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Hello, friends! I’ve got a treat for you today! Our good friend, sweet Southern gal Victoria Strader, is here to share a bit about how she planned her ceremony. She’s five years out from her wedding, but her perspective is timeless, and I think you’ll love this peek into her special day! Enjoy! – Emily

Hi y’all! I’m Victoria, and I’ve been married to my high school best friend/college sweetheart Ben for almost five years. It seems like just yesterday I was trying to keep myself from looking at the one and only Southern Weddings blog before getting engaged, haha! :) We have a one-year-old son named Beau and we live deep in the heart of Texas.

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Meredith Teasley

As each year of my life goes by, I become more and more passionate about the deepening of relationships: the relationship with God that defines my faith, my marriage with Ben, the sweet time spent playing on the floor with my squishy baby boy, and the friendships that keep me thriving in the business of ordinary life. We planned a wedding for the winter of 2012 in our hometown, the place where both sides of my husband’s family have lived for generations.

While we were limited in some aspects of planning because this was the kind of wedding where I had to accept the fact that there would be invitations tacked up on the bulletin board of Granny’s Sunday School class, there were some things we didn’t compromise on. When planning for our wedding ceremony, our vision was for it to be deeply personal: a reflection of our personalities and our faith. We wanted every detail to ultimately point to The Lord through a celebration of the ways he has worked in us individually, together, and in other relationships. I’m thrilled to share three of our favorite aspects with y’all today!

Photo by Caroline Joy

1. Our pastor. The first detail that we were passionate about was our youth pastor from high school officiating the ceremony. Ben and I were in the same youth group, so this felt like a no-brainer! Josh knew us so well then, and even now, five years later and with his family living a few hours away, they still mean so much to us. (In fact, neither of us felt right about announcing the pregnancy of our son until we made the road trip to share the news with them in person!) Josh did an incredible job of weaving stories of each of our personalities together with some deep and beautiful scripture. My biggest hope when attending a wedding ceremony is that I’ll walk away feeling like I know the couple more, and I think Josh hit the nail on the head for us in this way. The message of our wedding shared the gospel of our faith, as well as our own personal stories of coming to be Christians.

2. Our wedding vows. Our vows, and the completely non-traditional way that we stumbled upon them, are another favorite detail about our ceremony. When initially discussing our vows, we wanted something different than the traditional lines, but didn’t feel incredibly inspired to write our own. Enter: the Southern Weddings blog! I watched a wedding video* on the blog of a couple who had written their vows, and their words echoed so much truth from the Bible. They were beautiful, and after showing them to Ben, we agreed that nothing we had begun to brainstorm seemed even a tiny bit as beautiful as those words. I just remember Ben saying, “Nothing I write is going to show people Jesus as well as those words!” Haha!

So I did some hunting, dug up the email of the bride, and emailed her asking permission to “borrow” their vows. I explained our story and the heart behind our request, and she so graciously sent me back her approval and best wishes. I realize this method might not be for everyone (and might make any artistic, creative person cringe – ha!), but it ended up being the best possible fit for us. When we recited those vows, it didn’t feel weird to have borrowed someone else’s words at all. If anything, they felt more special because we had thought so much about them!

3. Our ceremony music. Planning for our ceremony music was not something that came naturally to me (I actually rarely listen to music!), but I knew how important it would be for our celebration. I often think of specific couples when I hear their wedding songs being played, and desired for our selections to be sweet and represent us well! One of our good friends from high school is an incredibly gifted vocalist, so we had him sing “Be Thou My Vision” during a time of prayer. My all-time favorite movie is The Parent Trap (the 90’s version!) so our recessional was to “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”, the song that plays in the closing credits :)

Something really sweet is that as I reflect on planning our ceremony five years later, I would still choose all of the same things. The meaningful part of our wedding grows more and more special to me each year, and I’m so grateful for the time we put into it!

Thank you so much for sharing, Victoria! You can follow along with her on her blog and Instagram, where she shares the most ridiculously adorable photos of her smile-y little boy. If you’re planning your own ceremony, be sure to check out our Joyful Wedding Planner – it’s an invaluable helper for something so important!

*Since the video post Victoria mentioned is from more than five years ago, it’s no longer active on our site, sadly. But the fun part? It was the wedding video of our friend Sam from LULA Hair + Makeup! No wonder Victoria found it so inspiring! :)

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Laura @ Laura Likes Design reply

    Aw, I just love that you used the song from The Parent Trap! Such a fun little detail of the day!

  2. avatar Pixie Wedding Sites reply

    Oh my goodness what an adorable baby boy! Just so cute :) fab wedding

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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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We were so grateful for heaps of wise advice from couples who have lived and loved together for decades in V6, but the advice we collected from newlyweds was just as sweet. It gave our engaged readers butterflies of excitement for what was soon to come, and made our older couples smile with memories of their own just-married days. Victoria from Happily Ever Strader had been married for just ten months when V6 came out, and she and her husband recently celebrated their one-year anniversary! We love what she had to say about her first year of marriage.

Caroline Joy Photography

When our lives were joined in marriage, we established some habits that I hope will stick around for years to come. Our faith has been more practical and tangible to me in these mere months of marriage than ever before. For every decision we make, there is an opportunity to choose our selfish desires, or to choose wisdom and respect for each other and our beliefs. We get to make these decisions together for the first time. I pray that I’ll always remember the sweet joy I feel now when deciding even minor things like our grocery budget…because we share groceries, and because we are a “we.” It’s an overwhelming joy that I would encourage you to cherish and hold on to. Some topics to discuss with your new hubby include: how often you want to entertain, finances and budgeting, serving others together, making time for date nights, and really just establishing what is priority to you as a couple.

For my new role as a wife, the focus is thanksgiving. With almost one year of marriage under my belt, an odd moment that evokes gratitude for my husband is when I catch a glimpse of him in our bathroom. I will notice him shaving or brushing his teeth and I am still overwhelmed by the newness of it all. It catches me by surprise that we get the blessing of sharing the ordinary things of life. In these moments, I choose to smile, because I’m blessed to have a loving man in my bathroom, even if his beard hairs now litter the counter I just cleaned. I’m thankful, and that’s a practice that I want to continue for many years to come.

Katherine Klein Photography

Keep up with Victoria:
Blog: Happily Ever Strader
Facebook: Happily Ever Strader
Instagram: @VictoriaStrader
Twitter: @VictoriaStrader

lisa Written with love by Lisa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Katie Garrett reply

    So excited for you, sweet Victoria! I love your blog, your heart, and your sweet post about being newlyweds. I can say, 3 1/2 year later, it’s a joy and a blessing that my husband & I still have those butterflies.

  2. avatar Cassie reply

    Love this! Such a sweet couple and I love her blog. Being a newlywed myself I love to see couples that are a little bit ahead of me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. avatar Emily reply

    Thank you for sharing, friend! There is great joy in never taking for granted even the smallest and most ordinary moments together.

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