Since their very first date, Michael Ray and Carly Pearce knew they were destined to marry, and destiny arrived on Sunday: The country stars are husband and wife!
Ray, 31, and Pearce, 29, launched their lifetime collaboration on Sunday before about 100 family members and friends on a Nashville-area farm, PEOPLE confirms exclusively.
“Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t settle for something less than truly the person that I think was made for me is something that I am thankful for,” says Pearce, whose No. 1 hit “Every Little Thing” famously chronicled past heartbreak.
“No matter what, I have her in my corner,” Ray adds. “No matter what, she has me in her corner. I tell her, you’re never going to face anything alone. Never will there be anything in life that you don’t look over and I’m standing beside you.”
The wedding took place at Drakewood Farm, about 15 miles north of downtown Nashville. Located on 40 rolling acres, the venue features a 19th-century mansion, three barns and a pavilion.
It all seemed to offer the vibe that Pearce was looking for: “Earthy and whimsical and romantic and elements of country.” Though the couple had hoped for an outdoor wedding, the weather didn’t oblige. All-day rainstorms drove the ceremony into one of the farm’s charming barns.
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Ray insisted on waiting until Pearce walked down the aisle to see her for the first time as his bride. She surprised him with an untraditional gown featuring a high neckline, full-length sleeves, and a short pencil skirt cloaked in a full-length piece of sheer lace. “I just wanted a dress that felt very unique to me,” she said of the Samantha Sleeper design.
The couple exchanged vows they’d written themselves during the emotional ceremony, which was officiated by Bill Cody, a country radio DJ and announcer at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. The choice reflects Pearce and Ray’s passion for the Opry. “It just feels special,” said Pearce, “because it’s kind of all-encompassing of country music and the Opry and our story. And his voice is just so sweet.”
The guest list turned out to be short on celebrity names with “Criminal” singer Lindsay Ell perhaps the only recognizable name to most country fans. “We really wanted it just to be about the people that know us as Carly and Michael,” Pearce said.
After the ceremony, guests served themselves at Chef’s Market food stations that included such fare as shrimp and grits and build-your-own burgers. Keeping with the event’s rustic, boho theme, the couple served a “naked” wedding cake by CraziCakes; chocolate frosting was applied sparingly to the vanilla cake.
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Pearce and Ray brought in some star talent for their first dance: Jake Owen serenaded the couple with “Made for You,” a romantic ballad off his latest album. Ray made the ask a few months ago: “I told him the date, and he immediately went to his calendar, and was like, ‘I’m in. I would love to. I’ve never been a wedding singer before.’ So it all worked.”
Guests joined the couple out on the floor as DJ AyDam, who tours with Dierks Bentley, provided dance-worthy songs without the cheese: The couple insisted on no “YMCA,” “Chicken Dance” or “Electric Slide.”
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A post shared by c a r l y p e a r c e (@carlypearce) on Sep 9, 2019 at 4:14pm PDT
Professional acquaintances for years, the two became a couple after what began as a friendly get-together at Pearce’s house back in June 2018. Sparks began to fly during an evening of conversation, and not wanting the night to end, they headed out to the Nashville Palace, a favorite honky-tonk for each, to share an earful of twang. At the bar, Ray put his arm around Pearce, and when the two locked eyes, both knew simultaneously that they had met their match.
“Oh, it’s her,” Ray remembers thinking as he realized he was looking at his future wife. “It was that fast.”
Pearce’s realization was simultaneous. “It was just this very certain moment,” she recalls, “more certain than I’ve ever been: ‘That is who you’re going to be with.’”
This past December, Ray surprised Pearce with a proposal — and a five-carat diamond ring — during a Christmas-time vacation to Tulum, Mexico.
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The couple is starting their married life without a honeymoon. Touring schedules and other commitments — including the CMA Awards show, where Pearce is a nominee for new artist of the year — are keeping them from a celebratory vacation for a couple of months.
But come December, they’ll be heading out to Sandals Resort in Jamaica.
“We started talking about the honeymoon and he said, ‘What’s your dream vacation?’” Pearce said. “And I said, ‘I want to stay in one of those over-water bungalows.’ So, we’re getting an over-water bungalow in Jamaica.”