If you’ve flipped through V8, you’ve surely already “met” Victoria and Ben Strader–these real-life Texas sweethearts modeled as the bride and groom in our Texas Sweethearts editorial! Victoria is a longtime friend of SW, and we’ve loved getting to know her heart for marriage and her passion for Southern hospitality over the years. She and Ben took on a small town fixer upper for their newlywed home, and with a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of love, they’ve created a truly special place for their growing family. We couldn’t wait to see it all decked out for the holidays, and were so excited when the Straders agreed to give us a tour and share all of the details with us!
Thank you so much to Dyan Kethley for capturing Victoria and Ben’s home for this holiday tour!
The couple: Victoria (24) and Ben (25) Strader
Years married: Three this month!
Where they live: A small town north of Fort Worth, Texas
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Ben was born and raised in the same sweet small town where we live now. Both of his parents have lived here all of their lives, too, and we love having the majority of our extended family in a radius of a few miles. I was born in Paris, France, where my British parents lived for a few years before moving to the US shortly before my first birthday. I feel it was my destiny to become a Southern belle. :) Ben teaches and coaches middle school and is in the process of starting a business with his two brothers. We’re both licensed realtors and I’m excited to spend more time at home next year as our family grows.
Tell us your love story in one sentence. A high school crush between close friends turned into being college sweethearts!
Do you rent or own? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? Tell us a little bit about where you live. We bought our first home just a few months before getting married. It was built in the early 1960’s by a newlywed couple who didn’t change a thing about it until they passed, and we bought the house from their grandson. A solid month of renovations, plus a kitchen and bathroom project since we’ve lived here have turned an old, smelly house into the perfect place for the beginning of our marriage. Ben’s parents own farmland a few miles outside of town, and it has been a family dream for everyone to eventually reside on the property if it’s where God leads. We’re both constantly talking about things we desire in our dream home…it’s fun to look forward to!
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? Honestly, this was a really easy process for us. Ben’s only remark was that things could be “slightly feminine but not girly.” Having just finished college when we got married, we started from scratch on most things.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? What are some of your favorite sources for home things? When we first bought our home, everything was a “save” item! :) But over time, we’ve enjoyed investing in the long term, timeless items that need to be great quality to withstand normal life. We love our Restoration Hardware dining room table, our fancy Pottery Barn chandelier, and our new West Elm curtains. The quality difference in nice curtains is out of control! Decorative accents that will probably be replaced over time are some of our steals, as well as rugs that will inevitably be spilled on. I think this probably goes without saying for most, but we’ve found that Target is our go-to for so many items at a reasonable price point.
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? All of our everyday kitchen goodies: plates from Anthropologie, glasses from Pottery Barn, KitchenAid pots and pans.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? I don’t think we fully realized what a sweet, one-time opportunity we had to fill our kitchen. Through the process of registering and receiving wedding gifts, we were so blown away by how generous everyone was. People were so happy to be giving us sacrificial gifts, something we’ve taken note of and tried to consistently apply in our daily lives. If we had a second shot at this, I think we would register for more serve ware. We love entertaining and are constantly hosting large gatherings. I think it’s really important to consider your lifestyle when registering, not just choosing things from a department store checklist. I will also note that we’re team china; we are so grateful for pieces that will serve as heirlooms.
Who cooks dinner? My instinct is to say mostly me, but it’s often an even trade-off.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? We’re never ones to shy away from simple, healthy grilled chicken with veggies. Super boring, but easy to throw together and we feel good about it afterwards. For more fun weeknight meals, we love Skinny Taste Shrimp and Grits, and any kind of Mexican casserole.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? We are huge fans of The Pioneer Woman and Skinny Taste. Two opposite ends of the health spectrum that we love!
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? Our living room. We’ve made so many sweet memories with friends and family gathered there for laughs, tears, sharpening confrontation, and intentional conversation. I love that our home has become such a safe place for all of our loved ones–that has been our prayer from the beginning of marriage.
What most makes your house feel like home? This is such a silly, first world answer…but being able to curl up on our couch in our own space and watch a TV show together with a candle lit.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? Walking through our magical sparkler exit, hopping in the car, and immediately being blown away by how loved we felt by everyone in our lives who came together to give us the sweetest wedding day.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? (Pictures, mementos, etc.) We are really into beautiful photography, and have loads of sweet photos from our wedding and engagement displayed in our home. The ruffled curtains that formed the altar on our wedding day actually now hang in our office/sitting room. It’s a sweet little reminder, and it was a great way for us to double dip on wedding budget and new home budget!
What is your approach to decorating your home for the holidays? We love having decor peppered throughout our home, but it’s also important to us for it to be able to be cleaned up relatively quickly. Our tree is in two pre-lit parts that you snap together easily. Our collection of decor has grown each year of marriage, but it’s important to us to make our home extra cozy for the holidays and not have things just for the sake of it. A beautiful nativity scene is still on my Christmas decor wish list!
What is a favorite holiday tradition your family has created post-wedding? Each year since we’ve been married, I’ve baked a load of Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls for our close friends and family members. We eat ours on Christmas morning by our tree, and read Luke 2. We have a bunch of family Christmas gatherings, but our short little one for just the two of us is by far our favorite.
How do you navigate the holidays with your extended families? We are so blessed to have the majority of our family live in the area, with the exception of my extended family in England. We have a big brunch with Ben’s mom’s side of the family on Christmas Eve morning, go to church and dinner with Ben’s parents and siblings, spend early Christmas morning just the two of us, followed by visits to my dad’s house, my mom’s house, and then a final Mexican feast with Ben’s dad’s side of the family. It’s kind of a marathon, but we’re grateful to have everyone so close, allowing us to see everyone over the holidays. I just think it’s vital to make all family members feel loved and valued by you and your spouse, regardless of if you’ll be able to see them or not.
What is your favorite part of being married? Marriage turned us into each other’s family. There is so much beauty and legacy in that statement, and we are constantly so grateful for how the Lord wove our lives together.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? I remember when we were dating, people would talk about how “dating is nothing compared to marriage” and that you will “love each other so much more than on your wedding day.” At the time, that was discouraging to me, but it really has proven true. In marriage, we’ve gotten to know and love each other on such a deeper, more intimate level. I wish there was a better way to communicate this that sounds more encouraging and doesn’t minimize the value of sweet time while dating.
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… That you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to become a “super wife” overnight. Household chores can be balanced between you both. :)
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? I’ll brag on Benjamin Luke for a minute…this morning, I realized my card had moved, and that he had filled my tank up with gas. Something so simple was so helpful and made me feel so loved!
Do you have children? What are your hopes and plans for the future in this area? We are overjoyed to be expecting a sweet babe next May. We are so grateful to the Lord for providing this precious life for whom we have prayed!
P.S. Just as a reminder: we’d love to hear from you, too! If you’re interested, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!