Known for his chart-topping hit “Die a Happy Man,” 28-year-old Rhett wrote this song about a man’s need for nothing more in life than his woman’s “crazy love.” It was for and about his wife, Lauren Akins, whom he met in first grade and immediately fell in love with. The country singer smashed teeth with his wife the first time they kissed! Although their love story starts way back, it took two tries to get it right…
The Start Of The Story
So what is the real story behind Rhett and the woman in the song that became the most-played country tune on the radio for six straight weeks and earned a number of accolades including two Academy of Country Music Awards? The country star’s love story with Lauren Akins, a philanthropist with a nursing degree, is a truly inspirational one. It all started when the pair were in first grade at a school in Valdosta, Georgia…
Rhett and Akins became acquaintances once they were placed in the same class at Goodpasture Christian in Madison, becoming friends by sixth grade. The pair attended church camp together at 13 and for several years in a row before dating for a brief amount of time when they reached 15 years old. Although their first attempt at a relationship didn’t work out, they decided to remain “best friends.” While Rhett was head over heels for his friend throughout their childhood, Lauren was less so…
Bottling Up Feelings
Rhett described Lauren Akins, originally Lauren Gregory, “like the All-American, friendliest, nicest. She was tall, blond, beautiful, pretty much the total package for any dude from sixth grade all the way through high school.” For Rhett, Lauren was out of his league and according to him, “I’m pretty sure every guy had a crush on her.” On one occasion while they were briefly dating as teenagers, Thomas felt it was time to make a move…
The First “Kiss”
One day the two sophomores were lying on the trampoline in Rhett’s parents’ yard. He plucked up the courage and decided to make his big movie. Leaning in to kiss Lauren, Rhett’s mother opened the back door and Lauren jerked up. The two smashed teeth and “Oh, it was so bad,” Lauren later recalled. In fact, this wasn’t the only awkward moment for the couple, as they had many more painful moments to come at the start of their relationship.
With the relationship kicking off to a bad start, Lauren eventually decided that she and Thomas Rhett were better off just being friends. Rhett remembers that Lauren had a little help coming to that conclusion… Mitch Barnes. “Mitch Barnes invited her to junior/senior banquet. And that was the turning point,” Thomas Rhett recalled. “I was crushed.” Therefore, for the rest of high school, the friends decided to go their separate ways and began to date other people.
Both Gregory and Rhett (whose legal name is Akins) went on to be in serious relationships in high school. While attending different colleges, Lauren at UT and Thomas at Lipscomb, they both nearly got engaged. In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, Rhett explained, “I almost married someone else, and she did too.” However, luckily for us and many country music fans, both their relationships ended, and neither knew what the future had in store for them.
As Rhett still remained close with Lauren’s family, he was invited to a graduation party in 2011 for Lauren’s sister. While chatting to Lauren’s dad, Thomas Rhett, who was 21 at the time, revealed that he was still in love with his daughter. So Lauren’s dad intervened as Rhett recalled, “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.”
Moved In For The Kill
So Thomas Rhett decided to make his move and spilled his guts to Lauren on her parents’ front porch. “When I heard that she had ended her other relationship, I moved in for the kill. We kissed, and that was it,” Rhett explained. The adorable pair “stayed up ‘til 4 a.m., kissed for the first time since high school.” Luckily, this kiss went a lot better than it had the last time.
The pair began dating and never again did they call themselves “just friends.” As a couple, they particularly enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day and make a conscious effort to make it special every year. “Regardless of where we are in the world, Valentine’s Day for us is chocolates, heartfelt letters in a Valentine’s card, a good movie, flowers, and time alone with just us two,” Lauren revealed. She added, “I always somehow decorate wherever we are and make it a big pink, red and heart party.”
Popping The Question
Six months after having their “second” kiss, Rhett popped the question at Lauren’s favorite restaurant in Nashville, Giovanni’s. He set everything up in a private room with the help of his mom. “There was a [wine] bottle, and with a silver Sharpie, I wrote ‘Marry me?’ on the bottle, and she wrote ‘Well, duh, yes’ on the bottle,” Rhett recalls. “Somebody cued “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra, and we danced in this little cigar room. It was pretty awesome.”
Friends and family felt hesitant upon discovering the country singer and his fiancé were going to marry at only 22 years old. However, it was Country superstar, Luke Bryan, who supported the two the most. “Everybody told him no, this is not what he should do — except Luke,” Rhett’s father recalled. “He called Luke three or four times and Luke was like, ‘Buddy, if you’re in love and you want to get married, then do it.’ I think Luke was a huge part of Thomas Rhett going, ‘Hey, I can do this.'”
