It’s not often you get to test marriage vows right out of the gate.
But some four-and-a-half months after their October 2019 vows, the coronavirus pandemic forced musician Chris Lane and his bride Lauren Bushnell Lane to scrap every last one of their “Big, Big Plans” and shelter in place at their new five-bedroom Nashville spread.
The test has gotten easier some eight months in now that the ACM Award nominee is able to head out to the golf course (“Not as much as I want to!” he jokes). Though the newlyweds had long since gotten into the swing of things.
“We had no clue that we would be, you know, on top of one another right out the gate like this,” Chris told E! News in an exclusive interview. “It’s been an unexpected year, but almost a blessing in disguise. I feel like it’s brought us even closer going through something so interesting in our first year of marriage. We’ll look back on this one day and say, ‘Wow, we really had to go through a pandemic our first year together.'”
That jealousy you’re feeling? It’s okay to lean into it. There’s a reason the couple’s love is literally the stuff of country songs.
Four-and-a-half years after they first crossed paths at 2016’s iHeartCountry Festival—when Lauren was still fresh off her stint on the 20th season of The Bachelor—and some two years after a group vacation to the Bahamas left them feeling, as Chris put it, “wanting to see each other more,” the two have built their house on some hand-me-down land and are celebrating their first year of marriage.
It’s an occasion that Chris, 35, couldn’t let slip by with just the standard paper-themed present and a bouquet of flowers or two. Not when he had hours of footage and “Big, Big Plans”, a gold-certified soundtrack of their love that’s been streamed upwards of 120 million times and inspired countless men to drop down on one knee.
The result, shared exclusively with E! News: Well, it may just be the panacea we all need right now with Chris professing, “When I didn’t think I could love her any more than I already did, I found out every day that I love her even more.”
Seriously, we dare you to watch without getting at least a little choked up.
Having traveled from Cincinnati to Los Angeles on his Big, Big Plans tour, “We have so many great memories,” says Lauren, 30. “Chris has a great videographer as part of his crew, so we have a lot of it on video. But even just looking back, I feel like, we have created so many memories in such a short amount of time because, you know, just going city to city, we got to see so many places together and we got to meet so many new people, do so many new things that neither one of us had done before. I definitely feel like we’ve been together a lot longer than a year because we’ve had so many experiences.”
Though the highlight for both of them wasn’t something that could be found in any city guide.
“Every single night, someone proposed onstage,” Chris says. “And I looked forward to that every night. Mainly because, I know what it was like when I proposed, and I didn’t do it in front of a crowd full of people, minus Lauren’s family in her backyard. But I blacked out in that moment, I was so nervous. And I watch this happen every single night when guys come up on stage.”
Lauren, often watching side stage, was just as enthralled. “Having a song like ‘Big, Big Plans’ be so personal and then having an entire crowd of people word-for-word sing that song and just loving that song that’s something so special to us,” she notes.
On the nights her husband would pull her out with him, “I would reluctantly kind of creep my way out because I get really nervous and uncomfortable on stage,” she continues. “But that perspective of standing on stage and seeing thousands of people sing a song that literally is so personal to my life and is one of the best days of my life, it’s like nothing I can really describe and a feeling of just being very thankful that people connect with it and are so supportive of Chris and his music, but also our relationship.”
Then, in mid-March, the celebrations ground to a halt, the two getting the news as they were out on the road with fellow country sensation Kane Brown.
“We drove all the way down to Florida to realize that the shows ended up getting canceled, so we have to turn around and drive all the way back to Nashville,” recalls Chris. “I think my first initial reaction was, ‘Ah, well, I mean, maybe this will only last for a couple of weeks and we’ll be able to get back out there.’ I thought that was kind of worst-case scenario at the time, not realizing that we literally would not get to play another show for the rest of the year.”
Displaced back to their newly built pad, they made the most of the quiet time, designer and fashion enthusiast Lauren turning her discerning eye to every last square foot, working with designer Brooke Garden to outfit the bedroom with light wood and neutral pieces to create a space that’s “cozy, inviting, effortless and exactly what I envisioned,” as she noted on Instagram.
