One thing was clear: Keri White was ready for city life along the Northeast corridor. She was definitely not keen on moving to Arkansas, where her husband's early roots were.
And after his days in law school and hers as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where they met, both were ready for a change.
"So we considered several cities and decided on Philadelphia, although neither of us even knew the city," said Matt White, who began applying for jobs with law firms here.
It turns out to have been a wonderful choice. Today, the couple, daughter Kelsey, 15, and son Cormick, 17, love their Society Hill home, purchased in 1994.
The house itself has a significantly longer history than that. Built in 1830 and graced with an addition in 1860, it is rich in historic detail, from original pine floors, to handsome moldings and doors and six fireplaces, four of them crafted of Pennsylvania blue marble.
When they first saw the house, the Whites were sure they could never afford it. They framed the Realtor's initial printed description, topped off by Keri White's scrawled comment, "No Way!"
Happily, the house was substantially reduced in price, and today Society Hill itself is part of the Whites' pleasure - in their view, it may as well be a small country town. They know all their neighbors, the local druggist and the dry cleaner, and the staff at the local bank.
For Keri White, the house is also where her office is. A corner of the kitchen, a room the couple completely revamped in one of the projects they undertook, is where she wrote the book that has particular resonance today, Mother's Day.
The Mommy Code: A New Mom's Guide to Surviving Parenthood, published by Knollwood Books in 2013, was a labor of love for this freelance writer, whose light touch and sense of humor permeate it.
A reflection on early motherhood, the book is a primer on everything from play groups and play dates, to surviving birthday parties and the minefields of rainy days indoors with 3-year-olds.
Keri White wrote her book in between blogging about etiquette, writing for the corporate world, and offering pointers on parenting on Fox 29's Good Day Philadelphia.
The Whites are well-known for hosting theme parties for Mardi Gras and Halloween, and even an annual late January "Break Your New Year's Resolutions" party, complete with foods to foil dieters.
Matt White, a partner at Ballard Spahr law firm, authored the comprehensive Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Civil Practice Manual, and, like his wife, is involved in civic activities throughout the region.
But home is the ultimate haven, and the Whites have made a commitment not only to be faithful to its history, but also to be sure it's comfortable, livable and decidedly family-friendly.
The living room, with its historic bluestone fireplace as an anchor, has grace and charm and some period pieces, but also is a fuss-free zone. Matt's collection of Arkansas Niloak pottery is kept in a glass-doored cabinet there.
"While it's extensive, it's not yet obsessive," he said.
After living with neutral walls for about a decade, the couple went in a very different direction in the living room and dining room, choosing a vivid Moroccan red that is a perfect backdrop for the art that dominates both rooms.
In the dining room stands a special handmade cherry table crafted by the Charles Shackleton Studio in Vermont that opens to seat 16. The chairs that surround it are a blend of Shackleton-made and fine look-alikes.
Recently, a focal point of this gracious room, a painting, has taken on even deeper meaning: Last month, Matt's mother, Lucette White, an accomplished artist, died suddenly.
Lucette White's works can be found in museums and galleries around the country. Her Inauguration 1993 hung in the White House during Bill Clinton's presidency. She loved creating art for her son and daughter-in-law's home, and it is displayed in many rooms. But the piece in the dining room, emblazoned with gold leaf, is special.
Keri's mother, Mary McCormick, has been both consultant and hard-core shopper. She not only helped decorate the bedrooms now occupied by Kelsey and Cormick, she also helped plan a lower-level family "kick-back" area.
To alleviate any basement feeling down there, the couple dug out two feet of the existing dirt floor to allow for higher ceilings.
In the process, they discovered oyster shells and other evidence that this was probably where the home's kitchen was located at one time.
They created two rooms, one a teen space with a nod to the pop-art 1960s, the other more intergenerational, both well-used.
Five bedrooms, including a guest room and a home office for Matt, occupy the second and third floors of the house.
Then there's the ballroom-sized master bathroom created by the home's former owners. At first, the Whites considered it wasted space, but it turned out that one of the Pennsylvania blue marble fireplaces was in the room.
"Preservation has been important to us," Matt explained, so the master bathroom has not been disturbed.
Just beyond the kitchen area, with its multicolored, checkerboard-patterned table, is a small garden complete with fountain - a perfect patch of green in the city.
"Our lives are busy and complicated," Keri White said, "but we love coming home to this house, and remembering that almost two centuries of history lives in these walls.