Tennessee Tailgate | Knoxville, TN

Tennessee Tailgate | Knoxville, TN

Tennessee, what a love hate relationship we have! The last several years have been tough for Tennessee fans to say the least. My family and I are not fair weather fans though. We have endured the good and the bad together. This weekend was just a prime example of the BAD. The VERY BAD.

The Tennessee/Florida game has become a traditional game to attend in Knoxville ever since my brother started dating (and eventually marrying) a Gator (Melissa). It has also become a tradition to eat dinner together, on the Friday night preceding the game at The Chop House, in West Knoxville. We enjoyed our dinner Friday night, as always, and ended up meeting friends downtown afterwards. We met our Covington crew for libations in Market Square at Scruffy City Hall. If you ever make it to Knoxville, I highly recommend checking out the Market Square area. There are so many awesome restaurants and bars in downtown Knoxville!


Necklace: Kitzi from Patina | Clutch: HOBO (on sale) | Bracelets: The Styled Collection

When we go to Knoxville, we make a special trip to see Evan’s Granny. Since it was a late game this year, it gave us plenty of time to go visit with her Saturday morning. She had all three of her Covington grandkids in town, and you could tell how much that meant to her. We enjoyed sharing pictures and updating her on our busy lives.

My dad has owned season tickets and a parking pass for as long as I can remember. If you know us, you know this already, but my dad always parks in the same spot in the parking lot. Most years that’s true, but sometimes someone beats us to the spot. It makes it easier for people to find us when we park in the same spot year after year. This year someone beat us there, so we just parked a few spots away.

Tailgating in the south is pretty much an all day affair. We typically start the tailgate 4-5 hours before game time and sometimes stay for a while after the game too, waiting on the traffic to die down. Some of us just enjoy socializing and grazing over the food table, while others make a trip to the book store or Vol Walk.

Checkerboard Table Runner: Amazon Prime | Metal Utensil Holder: Party Swizzle

Believe it or not, the McGowan tailgate started out pretty small. In the early years, my parents would just bring a bucket of chicken and subs from a local sandwich shop. It has grown so much over the years. We always start our tailgate with the basics, but friends always end up bringing extra appetizers, so we have more than enough for everyone who stops by.

Tailgating Essentials:

  1. Grill (and grilling essentials such as utensils, tinfoil, lighters, charcoal, etc.)
  2. Tent(s)
  3. Table(s)
  4. Cooler(s)
  5. Hand Sanitizer
  6. Trash bags
  7. Chairs
  8. Food
  9. Sternos to keep your food warm
  10. Plates, Napkins/paper towels, Cups, Plastic Silverware
  11. Plenty of Ice

Our Menu:

  • Grilled Burgers and Balogna*
  • Hummus and Vegetables
  • Spinach Artichoke Dip and Pita Chips
  • Cheese Ball shaped as a Power T garnished with Grapes and Wheat Thins*
  • Captain Rodney’s Dip*
  • Tennessee Checkerboard Rice Krispies
  • A variety of cookies; including Melissa’s homemade decorated cookies
  • A variety of drinks and water

*McGowan tailgate staple


Game Day Purse: GiGi New York | Jeans and Top: Belle’s Boutique

Although the actual game was awful, we still had a great weekend with family and friends! Will we be going back this year? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be back next year! #VFL

Let me know if you are interested in buying tickets to any upcoming home games!

Honeymoon | St. Lucia

Honeymoon | St. Lucia

Anyone undecided about their honeymoon or vacation destination needs to read this. We traveled to St.Lucia for our honeymoon on the Sunday after our wedding. We booked our honeymoon with Travelennium using Rebecca Dawson as our agent. It was our first big trip together, so we wanted to make sure we did it right. Let me tell you, we definitely did it RIGHT!

We booked an all-inclusive resort, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, for five nights. As soon as we arrived at the resort we had a butler waiting on us with drinks! He took our bags and showed us to our room that walked right out onto the beach.