With nowhere to go, they leaned into their culinary skills, turning out for their at-home date nights even when they had no one else to impress but each other (besides, of course, Lauren’s 1.4 million Instagram followers, always eager for a glimpse of her OOTD). And though they each admit they’ve “fallen off the wagon” when it comes to dreaming up creative evenings in, just being together in their new gleaming white kitchen feels special, even when loungewear is involved.
“Those are things that I think both of us cherish,” explains Lauren. “Like, we both love being home. We love making a home-cooked meal together, eating together.”
And though their nights have been heavy on Netflix and Carolina Panthers games, “We’ve really just been trying to be as responsible as possible and staying home as much as possible,” notes Lauren “And we’re very thankful that we do have a roof over our head and we have this new home that we were able to kind of tackle together when it comes to decorating and making it feel like our home. So, again, silver lining. It’s been nice to be able to do those things and feeling thankful that we do have a home, the ability to kind of nest with our two little fur babies.”
Because in August, they expanded their brood, rescue pup Chloe joining big brother Cooper as the couple’s second stab at fostering a puppy ended with another permanent family member. “I don’t know if I just blocked out how challenging puppies are,” jokes Lauren. “Because now that we have our second and she also is a puppy, I’ve kind of just forgot how difficult it is. You really can’t take your eye off them. So, that’s been nice to be able to train her and make sure she doesn’t tear up all of our new furniture.”
The goal is for less furry children to follow, a situation Lauren is every bit as eager for as her fans.
Though in a June Instagram, she noted that “I am very excited to start a family and get asked when we are having kids ALL the time but it just hasn’t happened yet,” the pair remain hopeful that soon they will have the family of their dreams.
“I have never gotten offended by people asking,” she says of the ever-present query. “I think it’s really sweet. And I know it comes from such a genuinely good place and just, like, excitement for us. And we’ve both been vocal about wanting that. So I never, ever take offense to that.”
In their case, she continues, “We haven’t been trying for an extraordinarily long time. But I know that for a lot of people who, you know, maybe have been trying for awhile, it is a sensitive subject.”
Having taken her husband’s recommendation to “really pray hard” about it, Lauren believes, she’ll be able to some day answer all those questions with a growing bump of her own: “It is something that, you know, both of us really want and hopefully will happen soon.”
Criss-crossing back across the United States is in the cards as well, Chris having logged a lot of his time at home working on new potential hits for the country charts. “At this point I’m just trying to write as many songs as I physically can. You know, just fingers crossed that at some point next year we’re able to get back out there and start playing,” he explains. “We’ll kind of just be ready to hit it hard as soon as we’re allowed to.”
And, of course, his bride will be at his side. “I have always, my entire life, been such a homebody. So when we were like, go, go, go, on the road all the time, I definitely found myself just wanting to nest,” Lauren admits. “So now that I’ve gotten to do that, I actually am very excited to get back out there and travel again and, you know, see people again and just have some level of normalcy. I actually do miss being out there, side stage, watching Chris do what he loves and being around the guys.”
Regardless of whether they’re riding on a tour bus with 12 guys or snuggled on their couch at home with Cooper and Chloe, they’re well aware of how truly blessed they are to have found their person.
“We talk about that a lot,” Chris says. “Because we both sigh in relief, it’s like, ‘Man, I am so glad that I don’t have to go out and have first dates anymore and all that kind of stuff.’ I’m just genuinely so in love and so happy with Lauren in my life. I feel like I found the perfect person that understands my goofy personality and that can be goofy with me and honestly is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”
And he knows full well that not everyone is lucky enough to find their take-back-home girl. “I was single for 100 years before I met Lauren so I was patient and knew exactly what I wanted and definitely worked hard for it when I thought that I had it and know for sure that I have it,” he says. “Her and I are no doubt on the same page. Everybody has disagreements, but I would say 99.9 percent of everything that we do is on the same page and she adds value to my life and I hope that I add value to her life as well.”
Plus just the right amount of humor. Because as Lauren was responding to his awwww-inducing commentary—”Lots of value, baby”—he was quick to lob just one final joke.
“And she doesn’t complain when I want to go play golf.”
Sounds like those marriage vows are firmly intact.