Putting Doubts To Rest
Despite what people said, Rhett’s proud father believed that anyone who had their doubts about the young lovers was able to put them to rest after observing the wedding ceremony. “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,” he recalls. “Everybody there that had doubted or wondered if they were too young, all the doubts are gone now.”
Maintaining The Marriage
The couple that married at 22 years old has a true love story, but it is something the pair work particularly hard to maintain given Rhett’s busy schedule. “Being backstage at a lot of different places, there’s a lot going on, and you gotta be 100-percent honest with the other person,” he said. “That’s what we’ve tried to master. It’s definitely helped us.” When [Lauren’s] out here, it’s not really an issue. When she’s at home, we try to talk a lot.”
Setting Ground Rules
In addition to their open communication, Rhett has set one important rule: not to get up close and personal with women in his music videos. “I was just very adamant with the record label and with my video producer, just saying, ‘Look man, it’s not a big deal. It’s just not really me to be all over some girl in a music video,'” he says. “Even if they are the nicest people in the world, it’s just not really what I do.”
Given his rule, what better person to co-star in the video for his hit single “Die a Happy Man” than his wife! It took a lot of convincing at first but she eventually agreed and they went back in 2015 to their honeymoon spot in Oahu, Hawaii to film it. “It was inevitable for her to be in [the video] because I wrote the song for her and about her,” Rhett told People. Everything in the video from barefoot dancing, flirty teasing, and impromptu kisses is real.
An Award-Winning Song
It was, in fact, Lauren who encouraged him to write it in the first place. “We were in the car, and Tim McGraw’s ‘Just to See You Smile’ came on. I was like, ‘Babe, people don’t write songs like this anymore. It’s so sweet — it just melts your heart. Write a song like that! About something besides whiskey, beer or taking a girl home in a big truck,” she explained. The song is one of the most-played country songs on the radio and won an Academy of Country Music Award.
Keeping Thomas Humble
Also a country singer, Thomas’s father would be on the road a lot, putting stress on his marriage. Witnessing this growing up, Thomas learned from his parents’ mistakes. “I’ve even come home a lot of the time and talked about what I did on the road and what songs I’m gonna cut and then I realized I haven’t even asked my wife how her day was… But thank goodness that my wife is there to call me out every single time, so my head shrinks a little bit,” he said.
Cats And Dogs
Considering Thomas and Lauren have known each other since middle school, it comes as no surprise that these two have their fair share of fights. “It’s so crazy looking at it from the outside in thinking that everything is all roses and peachy. If you hang out with me and Lauren, you know our relationship. You know that we fight like cats and dogs, but you know that we’ve fought like cats and dogs since we were like 10 years old.”
Taking Willa Home
Thomas Rhett and his wife Lauren decided to adopt their daughter Willa Gray from Uganda in 2017. The 18-month-old little girl quickly settled into the family and even joined her dad for her first onstage appearance. In April 2016, Willa was one of many needy orphans in a children’s home Lauren visited while working with the Christian charity, 147 Million Orphans. The couple had been trying for a baby with no luck and began to consider adoption.
While things were moving at a snail’s pace to make Willa legally theirs, the couple learned they were pregnant with a girl who would be due in August 2017. Unfortunately, the timing was bad and Lauren had to travel home, leaving Willa still in Uganda with Lauren’s mom until she was able to join her. In March 2017 as Lauren was in her third trimester, they were finally able to take Willa home. Soon after, she gave birth to her biological daughter, Ada James.
From Two To Four
In just five years of marriage, the Akins crew doubled in size! “I can’t believe that we have two daughters!” Thomas Rhett captioned on an Instagram post he shared after Ada was born. “My wife @laur_akins labored almost 36 hours. She is by far the strongest human being I have ever met and I have a new found respect for moms around the world.” Rhett later released his album, Life Changes, which is about his family.
While Thomas Rhett continues to release music and tour, Lauren is juggling motherhood with charitable efforts. She has even started a new jewelry line that benefits Ugandan communities. The necklaces feature a cross, heart, and number “1” charms. Akins explained, “I know it is impossible to care for every child’s need in the world, but we can each love one.” Proceeds will benefit the Ugandan children. It seems this couple had all their dreams come true and now they are ready to help others.