Holiday decorations are always some of the most treasured and loved, just like a beautiful old house, so it is no surprise the combination of the two makes the Pilgrimage Marietta Home Tour a favorite tradition for many each year.

The tour, which benefits the Marietta Visitors Bureau and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, attracts thousands of visitors who walk through the doors of select historic homes each year to hear about their history and admire their dressing of holiday décor.

This was my third year volunteering for the event, and it is always a grand social affair and a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit. This year’s homes were all located in the Whitlock Heights neighborhood, but the festivities are always first greeted with a gala the night before the first day of tours.

The gala was held at the lovely Whitlock Inn and hundreds of Marietta’s notables were decked in their winter evening gowns and finest suits and tuxedos. My favorite Marietta fashionista, Pat Chilton, was especially glamourous in her feather-rimmed top and gold taffeta floor-length skirt, gathered stylishly to the side (seen above).

Others in attendance included honorary co-chairs Grant Rivera (superintendent of Marietta City Schools) and his wife, Jenn Hobby (co-host of Star 94’s Jeff & Jenn Show), co-chairs Stace Huff and Johnny Sinclair, Marie Barnes, Betsy Throop, Bill and Dot Dunaway and many others.

The following morning came early, as I was to chair Mockingbird Hill, the grand home of Sterling and Nancy Wharton. Stace came to my rescue about 30 minutes into my duties with a cup of coffee in hand, followed by another cup of a coffee a few short hours later. My hero! When I chaired Laura and Bryan Higginbotham’s Kennesaw Avenue home the year prior, my father was made to be my coffee deliverer. I think next year I better just hide a Keurig on the porch.

If you didn’t make the Pilgrimage in 2017, be sure you do this year. I can no longer imagine the holiday season without it.

***

Kandi Gary was planning to wed her now-husband Matt in late November in a very simple way: at the Cobb County Courthouse. Neither are ostentatious people, nor did they have the means or desire to throw a lavish wedding, anyway.

So a courthouse wedding it was, until her boss stepped in and stepped up in a big-hearted way.

Kandi is the office manager for Re/MAX PURE on the Marietta Square, led by community patron and Realtor extraordinaire, Wendy Bunch. Kandi told Wendy of her simple wedding plans and appeared to be fine with them, but Wendy sensed Kandi wanted something more. So, when Wendy mentioned Kandi’s plans to Marietta attorney Mazi Mazloom over a double-date dinner with their spouses, those plans changed.

“When I told Mazi, he said, ‘Don’t let her get married at the courthouse with 60 other people. Let’s do it at the Strand,’” Wendy said.

Wendy and Mazi are both on the board of trustees at the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre on the Marietta Square, so they pulled a few strings to get a few minutes for the Gary’s at the historic theatre, although they didn’t have to pull hard.

“When I asked (Facilities and Events Director) Andy (Gaines) if we could have just 10 or 20 minutes in front of the Strand or in the lobby so that Mazi could marry them, he said, ‘Absolutely!’ They actually had an event cancel for that night, so he said we were welcomed to use the fourth floor, the second floor, wherever we wanted,” Wendy said.

But Wendy said she then began to think that maybe they had jumped the gun, and that maybe Kandi wouldn’t want to get married at the Strand.

“I went to her and asked her if she would want to get married at the Strand, and she just couldn’t believe it. She was so excited and started crying and of course, that made me start crying, too!” Wendy said, with tears in her eyes as she told the story.

Not only did the Strand provide the space, but the staff also put the newlyweds’ names in lights with “Congratulations to Kandi and Matthew” shining across the theatre’s marquee. After Mazi married the couple on the theatre’s fourth-floor balcony, right at sunset, the small wedding party came downstairs to the second-floor lounge for a reception, where the Strand staff had provided cupcakes from Miss Mamie’s.

“There were about nine people in all, including me and Mazi, and it was just really small and intimate and really, really sweet,” Wendy said.

Thank you to Wendy, Mazi and the Strand for giving sweet Kandi a wedding to remember!

***

Speaking of the Strand, this month, we bid farewell to Strand General Manager and my friend and neighbor, Cassi Costoulas, as she pursues other opportunities in Nashville, Tennessee. Cassi has worked for the Strand since 2008, when she was an intern. She worked her way up through various positions before becoming the theatre’s general manager in January 2014, after former General Manager Earl Reece retired.

But as we say goodbye, we say hello to Gaines as he steps into the role. Andy has worked with the Strand as its events and facilities director since August 2014. He and his wife, Casey, have two young sons and Andy is truly a great asset to our community and the historic theatre. I have no doubt the Strand has many more wonderful memories ahead in his capable hands.

I will miss being able to take a break on my walks to the Square by knocking on the door of Cassi’s beloved home, the “Watermelon Compound,” as she named her pink-and-green house, but I am glad she is keeping the home and hopefully I will still see her rocking on its porch from time to time.

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