'American Song Contest' Semi-Finalist and Rising Country Star Tyler Braden Marries Marisa Taylor

"We are best friends first," the groom told PEOPLE before exchanging vows at Joshua Tree National Park

Tyler Braden
Tyler Braden and Marisa Taylor. Photo: Kevyn Bruce

Tyler Braden is a busy man, but never too busy to marry the love of his life! And that's exactly what the country music newcomer did over the weekend, marrying longtime girlfriend Marisa Taylor in the middle of their own special paradise.

"We went on one trip to Joshua Tree and loved it so much we knew we wanted our wedding there," explains Braden, 33, during an interview with PEOPLE about the ceremony, held Saturday at Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California. "There is something magical about being around all of those old trees."

Tyler Braden
First kiss. Kevyn Bruce

Indeed, the entire day itself had quite the magical quality to it, as the NBC's American Song Contest semi-finalist married the accomplished photographer he first met on Tinder over five years ago.

"We met right after we both moved to Nashville," remembers Braden, who spent seven years as a firefighter and first responder before pursuing his country music dreams. "We met in person for the first time at the Burger Republic in Nolensville, Tennessee."

Tyler Braden
The bride snaps her groom. Kevyn Bruce

Of course, the attire was a bit more elegant on their wedding day compared to their first date, with Marisa in a wedding gown designed by Kite and Butterfly and styled by the Ivory Loft in Fenton, Michigan. Making the bridal vision even more beautiful were earrings from Ivory Loft along with a necklace by AMYO Bridal.

Taylor, 28, also followed some of the tried-and-true wedding traditions, as she wore her mother's original wedding band as 'something old' and a turquoise jewelry conch earring as 'something blue.'

Tyler Braden
The wedding party. Kevyn Bruce

"Tyler's mom gave me a hairpin and an anklet as my 'something borrowed,'" she says. "We also collect a rock from everywhere we go. Our wedding guests and party all initialed a rock and held it during a moment of silence during the ceremony. Everyone placed their rock in a bowl to symbolize two sets of families and friends all coming together. It was literally a perfect day!!"

Braden added, "My mom even coincidentally brought rocks from when I brought them home in my pocket when I was like 4 and wouldn't let her throw them out. She had no idea about the rock ceremony when she brought them."

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Wedding rock. Kevyn Bruce

And Braden just couldn't wait to see the total package.

"We definitely wanted to do a first look because we were so excited to see each other," explains Braden, who chose a Verragio brushed white gold band with two black stripes for his wedding ring. "I couldn't wait to see her in her dress! It also helped to shake out some pre-ceremony nerves."

Tyler Braden
The groomsmen. Kevyn Bruce

Eventually, the couple took their place in front of family and friends, eager to recite the wedding vows they wrote to one another as officiant, close friend and Braden's tour manager Chase Butler looked on.

"It was so exciting to have our closest friends out in the desert with us to share in our special day," adds Marisa, who now wears a Tacori rose gold, pear-shaped wedding ring purchased from Genesis Diamonds in Nashville.

Tyler Braden
Marisa Taylor. Kevyn Bruce

Ensuring that the special couple didn't miss a magical moment, videographer Hunter Ezell and photographer Kevyn Bruce were also on hand to capture it all.

"Our videographer brought a VHS camera and then was able to give us a digitized VHS recording of snippets of the entire day," explained Braden, who will head out on the road with Brooks & Dunn this summer.

Tyler Braden
Tyler Braden. Kevyn Bruce

And much like the spirit of the couple, the day was meant to be as carefree as possible. Not only did Braden wear a baseball cap for most of the wedding photos, but the pair also offered guests a customized taco bar provided by local caterer Bruce's Place.

At the end of the day, it was a day of celebration that they will never forget.

Tyler Braden
The reception. Kevyn Bruce

"We are best friends first," explains Braden, who says that he and Marisa will be taking a "delayed honeymoon" of sorts since they both are so busy professionally this year, including putting on the second annual 'Tyler Braden's Engine Co. 18 Golf Outing' this fall which raises money for the National Fallen Fighters Foundation (NFFF). "Our running joke is that we are excited to be 'legal best friends.'"

"And we are also excited to officially start our little family," adds Marisa.

Tyler Braden
Tyler Braden and Marisa Taylor. Kevyn Bruce
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