends
Though Thomas Rhett and Lauren met and became friends when they were in first grade, they briefly dated in 2005 while they were sophomores in high school. They broke up when they realized they were better off as friends, but Thomas Rhett still had a crush on her. He said, “She was just like the all-American, friendliest, nicest. She was tall, blonde, beautiful, pretty much the total package for any dude from sixth grade all the way through high school.”
May 2011: Thomas Rhett Confesses His Feelings to Lauren
Both Thomas Rhett and Lauren were in serious relationships with other people in college, but Thomas Rhett still couldn’t get Lauren out of his head. Since the two remained close friends, Lauren’s dad sensed that Thomas Rhett still had feelings for Lauren. Thomas Rhett said, "Her dad called me and said, 'If you don't come over here tonight and tell Lauren how you feel about her, then I'm going to tell her how you feel about her.’”
Thomas Rhett confessed his feelings to Lauren in May 2011 on her parents’ front porch. He said, “We stayed up ‘til 4 a.m., kissed for the first time since high school.” They started dating and got engaged seven months later, in December 2011.
Thomas Rhett recalled, “Everybody was telling us not to…but we just fell in love at a young age.”
October 2012: Wedding
Thomas Rhett and Lauren tied the knot in 2012 at a small outdoor ceremony in Nashville. Though some of their family members were skeptical of their young age (both were 22) and whirlwind romance, they realized it was true love at the wedding. Thomas Rhett’s dad, songwriter Rhett Akins, said, “When I saw them stare at each other the entire 20 minutes they were saying their vows, it's like these two people are meant to be together. They are beyond in love. Everybody there that had doubted or wondered if they were too young, all the doubts are gone now.”
July 2015: “Die A Happy Man” Is Released
Though many of Thomas Rhett’s songs are about Lauren, “Die A Happy Man” is the most popular one.
"I really did just wake up one day and was like, 'I have yet to write a song about her.' That's just one of those cheesy things you do for your girlfriend when you're 16, but I decided to do it when I was 25," Thomas Rhett said.
“Die A Happy Man” won ACM, CMA and Billboard Music Awards.
The song is also special because Lauren is featured in the music video where the couple recreates their honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s hard not to swoon over the romantic scenery and lyrics like “If I never get to see the Northern Lights / Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night / If all I got is your hand in my hand / Baby, I could die a happy man.” It could make the strongest cynic believe in love.
February 2017: Baby Announcements
In February 2017, Thomas Rhett and Lauren announced that they were about to adopt their first child and that they were pregnant with their second. They both shared the same photo on Instagram with gold “BABY” letters.
Thomas Rhett wrote, “We are so happy to announce that we are pregnant and we are in the process of adopting a child from Africa! Safe to say life is about to get crazy!”
May 2017: Willa Gray Is Adopted
Thomas Rhett and Lauren’s eldest daughter, Willa Gray Akins, was adopted from Uganda and arrived at their Nashville home in May 2017. They both shared a photo of them holding her on Instagram. Thomas Rhett wrote, “Everyone, meet Willa Gray Akins! I can't believe our daughter is finally home. We have been in this adoption process for what seems like forever and are just so filled with joy that we are all finally home together! Thank you to everyone who prayed every single day for this sweet girl. The Lord blessed us with the most amazing little girl we could have ever dreamed of and we can't wait to watch her grow up!”
Lauren first met Willa Gray as an 18-month-old orphan, nicknamed “Blessing,” in Uganda when Lauren visited her orphanage in 2016 while Thomas Rhett was on tour. At the time, Thomas Rhett and Lauren had been struggling to get pregnant and were beginning to consider adoption.
“When I met Willa, her story was pretty intense,” Lauren said. “All orphans have heart-wrenching stories, but it felt like this specific baby was ours. I think that the Lord knew what he was doing when he did not let us get pregnant.”
“She was a total orphan and didn’t have any biological relatives, no one. Her life was going to be at the children’s home unless someone else tried to give her a home,” Lauren said. “So I thought, ‘We need to find her a home.’ I thought we’d be the helpers – and then Thomas Rhett said, ‘We’ll do it!’”
