The country star is loving the married life, and so far, the only hiccup is over TV taste. (Pssst, Gabi: Don't ask him to watch Bachelor in Paradise!)

By Nancy Kruh
August 29, 2018 01:15 PM
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Scotty McCreery is revving up for his first headlining tour in four years, and as much as he loves talking about that, there are two words that are even sweeter on his lips: “my wife.”

“I’m really enjoying saying that,” the newlywed, with a wide grin, tells PEOPLE.

He and his bride, Gabi Dugal, tied the knot June 16 in an outdoor ceremony in the mountains of their home state of North Carolina. In the two months since, they have been joyfully getting settled into their new house in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Gabi works as a registered nurse. Before the wedding, McCreery also kept his primary address there, though he owns a home in Nashville.

“We weren’t quite ready to uproot yet,” he says about the prospect of living where his career is based.

Gabi and Scotty McCreery
Krista Stevens & Amber Beasley - Six Foot Photography

They were, however, ready for one big change: After dating for almost seven years, they finally merged households.

“I love the fact that we didn’t live together before,” he says. “It’s not like we just got married and then went back to our home. I’ve enjoyed the process of moving her stuff and getting my stuff and making a house a home, and it’s very homey right now, which to me is awesome.”

Something that’s helped make it that way, he says, are all the personalized wedding gifts they received. “We have a McCreery cutting board,” he says. “We have a McCreery clock. We have a McCreery lazy Susan. If you walk in the house, you’re not going to wonder who the heck lives there.”

Now two months removed from his wedding day and honeymoon, McCreery is clearly still savoring it all.

For his honeymoon, he was determined to give his bride “her dream request,” a bungalow over the water. The closest resorts with that amenity are in the Caribbean, but they were all sold out, so McCreery literally had to go to the ends of the earth: the South Pacific island of Bora Bora.

For eight nights and nine days, the couple enjoyed crystal-clear waters at their front porch, walked along white beaches, rode scooters around island roads, swam with sharks and stingrays—and, at one particularly memorable meal, tried out a mystery meat. “We thought it was liver,” McCreery says. “It was brain, apparently. Worse.”

McCreery posted several honeymoon pics on his socials. If he needs a reminder of his wedding, he only has to look at his new music video for “This Is It,” a song he co-wrote imagining the wedding. Once his label decided this spring that it would be a single, he knew the video had to feature footage from the actual event.

“I just couldn’t wrap my head around actors or somebody portraying that song,” he says. “For the emotion to be captured, I knew it had to be the wedding.”

McCreery reveals he also sang the song to Gabi during the reception. “It was special,” he says. “At the last chorus, when I said, ‘if ever there was a time for a perfect kiss,’ I leaned in and gave her a big, old, fat one, and it was good. … Couldn’t ask for a better day.”

Scotty and Gabi McCreery
Krista Stevens & Amber Beasley - Six Foot Photography

So far, learning to live together has been an easy adjustment, McCreery says. They’ve successfully negotiated division of labor: “I’ve folded laundry. She’s folded laundry. I’ve done the dishes. She’s done the dishes. Nobody has a role. If we see something that needs to be done, we just do it.”

And no battle lines have been drawn over the ups and downs of the toilet seat. “Honestly, we rarely get in a disagreement or an argument,” McCreery says, though he allows a small amount of tension has emerged over their differing TV tastes. Hers, he says, leans more toward the mushy end of the spectrum.

“The Disney Channel, The Bachelor, Bachelor in Paradise,” McCreery says with a slight groan. “Bachelor in Paradise … That’s horrendous, horrendous television. Terrible.”

No matter that he scoffs at made-for-TV love: He’s obviously a believer in the real thing, calling himself a “hopeless romantic right now.” He beams when he talks about his marriage. “I think we were definitely made for each other,” he says. “It’s just a great match.”

Between his marital bliss and the growing momentum in his career, McCreery says 2018 is turning into “the favorite year I’ve lived yet … and I’ve had some fun years,” he adds, “for just being 24.”

After a summer of performing at festivals and fairs, McCreery is preparing to launch his headlining tour in late November, with opening acts Jimmie Allen and Heather Morgan, to support his latest album, Seasons Change.

“There’s something about headlining and knowing that the fans came out to your show and are invested in you as an artist,” he says. “It just really warms my heart.”

Scotty McCreery performing Aug. 17
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

The 13-date tour ends in January—around the same time that McCreery and his wife are also planning a new addition to their household: a yellow Labrador retriever puppy that Gabi has long wanted.

It won’t end there, if McCreery has his way. “I’m eventually going to get my English bulldog,” he says. “I’m patient, if that needs to be a year or so. Start with one and make sure we can keep it going. We’ll see.”