The Laughter, the Tears and That Cake Smash: All the Photos from Michael Ray and Carly Pearce's Wedding
Even though Carly Pearce and Michael Ray had originally planned on an outdoor wedding, on Oct. 6, the country singers didn’t let all-day rainstorms dampen their joy. In fact, both felt the showers made their day even more romantic.
The ceremony, held at Drakewood Farm north of Nashville, was moved from a cedar grove to a 19th-century barn on the 40-acre property. “Honestly, it was more magical and way more romantic than I think it would have been outside,” Pearce, 29, told PEOPLE.
The groom’s party huddled up for a pre-wedding hang in custom Chicago Cubs jerseys honoring Ray’s passion for the team. (He threw out a first pitch at a 2017 game.)
Best man C.J. Russell (in a cap) “is the closest thing I have to a brother,” Ray, 31, said. “I picked my five groomsmen by what I felt were the men that shaped me throughout the years.” Ray’s dad, Jerry (left), also got to hang out with the guys.
PROMISES TO KEEP
Ray waited to write his vows until the morning of the wedding when, he said, he knew he would be "in the feel." Just to lighten the emotions of the big moment, he made sure he included a few “funny little things” and inside jokes for Pearce, family members and friends. “if I go too sentimental," he said he feared, "I’m going to be a mess.”
SUNSHINE IN THE RAIN
Pearce beamed in her Samantha Sleeper wedding gown, just the second dress she tried on back in February during her first shopping expedition in Nashville. Though untraditional, the dress checked all the boxes for Pearce: “I love lace, and I love elements of country, and I love elements of classy, and I love elements of boho.”
Gazing back at herself in the dress for the first time, “I felt like I looked like me,” she recalled. “I wasn’t chasing trying to look like a bride. I just wanted a dress that felt very unique to me.”
Rain drove the ceremony inside to Drakewood Farm’s “Love” Barn, a 175-year-old structure on the 40-acre property. Lanterns, greenery, fairy lights and soft draping turned the rustic barn into a magical space.
PUT A RING ON IT
After reciting his vows through tears, sniffles — and lots of laughter — Ray finally slipped a wedding ring on Pearce’s finger at the direction of wedding officiant Bill Cody, who’s an announcer for the Grand Ole Opry.
Cody, officiating his first wedding, had the honor of pronouncing Pearce and Ray “husband and wife.” The choice of Cody reflected the couple’s passion for the Opry. “It just feels special,” Pearce said, “because it’s kind of all-encompassing of country music and the Opry and our story. And his voice is just so sweet.”
Ray said he’s anticipating marriage will bring him “this whole other level of love,” adding, “I’m so excited to embark on this next chapter of our lives together.” For Pearce, marriage is a confirmation that “I didn’t settle for something less than truly the person that I think was made for me.”
Pearce and her mom did most of the decor selections for the wedding, going for a look that reflected vintage and rustic tastes. The evening’s schedule featured cocktails, dinner, cake-cutting, dancing and a late-night snack.
THE LOOK OF LOVE
Professional acquaintances for years, Pearce and Ray have been a couple ever since their first date in June 2018. During an unforgettable evening at the Nashville Palace, a honky tonk that’s a favorite haunt for both, the two locked eyes and knew 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.’”
Time spent with family members and friends at the wedding brought the couple even closer together. “I didn't think that I could possibly love this person more,” Pearce said, “but this weekend, I feel like we got to reconnect and got to grow together at a deeper level of commitment.”
The wedding was catered by Chef’s Market of Nashville, and the menu stuck with a down-home Southern theme with shrimp and grits, build-your-own burgers, mashed potatoes, harvest salad with spiced pecans, mini-pies, Blue Bell ice cream, and of course, lots of tea and lemonade.
The newlyweds decided to go with food stations rather than a traditional, sit-down dinner. “We wanted everybody to feel comfortable,” Pearce told PEOPLE.
TABLE FOR TWO
Pearce and Ray shared a table at their reception, which was decked out in floral arrangements that reflected the rustic look of the event.
