Cassidy Gifford Shares Wedding Details, from Mom Kathie Lee's Serenade to Honoring Late Dad Frank

After tying the knot in an intimate ceremony in June 2020, Cassidy and her longtime love Ben Wierda threw a second wedding celebration for friends and family earlier this month

cassidy gifford wedding
Ben Wierda & Cassidy Gifford. Photo: Steve Steinhardt Photography

Cassidy Gifford and her husband Ben Wierda have said "I do" — for the second time!

After tying the knot in an intimate ceremony last year, the actress, 28, and Wierda, her longtime love and childhood friend, threw a second wedding celebration for friends and family in Nashville on Oct. 10.

"The whole day was really special," Cassidy tells PEOPLE of the fête, which had been delayed several times because of the pandemic.

After getting engaged in the fall of 2019, Cassidy and Wierda, 31, planned to wed in Santa Barbara last June. But when the COVID-19 crisis hit the U.S. last spring, they switched gears: They drove across the country and married in a small ceremony with family in Wierda's native Michigan.

"We just decided, 'We're going to do the dang thing anyway and get married,'" Cassidy says of their first wedding. "I got a sundress two days before, we didn't even wear shoes, and we just did it in his backyard."

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cassidy gifford wedding
Cassidy Gifford. Steve Steinhardt Photography

While they've been married for over a year, it was important to the couple that they celebrate with loved ones once it was safer to do so. In lieu of their original Santa Barbara plans, Cassidy and Wierda settled on Nashville, where they had relocated amid the pandemic, for their big day.

They chose Acme Feed & Seed — a bar, restaurant, and country music venue downtown — for the bash.

"Sweet Home Alabama has been my favorite movie forever, and I used to always say my dream wedding was black-tie in a bar," Cassidy (who got her makeup done by Jessica Candage and hair by Jessica Miller) says of the Reese Witherspoon classic. "So a month before, we decided to do just that."

They rented out all four floors of the venue, and their planner, Beth Helmstetter of Beth Helmstetter Events, created a romantic, autumnal vibe. They enlisted floral company FLWR for arrangements; The Sommolier Company did a whiskey tasting; guests were able to pose in a record-themed photo booth from The Majestic Photo Booth Co.; and Steel Toe Stiletto performed during the dance.

"In a weird way, having lived so much life together even before we got married and then having a year and a half under our belt already, it just removed so much pressure," Cassidy says. "So we were able to just be there in that moment, just the two of us, and really absorb it and take it all in."

After the ceremony — during which the bride walked down the aisle in the Monique Lhuillier gown, veil, and heels she had bought ahead of the pandemic — the couple celebrated with a reception, where Cassidy danced with her big brother Cody, 31.

"I couldn't do a father-daughter dance with my dad, so my brother and I danced to 'What a Wonderful World.' Then halfway through, which was a surprise, Ben's dad — my father-in-law, Craig — actually came in. Ben and I have known each other forever, and he really is already like a father to me. Needless to say, I was a mess of tears. It was very sweet. Then Ben danced with his mom, and we had our first dance — and my mom got up and sang too, as she's known to always do!"

cassidy gifford wedding
Kathie Lee Gifford and Charles "Wigg" Walker. Steve Steinhardt Photography

Indeed, former Today co-host Kathie Lee Gifford joined soul singer Charles "Wigg" Walker for a rendition of "When I Fall in Love."

Cassidy's father, the late New York Giants star Frank Gifford, was there in spirit, and the couple has honored his memory throughout their wedding journey, from the proposal (Wierda popped the question on Nov. 16; Frank's jersey number was 16), to sweet nods throughout the ceremony.

Every table sign had the number 16 on it, and tables were instead organized by country music icon ("We had a Dolly Parton table, a Willie Nelson table," Cassidy says); Frank's favorite candy, Dewar's peanut butter chews, were given to guests in welcome bags; and Cassidy wore the same earrings that Frank gave Kathie Lee on their wedding day in 1986.

Cassidy and Wierda, who wore an RRL tux, were friends long before they got together.

"We actually met when Ben was 13 and I was 10. Our moms met through a mutual friend in the Florida Keys, and my family would always go for the holidays. Their kids matched up with ages with my brother and I. You don't always get along with your family friends' kids, but we hit it off," Cassidy says. "Ben's younger sister, my now-sister-in-law Annie, was one of my best friends, and Ben was actually my brother's best man in his wedding when he got married."

cassidy gifford wedding
Cody & Cassidy Gifford. Steve Steinhardt Photography

While Cassidy says she and Wierda "were always best friends," they didn't strike up a romance until after her dad's death in 2015.

"Our families went to Israel the year after my dad passed away, and we were on a hike, and he told me he loved me. I knew that I felt the same way, but it was such a crazy year going through everything, losing my dad," Cassidy says. "I always had the biggest crush on him. I always knew deep down."

Their relationship was a whirlwind. "It was very quick. It was only after seven months of dating, which I know sounds very quick, but at that point, we already had done so much life together and knew each other so well for so long," she recalls. "Once we started dating, it was kind of a no-brainer for us. We were in it and in it completely."

Their moms, Kathie Lee and Emily, always hoped they would be a couple.

"Our moms would obviously always joke about it when we were little: 'They're always flirting, they'll end up together,' as moms like to dream," Cassidy says. "But my mom used to always say, 'If you and Ben ever end up together, there will never be a moment of your life that's not an adventure.' And as much as I don't like to give Kathie credit, she knew a little something."

Kathie Lee was right, and Cassidy couldn't be happier in her life with Wierda.

cassidy gifford wedding
Cassidy Gifford & Ben Wierda. Steve Steinhardt Photography

"There is a different intimacy that comes with it, just knowing that's your person forever and being able to share, from the mundane to the most profound moments in your life. It's sharing the little, the big, all the things that otherwise might seem so silly to someone else," Cassidy says. "And the laughter that comes with it, too. We already laugh to a whole hell of a lot together to begin with. And that was always something that I think drew me to him anyway, but it's just an adventure."

And as she looks forward to her future with Wierda, Cassidy is taking with her lessons she has learned from her own parents' marriage.

"Laughter is the best medicine, and being open and talking about the happy and the crappy is a very real thing. That's the only way that you're going to grow," she says. "If you're able to have a clear conversation and express your hopes, all the things that make you happy, then also the things that you might have an issue with, then things that are bothering, and you open yourself up to that person in a way — that allows you two to grow together as a couple, rather than you just growing in a different direction yourself, because you're too afraid to have a conversation about it."

Adds Cassidy: "Ben's my biggest champion, and I hope that I'm that for him, too. We're learning something new about one another, every single day."

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