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Part I: How to host a wedding at your home…(and other special events)

Part I: How to host a wedding at your home…(and other special events)


She said yes!









Welcome to a brand new year in which we hope with all our heart that only the best will happen. One thing to remember, regardless of geo-political events or pandemics that are going viral, “Love overcomes a lot of things”, even COVID-19. Last spring, my son William Morrow was planning his proposal to Ashley Walker, his girlfriend. I have never been more proud of my son than I was last year…starting with his choice of his wife, someone we all loved and who shares his same convictions and beliefs about life, and secondly with his ability to roll with all of the changes that were to come. Last year, 2020 basically required everyone to be or become adaptable, and those who were the most adaptable seemed to handle the obstacles the best. That the bride-to-be and groom-to-be were both being optimists certainly did help as William and Ashley made and readjusted their plans for their engagement, their parties, the wedding weekend and even their honeymoon. Their smiles said it all, they were in love and nothing was going to get in their way to have a happy engagement and wedding. Our friends who hosted their engagement party wisely agreed that it might turn out to be their only party and rolled out the literal red carpet as only Daltonians do. The engagement party became a couples shower, and took place at a friend’s stunning open air barn, with live entertainment and a large fire. It was the perfect place to celebrate their engagement!

The cutest un-invitations




Their smiles said it all!





Almost all mothers of the grooms can agree that it’s a little different when it’s your son who’s getting married and you’re not in control of the event, but Ashley and her mother were the epitome of graciousness throughout it all. As we watched and waited from mid-May to September, it became abundantly clear that the state of Georgia restrictions were not going to be lifted for public events such as weddings to allow beyond 50 persons within a banquet space. The beautiful blush-colored wedding invitations that Ashley and William had mailed out were now requiring another new genre of invitations, an un-invitation. The first step for the two love birds was to go back and painstakingly narrowing down the guests to the immediate family and their wedding party, and then send out “un-invitations”. Ashley and I found some cute “un-invitations” on and within an hour they were designed and ready to order.



We wanted to have a cross for our home and one of my happiest days was when Don and I made this one ourselves!



Our back porch is one of our family’s most favorite places. While having to stay home during the shutdown of 2020, we named our porch “Nature’s Sanctuary”…and why not? We attended “online church” and watched the birds, deer, fox, and all the other kinds of wildlife go right by us as we sip our coffee or have dinner al fresco together. Also on the back porch is Donatella the Truffle dog who reigns as queen of the porch and entire back yard. It should come as no surprise that our family was sitting on our porch after dinner one evening when William said he and Ashley said they thought it might be kind of cool to have the wedding right there in our back yard around the pool. The Covid-19 restrictions were severely limiting their wedding venue options and they were not wanting to change their original wedding date of November 7th. We got really excited about the idea of having such a special moment in our lives right there in our “nature’s sanctuary” and I drafted a short list of to-do’s (a list that grew and grew). Personally speaking, my biggest priority was to elevate our back yard to the event, rather than have the wedding feel like a “back yard barbecue”. Although we love back yard barbecues, this sweet little bride simply wanted the wedding to feel like a wedding, and we didn’t blame her one bit. That meant getting a few things spruced up. Do you know what happens when you start to fix one little thing? It turns into something bigger you didn’t expect and this was no exception.


Trees and shrubbery had to be severely pruned to make way for an outdoor pathway to the back yard, in an effort to keep everyone outdoors. Pathway lighting had been installed last year thankfully, and so we only needed to add mesh and orb lights for effect.

