Thomas Rhett recalled that when he saw a picture of Lauren holding baby Willa, he was struck by the bond between them.
“Lauren had this amazing glow about her and it just felt like she was already our daughter in a weird way,” Thomas Rhett said. “I just blurted out, ‘We should bring her home.’”
Over the next year, Lauren and Thomas Rhett made a dozen trips to Uganda, stayed for weeks at a time to foster Willa according to local adoption laws, and finally were made Willa’s legal parents – just a short time before their biological daughter was born.
August 2017: Ada James Is Born
Willa Gray wasn’t an only child for long, and Ada James was born three months later on August 12, 2017. Both Lauren and Thomas Rhett shared a photo of them with her in the hospital on Instagram. Lauren wrote, “Our baby girl is here! Sweet Ada James Akins came into the world at 10:28 last night after almost 36 hours of labor (only Jesus got me through that-& she is sooo worth it). She weighs 7 pounds 3 ounces and is so stinking cute I just can't take it! We are all doing well now, just resting. Thank y'all for your prayers-she is a miracle and God is so good. Thomas Rhett and I are so in love with her. And Willa Gray is so excited to finally have a baby sister More pics to come, so get ready haha.”
December 2017: “Marry Me” Is Released
Remember how both Thomas Rhett and Lauren were in serious relationships before they started dating? His song “Marry Me” explores the possibility of Thomas Rhett never confessing his feelings for Lauren.
With heartbreaking lyrics like, “I remember the night when I almost kissed her / Yeah, I kinda freaked out, we been friends for forever / And I always wondered if she felt the same way / When I got the invite, I knew it was too late / And I know her daddy's been dreadin' this day / Oh, but he don't know he ain't the only one givin' her away,” we can’t help but feel like Thomas Rhett doesn’t regret taking a chance and telling Lauren how he felt about her.
Thomas Rhett explained his thinking behind the song: “We wrote that song from a place that could have been my life. Everybody has those moments in life where they can either go left or go right, and if you go left, you'll never know what could have been in the other direction.”
“That's where I was at a certain point with my now-wife, Lauren,” Thomas Rhett continued. “The song was written out of this space where I knew that if I had never told Lauren how I felt about her, I probably have been invited to her wedding and would have watched her marry somebody else…I think when you fall in love with somebody at a young age, like I did, that sort of thing lingers with you for a long time, even if it doesn't work out.”
The music video features a guy who finds out a close girl friend from high school is getting married, and he struggles with coming to terms with her engagement while looking back on their friendship. He tries to attend the wedding but leaves after leaving a gift wrapped in one of her old t-shirts. The video ends with the runaway bride looking for the guy at the diner they used to go to after high school football games, suggesting that the characters in the music video went the same route as Thomas Rhett and Lauren.
Thomas Rhett confirms my interpretation: “At the end of the music video for "Marry Me," I wanted to close in on that "Nicholas Sparks moment" and really give the viewers a positive ending. So in my mind, I think the girl in the video left the wedding. I think she came and told him she loved him, and now they're together, wherever they are.”
May 2018: Lauren’s First Mother’s Day
In May 2018, Thomas Rhett shared two pictures of Lauren and the girls on Instagram to celebrate her first Mother's Day. He wrote, “Happy Mother’s Day honey! You are the strongest, most patient, loving, caring, beautiful woman that I know. Being parents is hard but being a mom is EXTREMELY hard and most days you do it with ease. I love you more than you could ever know! Huge shoutout to all the moms across the world! Y’all are amazing!”
July 2019: Third Baby Announcement
Thomas Rhett and Lauren announced that Willa Gray and Ada James would be getting a little sister in July 2019. Alongside a picture of Thomas Rhett with Lauren and the girls holding her pregnant belly, he wrote, “Excited to share that I will now be paying for 3 weddings. I feel so blessed to say that our third child is on the way and it’s a girl!! I love you so much @laur_akins. WG and AJ, y’all are gonna be the best big sisters! Bring on the crazy.”