Our room was amazing and did I mention it was right on the beach!? While on the beach, we had a waitress that brought us our towels as well as any food and drink we wanted. We tried out the local beer, Piton, that was named for the mountains surrounding the resort. It tasted a lot like a corona, so we enjoyed it! The waitress even brought us a cold towel to cool off.

There were four or five restaurants on the resort grounds for us to choose from. Our butler was in charge of booking our reservations for dinner. All of the food was wonderful, but our favorite was definitely the sushi bar. We had dinner most nights at the top of the resort with this amazing view.

This resort is referred to as a boutique resort which means it is a small upscale resort. It is so small that we only saw about five or six other couples while we were there.


They left a sweet treat on our bed each day. I took a photo of this one because it’s macaroons. We often call my nephew, Mac, macaroon! 🙂

Who remembers the original Nokia cellphone with the game snake? We each had our own Nokia phone to contact our butler. And yes, that is Evan playing snake! 🙂


We added a resort registry to our wedding website and were fortunate enough to get a few gifts from that. We were gifted a scuba diving session and were able to go 50 feet deep. I wish I’d had an underwater camera with me while we did that. It was seriously like “Finding Nemo” to me. It was really cool to see the coral reef and all the different fish. Our instructor took an underwater dry erase type board down there with us so he could tell us what each fish was.
We were also gifted resort bucks to spend on whatever we wanted. It rained one morning so we took advantage of the spa and enjoyed a couples massage.  If you check out the website, you will see how awesome the Rainforest Spa looks.

We had such a fun week as newlyweds on this beautiful island! You should definitely consider this resort for your next tropical vacation.

img_3652We flew back on that Friday into Knoxville so that we could meet our family for the Florida game. Evan and I went back and forth about whether we should go to Knoxville or not. We both, of course, wanted to go to the game, but knew it would be an exhausting two weeks for us. Well, we were SO GLAD we did. Tennessee beat Florida for the first time in ELEVEN years that weekend and we were there to witness it a week after being married! #McGangaWedding went out with a bang, that’s for sure!

Please tell me your favorite all-inclusive resort. I would love to hear from you!

09.17.16 | Small Town Southern Wedding

09.17.16 | Small Town Southern Wedding

Brides to be, soak it all in because before you know it you will be celebrating two years of marriage.

I loved everything about planning my wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I had LOTS of help, but for the most part, I planned it all. Before Evan and I were ever engaged, I knew what I wanted. Doesn’t every girl?

When my sister was planning her wedding, I held my breath. I always wanted to have my reception at my Uncle Les’s Farm in Mason and I hoped she wouldn’t want to do the same. She chose to have her reception in my parents back yard. Then a couple of years later my brother and Melissa went back and forth about where they wanted the location of their wedding, mentioning the Farm in the debate. Once again, they did not choose the Farm. Sighs of relief. I would have been just as happy for both of them no matter what they had chosen, but secretly I was happy that they chose otherwise! Secrets out!

My uncle’s Farm has been a gathering place for my family for many years. I have fond memories fishing with my brother, riding four wheelers with friends, riding horses, and one of my uncle’s favorite memories, Lauren and I cleaning his apartment attached to his shop. (My OCD started at a young age) We celebrated lots of birthdays there before it was what it is now. Now he has several shops, a gorgeous log cabin complete with a stone pool, and a pond. It is a place no one knew existed except a couple of close family friends. My Uncle has turned it into a beautiful home away from home.

I wanted my wedding to be different from my siblings, but also different from the “typical” Covington wedding.

Being different not only included the reception location, but the photographer, and the traditions associated with weddings.

I researched local Memphis photographers and reached out to a few. Nothing was set in stone with any of them. One day I had a customer overhear me talking about hiring a wedding photographer and she suggested a good friend of hers. I think she and I were meant to cross paths that day. I took her advice and hired Christen Jones to photograph my wedding along with my engagement.