Have I mentioned we love our back porch? Being southern and living in the south like we do, we spend a large part of our lives on the porch. When the coronavirus swept across the nation and our constant traveling came to a screeching halt, we gleefully parked ourselves on the back porch, loaded up the bird feeders with seed and quarantined ourselves while watching the birds and the bees. From time to time, I’d casually mention seeing these little “winged things” take flight from our back porch and asked my husband what they were, then we’d see a pretty bird fly by and forget all about them. Fast forward to September 5th when we discovered that they were something that no one wants to see, carpenter ants! Our house siding is made of hardy-board *except for the soffit and facia which now it appears needs to be urgently replaced, which requires also new gutters and painting it all back to match. Hmmm okay, the house was built in the early 2000’s and I had been waiting for just the right time to paint it in a new color palette. It’s worth noting that my family is in the commercial construction business…they do not do residential construction, they do not do renovations BUT I called the cavalry and they showed up with their best help and sub-contractors! My family is beyond special in how we show up for each other in times of need, and this was certainly a time of urgent need. Project “Fixer Upper” for the wedding started on our back porch. We became tuned in to the subtle nuances of the men, their various coffee preferences and watched with awe at how quickly they could eradicate our home of carpenter ants, replace the gutters and paint it ~ almost as if it never happened but better. *Paint colors provided upon request. For their skill, strength, and determination to get us ready for William and Ashley’s wedding I will always be grateful.

This is mid-way through repainting, it’s already looking so different as a white house instead of a gray house.














The most important considerations for a pandemic wedding are to keep yourself and your guests “safe” which meant having masks, hand sanitizer and praying for the weather to be perfect so that everyone could be outside. We had grandparents to consider and wanted to be sure while they were included in the wedding plans while not exposing them to the virus. God is so good and a strange thing happened, my son “the groom” and his groomsmen (almost all 13) contracted the coronavirus on their bacherlor’s golf weekend and brought it home to their significant others which included the bride to be…we began checking calendars at this moment while everyone is sending text messages that they’d tested positive, I noted that we had a little over two weeks for everyone to quarantine, get well (and pray that no one else got it). We ordered the cutest masks for the special day, also at, which coordinated with the custom designed dinner napkins, the fall foliage and crimson florals in the bridal bouquet ~ details matter ~ even masks. We ordered enough masks for the rehearsal dinner AND the wedding. We weren’t taking any chances with contagiousness.


Masks can be cute and customized for events like a rehearsal dinner or a wedding. We love the ones we ordered from

All of these photos are our own, but you’ll see more to come from the wedding photographer Mackenzie Alexa photography in the next blog post. I can’t wait to share the next chapter of getting ready for the wedding when I can share some of the stunning videography of Kyle Delk. Some of his footage brought tears to my eyes of reliving the weekend one more time in “slow motion”. Here’s a sneak preview so you’ll know what I mean when I say “stunning”!

Stay tuned for Part II “How to host a wedding at home”.








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Dalton is the nicest ‘bowl of fish’ you’ll ever meet

The Carpet Capital of the World  My hometown, Dalton, Georgia as published in Floor Covering Weekly “The Flooring Belt” Issue

By, Morgan Bulman 

*With some inserted comments of my own that were shared in our FUN interview!!! Thank you Morgan for telling our story!!!

There’s no place like (MY) hometown…Dalton, Georgia…

Some fact, some fun — what makes Dalton a great place to live…

Nearly everyone who lives in Dalton — roughly 34,000 people to be exact, according to the most recent U.S. census survey — has been touched by the flooring industry. It’s the heart of where business comes from, noted Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO of Emily Morrow Home. Because what originally started as a sought-after skill of hand tufting bedspreads later blossomed into an industrial tufting technology that now supports a thriving manufacturing town. 

For those who have never heard of Dalton or are strong-minded not to reside there, Emily Morrow Finkell — born and raised in Dalton, Ga. — would argue that, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Dalton has a reputation for being a fishbowl, yet she admonishes it’s the nicest bowl of fish you’ll ever meet. And other residents agree that it’s the people that make Dalton truly special. 

Morrow Finkell emphasized that industry friends show up. She wishes she could address all the misconceptions of Dalton — of everyone in the industry always in fierce competition with each other — because it’s not at all what people imagine, she argued. “When someone gets married, passes away or there is a birth of a child, we know because we care, love and look out for each other,” she continued. “We’re all connected in the flooring industry — even though we work at competing companies, we all ask how the parents are or if you have the grandchildren today, we are one ginormous family. We’ll pull and root for each other.”

