Lauren Alaina Hyperventilates as Trisha Yearwood Invites Her to Join the Opry: 'Best Christmas Present'

Lauren Alaina released a new album, a book and starred in a movie in 2021, but she's known country music was her destiny since childhood

Lauren Alaina went to her knees in the Grand Ole Opry's sacred circle Saturday night two words into Trisha Yearwood's surprise invitation to become the Opry's newest member.

The singer-songwriter, 27, gasped for air and couldn't talk as she teetered in her sky-high sparkling heels and fitted long black velvet dress.

"The is sort of like a wedding proposal; you have to say yes," Yearwood, 57, told an emotional Alaina as the audience cheered.

"Yes!" Alaina said emphatically, tears running down her face. "All I ever wanted was to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I snotted on stage."

Afterward, Alaina said she was hyperventilating.

"I felt like Bambi," she explained to PEOPLE following the invitation. "My knees … all of a sudden, I [had] to get closer to the floor. Then it was, 'There's a slit in my dress, stand back up.' That's all I could think."

Trisha Yearwood invites Lauren Alaina to join the Grand Ole Opry 12/19/21
Lauren Alaina and Trisha Yearwood. Chris Hollo for the Grand Ole Opry

Though her mother Kristy White knew nothing of the impending invite, she told Alaina she dreamed of her becoming a member before the show. The singer's father, J.J. Suddeth, was in the audience, too. He thought he came for an afterparty to celebrate his daughter's banner year. Yearwood called him out from the stage, and Alaina said that was her first inkling something was afoot.

"She said my dad was here, and I was embarrassed because I'm like, 'My dad's not here, and this is so awkward,'" Alaina said. "She said, 'No, your dad is here.' I saw him. I thought, 'There's no way she's about to ask me to be a member.'"

Yearwood wrote the forward for Alaina's new book Getting Good at Being You: Learning to Love Who God Made You to Be, and she duets with Alaina on her song "Getting Good." When Yearwood walked out, Alaina thought she surprised her to sing and congratulate her on her book.

"They could not have picked a better person to ask me," Alaina said. "She's been the best person to have in my corner. She was like, 'You have to sing a couple of more songs.' I was like, 'I can not. I don't even know what songs they are.'"

Trisha Yearwood invites Lauren Alaina to join the Grand Ole Opry 12/19/21
Lauren Alaina and Trisha Yearwood. Chris Hollo for the Grand Ole Opry

The Opry invitation is a long-held dream for Alaina and her parents. Suddeth is a banjo player who dreamed of being on the Grand Ole Opry — and then dreamed of his daughter playing on the Grand Ole Opry. Alaina made that happen for him in June when she brought him on stage. Becoming an Opry member also topped the list of goals that she and her manager Trisha McClanahan made seven years ago. Bullet points included headlining her own tour, writing a book, winning a major award, expanding her acting career, and charting No. 1 songs. An invitation to join the Opry was the last item for her to check off the list.

"We kept saying we had to make a new list of goals, and I have not wanted to do it because I had not gotten this one," Alaina said, her voice breaking with emotion. "It feels good. Now, I've got to make some new goals. This is the best Christmas present I could ever get."

Trisha Yearwood invites Lauren Alaina to join the Grand Ole Opry 12/19/21
Lauren Alaina. Chris Hollo for the Grand Ole Opry

The invitation to join The Grand Ole Opry caps an already successful year for Alaina. She wrote and recorded her new album Sitting Pretty on Top of the World, now available. She starred in the Hallmark movie Roadhouse Romance that came out this fall. She released her inspirational new book Getting Good at Being You Dec. 7, and she revealed a new headlining tour will launch in February.

One decade after country music fans met Alaina and voted her runner-up on American Idol, she has blossomed into one of the genre's biggest voices and most beloved personalities. Her willingness to laugh at herself and share her vulnerabilities in her music endeared her to fans, and she picked up three No. 1 songs — "Road Less Traveled," her six-times platinum "What Ifs" with Kane Brown and "One Beer" with HARDY — in three years. Her Jon Pardi duet "Getting Over Him" is out now. The album also includes collaborations with Yearwood and Lukas Graham. Alaina co-wrote 14 of the album's 15 songs and shared her struggle with depression, dating woes while celebrating growth, family, and friendship.

"I remember being a little girl and listening to country music and feeling like, 'This is my destiny,'" Alaina told PEOPLE. "Not just country music, we listened to the Opry. The Opry is the core of country music. Everyone that's ever been anyone I could look up to played the Opry. To be in that family, I can't believe it. This is the best day of my life other than when my nieces and nephews were born."

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