I remember taking my engagement pictures like it was yesterday. Mom and I drove out to the Farm and waited for Evan to meet us there from work. Gwinn and Bennett also tagged along that day. We wanted to show Gwinn the Farm so we could all start brainstorming the set up of the reception. It was early to mid November so it was semi-cool outside, but not too bad. There has just been a storm recently and we were afraid all the leaves would be blown away for the pictures. Well, needless to say, Christen worked her magic on us, and we were more than pleased with our photos. I can still remember mom and I discussing on the way there that Evan and I shouldn’t do “kissy” pictures but we ended up doing them anyways and I loved them. HA!

Here’s a link to our photographers blog post.

Fast forward to January… the addresses are being logged into excel, save the dates have been ordered, appointments are being made.. the DRESS appointment being my FAVORITE. When I say it was a dream come true I genuinely mean it. I had been following this bridal boutique on instagram for some time and was thrilled to finally be going for myself. This place y’all, it is magical. I called Maggie Louise Bridal Boutique and booked an appointment for a Saturday morning. Once you book an appointment, they email you a quiz to fill out about your dream gown. They also called and discussed it all with me the week of my appointment. It was raining the morning we left for the appointment, but I kid you not as soon as we made it to the sign, “Welcome to Collierville!” it quit raining and the sun came out! How funny that I remember these details… Anyways, Molly, the owner, welcomed us with a genuine smile and positivity as we entered her gorgeous boutique. Molly instructed my guests to sit on the all white leather couches and enjoy a mimosa while they waited for me to try on gowns. Molly and her coworker guided me to my all white fitting room filled with dresses they hand-picked for me. They helped me into each gown, pulling it tight to fit me before showing my guests. Molly knew I wanted lace sleeves and thankfully talked me out of full lace sleeves. She had me try on dresses that were not necessarily what I had in mind but, wanted to be sure they were ruled out before making a final decision. That was pretty fun…see the selfie of Leah and I! The winner was written all over my face according to everyone in attendance. I absolutely adored it. It was simply beautiful.

The dress I tried on in the store had a blush underlay while the bolero I tried on was ivory. I ordered them both in ivory.

Let’s fast forward again. The invitations have been mailed. It just got REAL, real fast! We mailed out our invitations the last week of July. We squeezed in four showers into two weekends in August. Why? We were invited to TWELVE weddings that year. That means between going to weddings, wedding showers, and wedding planning, we were short on time! Our showers included a Stock the Bar Party given by the wedding party and friends, a Christmas shower given by my church, a nighttime party given by friends of my parents, and another night-time party given by friends. We were extremely blessed to have such kind and generous people host such lovely showers for us. We cannot thank you all enough.

It’s Thursday, September 15, I am at the Farm doing things to prepare for the big day. My phone rings and my future sister-in-law is on the other end telling me the news we knew was coming, but never imagined would come two days before our wedding. Evans grandfather has passed away. His grandparents had not planned on attending due to their health issues, but now his Knoxville family was unable to attend as well. The funeral arrangements were pushed to the following weekend so that Evan and I could be there and not miss our honeymoon. His grandmother was able to watch the wedding via FaceTime, and we were so glad. She and Evan are very close. He lived with his grandparents for the better part of his college years. She is such a sweet soul and absolutely adores her Evan.

It’s Friday, September 16, I am getting ready for my Bridesmaids Luncheon at Charlene’s Just Divine Tea Room in Halls, TN. My mom tells me that my Granny and Aunt Mina are unable to attend because they were taking Granny to the hospital. I thought to myself they will give her some fluids and send her on her way it’s going to be fine. After the luncheon and running out to the Farm for a few last-minute preparations, mom tells me that they are keeping Granny overnight and she is more than likely not going to be able to attend the wedding. That was my breaking point. I do not show a lot of emotion, nor do I cry often especially in front of people. I broke down pretty bad when mom told me that. Granny is my only living grandparent and the only grandparent who was going to be in attendance for the wedding. I had my pity party before the rehearsal and I finally got myself together. It broke my heart that she couldn’t be there on my wedding day and hear me say my vows to my husband because I know she would have been so proud of me. It kills me that I don’t have a single picture with her, but I am thankful that she is still here. She is still here today and that means more to me than missing my wedding day.