“My first industry-related job at PatCraft in 2002 was the result of competitors supporting each other. Evelyn Myers (of Myers Carpet) graciously recruited me to join a project she had taken on…to contribute to the restoration of an iconic home she had purchase. I was excited to be able to be a part of the project as one of the guest designers for the Judd House. This happened shortly after I had moved back to Dalton after 13 years away and having to start over my interior design business from scratch. It was through the work and time spent working on The Judd House that I met several people who were later instrumental in hiring me at Shaw. Mrs. Myers recognized her influence to help others, including me. I shall never forget that and hope to be able to emulate that quality in my own life’s journey. Everyone (here) is supportive of each other’s enterprises and causes —” — Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO of Emily Morrow Home 

“From our house in Rocky Face to my office in Dalton, I count the number of eighteen-wheeler trucks to gauge how things are going,” Morrow Finkell shared. “Some mornings I get teary eyed by the number because I remember when there were hardly any trucks passing through at all. They represent “enterprise”, either raw materials, an order, a pickup or a delivery and that to me is the best indicator of growth.”


Cyra’s is where you’ll run into practically everyone is the industry!


Today, out-of-towners have ample choices for a good bite to eat

Here, FCW and FRIENDS list out a few hot spots residents either return to time and time again as loyal customers themselves or have proven to wow visitors:

1. Hamiltons — A longstanding favor- ite, Emily Morrow Finkell likes to recite that it’s a part of industry history where visitors were brought to after the Cellar (and Cornerstone Grill, Planet of the Grapes and others) went out of business.

2. Cyra’s – When the team at Floor Covering Weekly is looking for something on the fancier side, or even just a particularly outstanding bottle of wine, Cyra’s is a reliable go-to and a spot where you’re guaranteed to run into someone you know. The owners are not just friends, they are friends whom we count as “family”, TJ Kaikobad. TJ is well-known and loved in our community and also owns Baja Coop (just south of Cyra’s on Hamilton Street) and is planning to open another new restaurant in late 2019 or early 2020. *I don’t know if the new place’s identity is secret so for now I’ll leave the name and location out of this post. 

3. Cherokee Brewing and Pizza Company — Kacey Carpenter, owner of a local lunch destination Oakwood, recently opened a new restaurant known for its pizza and beer; Mike Sanderson of Engineered Floors recommends trying the Mango IPA. On the weekends, it’s a good place to hang out and listen to live music.

4. Lisa’s Café — Lisa’s is a staple of the Kiker-Morrow-Finkell family. “The waiters there know my dad likes buttermilk, so upon his arrival they’ll bring him a tall glass and a platter of cornbread before asking if he wants his usual — catfish.”

5. Dalton Brewing Co. — A local haunt and often the last stop of a group run or kickball game, Dalton Brewing Co. is an essential craft beer watering hole. The owners are engineers (the science behind a good draft is not beyond them), including Deanna Mathis, who also works for Shaw.

6.The Mill at Crown Garden — A new favorite, Nicki Rayburn noted The Mill is “an 1800s-era cotton mill completely renovated with a mixed assortment of restaurants, bars, a coffee lounge and local boutiques” and added, “the atmosphere is amazing.”









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The Lost Art of Hospitality

“Southernism” can be so different to so many people

Recently a friend asked me what “southern” meant to me. Naturally, as a native southern woman, I wanted to give her a reliable answer that she could understand as well as “adopt” into her own world “up north”, in Manhattan. “Southernism” can be so different to so many people but there are a few common themes…one is being nice. Having grown up in Dalton, Georgia where I knew literally everyone or they knew me, I’m pretty sure I’m nice to everyone…and why not? Everyone is pretty nice to me. We tend to mirror the behavior we see in our lives. That said, I have been thinking about this subject even more as we are moving into the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and any other holidays you may celebrate with your loved ones should be a time for pleasure, fellowship and friendship. Why is it then that some think family and friends are two separate things? I think friends can be family and that family can be friends…and what better’s than when your family members are your best friends?!?  Let’s not lose sight of who matters most in our lives, it’s our parents, our children, our siblings and certainly our spouses or significant others.