THE WEDDING PARTY
The couple selected their six bridesmaids, five groomsmen and best man to reflect every aspect of their lives. Among the bridesmaids were Ray’s younger sister, a songwriter and Pearce’s best friend from childhood. Among the groomsmen were Ray’s cousin, a childhood friend and two musicians from his band.
The best man and groomsmen kept it dressy casual in suspenders. The bridesmaids all wore gowns in blush tones that complemented the color of their hair.
REASONS TO LOVE
Pearce said what she loves most about her new husband is “his selfless heart": "He is constantly thinking about how to make, not only me, but the people around him happy.” For Ray, his bride is the person who “brings out the best” in him. “I just love the fact," he says, "that she makes me wake up every day, without her even knowing, to want to always put my best foot forward."
Guests grazed on a lavish assortment of salads, breads, cheeses, fruits and crudites assembled by Nashville caterer Chef’s Market.
Pearce and Ray are putting off their honeymoon until December when both have a break in their busy touring schedules. They’ll be heading to Sandals Resort in Jamaica. “We are going to stay in one of those over-water bungalows, drinking all of the drinks and hanging out, and never coming back, right?” Pearce teasingly asked her husband. Ray teased back: “Yeah, I’m going to try to find a gig at a local bar.”
A BIT OF THE BUBBLY
Ray's best man and groomsmen became his cheering section when he popped a champagne cork to celebrate his wedding day.
For the reception, Pearce changed into a Hayley Paige-designed dress “that felt kind of like something that maybe Dolly would have worn when she got married.” The flowing skirt, with a slanted hemline, was perfect for an evening of dancing, and the overall look, Pearce said, was “a little more party-ish.”
MR. AND MRS.
Entering their wedding reception, Pearce and Ray soak in the applause from family members and friends, including fellow artists Lindsay Ell and Jake Owen (left). The couple kept their guest list small. “When you do this for a living,” Pearce said, “I feel like you either have to go big or go really small, and we really wanted it just to be about the people that know us as Carly and Michael.”
BUSTIN' A MOVE
During their grand entrance to the wedding reception, Pearce and Ray enjoyed showing off a few moves to their guests’ delight.
STAR WEDDING SINGER
Hitmaker Jake Owen serenaded the couple for their first dance with “Made for You,” a romantic ballad off his latest album. Ray made the ask 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.”
Neither Ray nor Pearce consider themselves good slow dancers, and Pearce predicted before the wedding that their first dance would be “like the step-touch that you did in high school.” As it turned out, the dance was a highlight for the couple. “I cried a lot,” Ray said.
In keeping with the wedding’s rustic look, Pearce and Ray picked a three-tiered “naked” vanilla cake with a light coating of icing and a chocolate filling by Crazicakes. “A naked cake looks kind of bare and vintage-y,” Pearce said.
DON'T YOU DARE
At the cake-cutting, Ray was tempted by his jokester side when he swiped a dab of icing on Pearce's nose, but her look made him think twice about a cake smash.
TAKING THE CAKE
On the other hand, Pearce had no trouble decorating her new husband’s face with a little cake and icing.
Pearce finished off the cake smash with a smooch, in case there was any doubt it was all in good fun.
Of course, Pearce also knew that the prank was in keeping with Ray’s own sense of humor. “I don’t think a lot of people know, but he’s one of the funniest, if not the funniest person I’ve ever met in my life,” Pearce said.
The expression says it all: Pearce simply couldn’t help herself when it came to this dubious wedding tradition.
ON THE GUEST LIST
“Criminal” singer Lindsay Ell was one of the few faces familiar to country fans at the wedding. Both Ell and Pearce were in CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2017. Ell also included a Pearce co-write, “Always Kiss the Girl,” on her 2017 album,The Project.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Pearce and Ray are eagerly looking forward to a lifetime together. “I hope that in 50 years I can look at this person and love him more than I do now, which is a whole lot,” Pearce told PEOPLE. When Ray imagines the distant future, he said he hopes “there will be another country couple that looks at our story and sees that, through it all, we still kept each other first.”