The wedding party rode together in a van to our Rehearsal dinner in Memphis. We stopped on our way to the restaurant to see my Granny. She was still my sweet giggly Granny, and that made me feel so much better.

The Gangaware’s threw us an amazing Rehearsal Dinner at The Rendevouz. We had quite the crowd, and lots of fun and laughs!

Saturday, September 17, WEDDING DAY. All week-long the weather forecast predicted rain on my wedding day. On that morning I woke up to sunshine and sprinkles. God tested us on Thursday and Friday, but like always he came through for us on Saturday.

The Vols played in the morning and WON, so that was also a good sign, HA!

The ladies started the day at Little Shop of Hair. My mom, sister, and I have been using Amy Malone, the owner, as our hair dresser for the last 6+ years. She and her team of ladies know how to make you feel and look beautiful. Amy did my hair as well as my mom and sisters. The bridesmaids hair was done by Tiffany Sullivan. All of our makeup was done by my good friend, Brittany Wright. I definitely recommend these sweet ladies for your next event!

We had a record-breaking twelve-minute ceremony. We did not do a first look because I wanted to be traditional and see each other for the first time walking down the aisle. Speaking of walking down the aisle, I only recall seeing The Jackson family on my entrance and Ryleigh Strong on our exit! I was not really nervous, to be honest. I blocked everyone out and I said my vows loud and proud.  There were no solos, no unity candles lit, and no ropes tied. It was short and sweet and I beamed with joy the entire time. We exited our wedding to Rocky Top, played on the organ just as my parents did, and my brother and his wife did.

The reception began with dances and cake. Soon after the cake was cut I remember hearing a loud popping noise. I immediately assumed the worst… thinking it was a generator backfire. To my surprise, as well as everyone else’s , my dad had a fireworks display put on by the local fire department. He had planned this himself and only told my uncle he was doing it. It was such a sweet surprise for me and our guests! Another surprise later on was my sweet friend Bennett performing his favorite, Celine Dion. There was not a dry eye in sight. We did not do a garter toss. In fact, I did not even wear one. We did not do a bouquet toss either. I did not want to do those traditions so we opted out of them! Our wedding guests waved orange and white glow sticks to send us off.

However, as picture perfect as it may look and sound, there were many things that went wrong on this day. None that were big enough to even mention though. My advice to any bride to be is: No matter what goes right or wrong on your wedding day, at the end of the day you will be married to the love of your life and that is all that really matters, right?

Our wedding was so much fun. I still have friends asking if we are going to throw an anniversary party. We were so fortunate to have such wonderful people share our special day with us!

Readers, if you were there, share a fun memory from our wedding. Thank you for reading and please come back, I promise I won’t be this long-winded again. Ha!


Click here for the photographers blog post.

Our Rings: Claire Eller’s Fine Jewelry in Memphis

Something Borrowed: My moms double strand pearl bracelet. My best friend, Jenn, also wore this in her wedding😊

Something New/Evans gift to Me: Pearl Diamond Drop Studs purchased at Claire Eller’s Fine Jewelry in Memphis

Something Blue & Old: My sister had one of my grandfathers old handkerchief’s embroidered with my initials and wedding date in blue.

Brides Gift to Groom: Rolex

Bridal Shoes: Badgley Mischka

Bridesmaid Dresses & Mother of the Bride Dress: All About Weddings in Germantown (this place has permanently closed)

Suits: McPherson’s

Flowers: Kathryn’s Flowers

Catering: Me and My Tea Room

Cakes: Amy Smith

Lemon Cookies: Christy Hayden

Pecan Pies: Nancy Stewart

Rentals: Mahaffey

Invitations|Programs|Koozies|Cups|Napkins: RSVP Stationers

Videographer: Weston Downing

Band: Dr. Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monsters

First Dance: How Sweet It Is by Marvin Gaye

Father Daughter Dance: The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra

Mother Son Dance: Lean On Me by Bill Withers