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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!

Big hugs to Victoria and Ben for sharing their hearts and home with us this holiday season! Follow along with them on Victoria’s darling blog and Instagram.

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!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Victoria Strader reply

    Thank you so much for featuring us! We are truly so grateful for y’all and all that you do! Big, big hugs from Texas today!

  2. avatar Lauren reply

    I love these features! They are such a lovely glimpse into “after the wedding” and it’s always fun to see how other people decorate as well as gain some inspiration for my own home!

  3. avatar Kristina reply

    Victoria, you have a beautiful home! I love the way you decorate for the holidays. Merry Christmas :)

  4. avatar Abby Nyquist reply

    Everything is adorable! Thanks for inspiring my Christmas decorating this weekend! :)

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Emily and Colby have succeeded in creating a Fort Worth home that’s totally cohesive, totally warm, and totally rooted in place – not an easy thing to do! I love so many of the southwestern details of their home (the tumbleweed on the bar! The cactus wallpaper!), but what I love most is that they’ve intentionally carved out for themselves a cozy and relaxing respite from two very busy careers. Big hugs to the talented Apryl Ann for sharing these photos!

P.S. Don’t miss Emily’s favorite part about marriage, below – I think it’s spot-on!

The couple: Emily Allen, 31, and Colby Allen, 33
Years married: 3
Where you live: Fort Worth, TX
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. I’m a baker and designer and own a boutique baking company, Cakewalk Bake Shop, servicing the Dallas/Fort Worth wedding industry. Colby is a graphic design and media teacher by day, but also a videographer specializing in local stories and documentary work by way of his video company You and Yours Productions.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. It started in high school, when I had a crush on him from afar, but we didn’t officially meet until after college – the first time it didn’t work and he moved to California and I to southeast Asia – but we got together a second time around, older and wiser, and we have been by each other’s side every day since.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? That it is a lot of work, ha! You hear it all the time, but it’s one thing to be wildly in love in your twenties and then something else to be getting older with someone day in and day out. Your relationship changes just as you do and it’s work to go through it all with another person in harmony.

Do you rent or own? We are first-time home owners in the most amazing neighborhood, the Fairmount National Historic District in Fort Worth. We could not love our neighborhood more and it was a great factor into our home choice. Our neighbors CARE about community: there are art events, parades all the time, great emphasis on preservation, a community garden, and all within walking distance to the city’s best independent restaurants and bars. It’s a great place to be at this point in our lives and we hope to be here for a long time.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. There was definitely an awkward “blending” phase. Colby’s style is very masculine and he’s drawn to rich, earthy colors whereas mine is very feminine and if I could I would paint the whole house pink! For the first year or so we definitely had rooms that we had each claimed so to speak, but I think it’s like anything else in your relationship – you are in one big blending phase and at a certain point you just start to jive in a way, unknowingly. Fortunately we have very complimentary tastes in just about everything so there’s never really any butting heads too much on design.

Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? My favorite is the kitchen, and since I spend so much time in there, I better like it, right? I love cacti and feeling surrounded visually by them with the wallpaper and potted plants. It’s also nice to look out into our minimal dining room which is mostly white – it feels very clean and calming. Colby’s favorite is the den, where we watch TV and read. This room is probably the most masculine and folk-inspired in the house and the closest thing to a man cave we have.
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Oddly enough my very first Kitchen Aid mixer came from our registry – and I have used it so much that I wore out the motor! We don’t entertain as often as we would like so just the everyday items: dinnerware, pots and pans, bedding.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? While I love everything we were fortunate to receive, I think if I were to go back I would opt for an experience registry. As much as we love beautiful objects, travel is our favorite thing. We aren’t a very traditional couple, and to be honest I can’t even remember a lot of what we registered for, but trips we have shared are easily stored.

Who cooks dinner? If anyone, it’s a combined effort. I started my business because I love to cook but the long hours have turned us into people who eat out far more than we would like.
What are your go-to meals? Our favorite, easiest weeknight meal to cook is actually a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow: roasted tomatoes/peppers, noodles, and an anchovy oreganata. We sub in fish/chicken and other veggies sometimes, but I love this basic meal. Most weekends are limited to Sundays for fun since we work in the event industry, so brunch is a celebrated affair!
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? My favorite cooking blog is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. My fave cookbooks are Forest Feast and Super Natural Every Day. Simple, easy recipes that are as tasty as they are beautiful.