February 2020: Lennon Love Is Born
Thomas Rhett and Lauren’s third daughter joined the Akins family on February 10, 2020. Thomas Rhett took to Instagram to announce the birth of his daughter. He wrote, “Lennon Love Akins was born at 8:30 AM on February 10th! It was such a joy to watch this little angel be brought into the world. My wife is just incredible through the entire birth, watching our kids meet Lennon for the first time was probably the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life! Ada James and Willa Gray are going to be the best big sisters on the planet. The Lord is so good and I’m so grateful for my beautiful growing family!! Y’all pray for us as we switch from man on man defense to zone.”
June 2020: Lauren’s Sweet Father’s Day Tribute
Though Lauren has posted several Father’s Day tributes to Thomas Rhett, the sweetest came in 2020 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lauren wrote, “Thomas Rhett you are the best daddy to our 3 little girls! You keep us steady, constantly entertain us, love us better than anyone could, cook us amazing food, point us to Jesus, (try to) teach us everything about music, make us laugh every single day, and with you leading our family we get to live out the most incredible adventure. Happy Father’s Day honey, you are so loved.”
The pandemic was hard on all of us, but it’s so refreshing to see a couple praising each other for the sacrifices they made during the pandemic. Thomas Rhett and Lauren are not only relatable, but they’re authentic, and we can’t help but adore them for that.
August 2020: Lauren Releases Her Memoir
We get to hear about Thomas Rhett and Lauren’s love story through Thomas Rhett’s music, but we rarely hear Lauren’s side of their love story. This changed when she published her memoir, Live In Love: Growing Together Through Life’s Changes, in August 2020. In the book, she details their love story from being childhood friends to dating to becoming husband and wife, including how abstinence “was not easy.”
She wrote, “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we didn’t kiss a ton or get a little too close a few times. We just always made a choice to stop short of breaking the promise we’d made: to save ourselves for marriage.”
She continued, detailing her wedding night, “Was it perfect? I don’t know how to answer that! We couldn’t compare it to anything else, and we didn’t have to – because our first time together was just ours. It was the start of a whole new adventure for the two of us. Plus, they say practice makes perfect, right? And our honeymoon in Hawaii was going to be the perfect place to practice. A lot.”
May 2021: Fourth Baby Announcement
Thomas Rhett and Lauren announced the pregnancy of their fourth baby during one of his concerts in Fort Worth, TX. He detailed the announcement on Instagram, writing, “Well... we are pregnant again! Tonight when I was on stage in Fort Worth about to play “to the guys that date my girls” my wife talked to me in my (ear monitors) and said “you can tell them if you want” so anyways, now you know. We are pumped to be having our 4th girl, feel free to buy all the merch you want, knowing that all the proceeds are going straight to all these weddings I’ll be paying for one day! Love you so much @laur_akins we always wanted a big thanksgiving table.”
November 2021: Lillie Carolina Is Born
Lillie Carolina, the latest addition to the Akins family, was born on November 15, 2021. Lauren shared a picture of her kissing baby Lillie on Instagram, writing, “Our little miss Lillie Carolina Akins was born on November 15th and our family couldn’t be more over the moon about our littlest joy.”
January 2022: “Angels” Is Released
Though Thomas Rhett has released several heartfelt songs about Lauren, “Angels” might be one of the best. The chorus is the best part of the song, where he sings, “You shoulda slammed the door, changed the lock and said, adios / To my selfish heart, tore it apart and left me alone / Don't know why you were patient and wasted good savin' on me / Maybe angels don't always have wings.”
It’s hard to hear these lyrics and not adore how beautiful this song is. This song is honest about how marriage is hard work but also shows how working through things is worth it. While Thomas Rhett hasn’t explained the story behind this song yet, we’re sure Lauren is his muse, and his love for her couldn’t be clearer.
From becoming friends as kids to welcoming four daughters, Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins have one of the sweetest celebrity love stories. Their relatability makes them even more likable than they already are, serving as #marriagegoals for all of us.
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