The 6th “love language” is lovin’ from the oven

When thinking about what makes living in the south “special”, it almost always boils down to something that involves food and beverages with people whose company we enjoy. There’s a famous book titled “The Five Love Languages” but the author left out the 6th “love language”, “lovin from the oven”.  As we southerners celebrate marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or even great report cards with food, we enjoy the anticipation of said events early on by flipping through cherished family cook books for menu inspiration or for the modern southerners, perhaps the “open table” app comes into play to make reservations. I’ve noticed that one doesn’t even have to be from the south to enjoy practicing these beautiful traditions. As our friends already know, the Kiker & Morrow family is incredibly close-knit and we eat together as often as possible. I’m a strong believer that the act of breaking bread together ensures that we center our minds on what’s most important, and focus our hearts with an attitude of gratitude, and quite honestly it’s the perfect time to talk about what’s happening with the children or grandchildren. When else do you have a moment to look across the table (phones down and on silent please) and see into each others’ eyes what kind of day or week you’re having and have the ability to listen, be supportive or share in the joy of what’s going on. Witnessing each other’s lives is how we should do life…how we should do marriage…and it’s when we are too busy with careers, traveling or simply preoccupied with our own interests that we lose track of each other.

Our mutual commitment to “family” was the common thread

Just this fall, we had two new marriages in our family. My niece V. was the first of the grandchildren to get married. Needless to say, I was so excited when the aunts of the bride and groom began planning the bridesmaids luncheon. With both families having very southern family traditions as the inspiration and our mutual commitment to “family” as the common thread, the theme to our luncheon was born. Although it took all of us “aunts” (many of us are very involved in the floor covering industry here in Dalton) to pull it off, the event was truly southern. Preparations included polishing of the heirloom silver punch bowl, the planning of the color scheme of our table settings, several arrangements of fresh cut flowers, jeweled bird napkin rings, white woven table linens from Italy, layers of gold chargers, blue, white and gold luncheon plates, blue and white porcelain salad plates and the cobalt crystal goblets, all filled with the bride’s favorite southern goodies of fresh fruit, candied bacon, deviled eggs, and southern chicken salad with pecans and fruit. With family and commitment to one another in love, the mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers wedding photos were framed in silver picture frames to serve as a means for each to share their words of wisdom on how to begin a life together from their experiences. The combined wisdom was well over a century of marriage and left everyone with both tears and laughter, just like life, it can be sweet, sad and funny, sometimes all at once. We ended the luncheon with a prayer and a toast to love and a life surrounded with the family we all cherish so much. These special and even daily occasions need not be expensive, formal or overly cumbersome. It can be flowers picked in the back yard or along the road side placed into a vase (or a jar) that makes you smile and sets the scene for something to be memorable, and to nurture the human spirit.

Go ahead ~ use the good stuff for every day occasions!

Every time Don or I are apart for a day or two at the most, we look forward to our “back porch time” together. I am sooooo old-fashioned and perhaps wise to the precious gift that life and love are, and shower Don and my family with love the moment they walk in the door. Life really is a gift and if we are lucky enough to have love too, then it’s up to us to really savor it. At the risk of sounding like “Martha” I always keep some simple ingredients in my pantry like nuts, charcuterie, fresh apples or a variety of cheeses for when we want to “sit a spell” to talk, to watch the birds in the back yard or just enjoy the peace and quiet of our personal sanctuary from the outside world while we enjoy the latest shipment of wine or try something we picked up at CostCo. Do I use the good crystal? You bet I do…if we don’t use the good stuff now, when will we? There’s no point in leaving beautiful things wrapped or boxed up only to never be enjoyed. Besides good wine always tastes better in crystal.

Cheers to a very Happy Thanksgiving!