What most makes your house feel like home? With the exception of some of the furniture pieces, most of the items in our home are things we’ve found thrifting or collected on travels. When I look around I see beautiful things that hold memories or capture a specific feeling of a place we have loved.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? We had an amazing wedding, full of so many beautiful moments we cherish. Topping the list would be: all the joy and excitement of walking down the aisle, our friend surprising us by singing a special song, and all the fun dancing. Colby’s parents had never danced together before and they ended up dancing all night, even leading a conga line! It was a very happy time for us.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? We only have two photos up. I’d like to have more but framing is something I procrastinate on. For our guest book we had friends type messages on little cards using an old typewriter and we keep the stack displayed and shuffle it from time to time.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? My favorite way to splurge is on textiles. I LOVE to look at rugs, pillows, wallpaper, bedding with interesting graphic patterns and bold colors. I think any room can look beautiful with a bold textile – it can hide ugly furniture (like the throw covering an old futon in our den) or become a focal statement for the room. As we get older, I’m more interested in splurging on furniture but so far we have purchased most of our furniture on sale or by thrifting providence.

What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? This is our biggest struggle at the moment – owning a small business and making time for each other. We try to have at least one day to spend completely together, but even that feels short. About every six to eight weeks we try to make a special weekend, whether it be a weekend away or a weekend at home where we set aside time just for us no matter what. Ideally, I’d like to have much more time, but we are working on it.
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We don’t have a date night, but it’s always nice to be surprised. I think just having a spontaneous night together – even if it’s staying in and cooking dinner, or going to a class together, or going on a long bike ride – something you don’t typically get to enjoy and out of the ordinary is always a happy time.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Colby has sacrificed an incredible amount of his time to help me start my business, often coming home after work and working deep into the night, and giving up just about every weekend to help me with deliveries. While we started the business together, it is really my dream and I cannot ever express how much it means to me to see him sacrifice that time for me. It’s not a cute thing, but it is deeply appreciated.

How does your family handle finances? We are both creative types so we aren’t as manic about finances as would be best. Fortunately Colby is also extremely organized, so he handles most of our finances, but we communicate thoroughly on the subject quite often.

Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… to enjoy as much as you can. Obvious, right? I think as women especially it’s hard to not feel pressure to be on a certain life track at certain times and looking back my one regret is not just wildly enjoying everything – the mistakes, the freedoms, the everything. Just take each moment as it comes and know that things will change, and you will change with them, and it will all work itself out.

What is your favorite part of being married? Getting to know each other better than anyone else and in turn learning how to be better people because of it. Having complete trust in another person to be completely raw and completely uninhibited, it really teaches you so much about who you truly are, what you want to change, and how to be better. It’s a deeper level of insight than anything I’ve ever known.
This year, our family is most excited about… growing and fine-tuning our business, new creative projects, big travels, and making time to enjoy life and our home with friends and family.

We’re so grateful to Emily and Colby for sharing their hearts and home with us! Be sure to follow along with them:
Cakewalk Bake Shop
You and Yours Productions
Cakewalk Instagram
Colby’s Instagram
Cakewalk on Facebook

Their home was also featured on Design*Sponge this week, so feel free to hop over for a little more background on some of E+C’s design decisions!

P.S. We’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Rachel Brown reply

    This is my dream home! I love everything about their decor choices, and Emily’s comment about her favorite thing about marriage is really beautiful. Could you share where the fantastic cacti wallpaper is from?

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    I was honestly a little surprised to read that they ever had different styles! It’s so encouraging to see what a beautiful home evolved out of their working together to blend the two :)

  3. avatar Occasions In Print reply

    Great post and a beautiful home!

  4. avatar Mandy Volpe reply

    I really LOVE the idea of setting aside a complete day/weekend every six weeks to reconnect. You are right- things get crazy busy and taking the time to just be the two of us without distractions is important. Looking at my calendar now!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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