Katie McNabb (Knoxville ’14), standing, hosted a gathering to welcome a newlywed couple to their first home in Friendsville, Tennessee.

Welcome to Your New Home

By Elizabeth A. Davis
Photography by Adam Brimer

A new home is a good cause for celebration. A recent graduate of UT Knoxville’s retail, tourism management and hospitality program shows how to host a housewarming party or any kind of gathering you are planning this fall.

While marketing is her full-time job, Katie McNabb (Knoxville ’14) has enjoyed planning events on the side since helping organize weddings for her two older sisters. “I like to get people together,” she says.

McNabb thought a housewarming party was in order to welcome newlyweds Whitney and Caleb Jackson to their first home. The home near Friendsville, Tennessee, is an old farmhouse known by friends as “the red house” that was renovated and repurposed by architect Mike O’Hara (Knoxville ’86) of G Michael O’Hara Design & Build in Lenoir City, Tennessee. With a tidy kitchen, screened-in porch, quaint patio, tire swing and nearby pond, the house was a perfect spot for family and friends to gather after work on a Friday. For a successful party, McNabb shares these event trends and tried-and-true tips.


“How you set things up matters,” says McNabb. “Make sure there is space for everyone.” For the housewarming party, there were several inside and outside areas for mingling. If you are planning a fall gathering, make the most of the hint of cooler temperatures and lingering hours of daylight. McNabb encourages preparation to cut down on the stress of hosting and to enable the host plenty of time to spend with guests. Prepare as much food as possible in advance or recruit some guests to arrive early and help.


A housewarming party at a farmhouse has all the makings for something homemade and cozy. Appetizers included easy Bisquick sausage balls, cheese on a Tennessee-shaped tray, warm spinach dip, baked brie and an assortment of grapes, olives and rolled-up cold cuts like salami, all set out in the kitchen. Dinner was served on the patio and consisted of the ultimate home-cooked dish of chicken pot pie in individual ramekins with a side of broiled asparagus bundled with bacon. At your party, serve apple cider hot or cold, depending on the outside temperature.


To dress up the outdoors, McNabb had a mixture of pumpkins, gourds and greenery such as cut coleus and succulents displayed on tables on the lawn and patio. Mismatched chairs were set around the table. Glass jars with candles were hung from the tree limbs, and twinkling lights dangled from the roof of the porch. Vintage items, which can be rented, have surpassed burlap as the latest trend in decorating, McNabb says. Above all, the event should reflect the personality of the host or guests of honor, bring out the character of the venue or speak to the season. “I do my best to put a spin on things at the events I plan so that guests are not seeing the same things over and over,” she says.

The Tennessee Alumnus would like to thank Vintage Inspirations, a vintage rental company in Lenoir City, and Sweet Pea, a garden center and florist in Knoxville, for providing decorations.

If you would like more information about event planning, contact Katie McNabb at mcnabb.events@gmail.com.