Timing was definitely everything for country stars Carly Pearce and Michael Ray—both when it came to their proposal and when it comes to their relationship. The pair, who got engaged in Tulum, Mexico, last December, tell The Knot that looking back on the path that led them to each other, and then to where they are now, poised to marry later this year, there’s been one through-line through it all: God.
“Our whole story is something that has made me believe even more that God’s timing is always right,” Ray, 30, says, pointing out that the pair had known each other for years before they even entertained the idea of dating. “We were in and out of each other’s paths for the last five years.”
Pearce agrees. “I always say that Michael is my perfect example of God’s love for me because I knew Michael for probably five years and we were both dating other people and I think … we didn’t find each other in a romantic way until we were both ready,” she muses. “The majority of our friends are either engaged or married, and we decided, separately, to not settle and to wait and to be okay with the fact that we were entering our 30s single.”
The pair both recall one night when the two of them first hung out at Pearce’s home in Nashville, Tenn., after months of texting and calling one another, and how they ended up talking for hours. “I think we both walked away knowing that it was going to be something special,” Pearce says. “I knew that I was looking at my husband, and I’ve never had that kind of a feeling ever.”
The feeling was mutual. Ray tells The Knot that after having several of Pearce’s hints “go over [his] head,” finally just having a long conversation that touched on everything from their upbringings and their love of music cemented their relationship in his mind.
“There’s this place called the Nashville Palace that I like to hang out at, and so I told her, ‘Do you want to go to the Palace and listen to old country songs?’” he recalls. After having talked for four to five hours, the pair went to the Nashville Palace and “strange as this sounds … I looked in her eyes and even though I’d known her for years, that time I looked at her and it was like, ‘Oh, it’s her.’ It was from that moment on. It was her.”
Ray then waited patiently for six months before popping the question—with the help of Pearce’s parents, of course. The couple had planned a December trip to Tulum with her parents, and Ray planned the entire proposal as a surprise for his love, a surprise that clearly worked, given that Pearce didn’t suspect a thing.
“A lot of my girlfriends thought that he would do it in Tulum, but I thought that that was too predictable for Michael,” Pearce says with a laugh. “If you know anything about him, you would know that he is very, very romantic. … I just thought that it would be too predictable for him to do that, because that just felt like too many people have that as their proposal story. … But he definitely didn’t just [propose on the beach]. He made it extremely crazy, and I had no idea that he had been talking for months and planning and scheming this thing from across the ocean.”
To ask for Pearce’s hand in marriage, Ray set up an entire ambiance on the beach, with white curtains, a dinner for two, rose petals strewn about, candles and tiki torches, and even a mariachi band to serenade them as they dined. It was, he tells The Knot, what he thought would be the perfect way to propose.
“We do so much in our life that is so public,” he says. “And knowing that this would end up public, I just thought two things: one, I want it to be her moment, where it was all about her, and two, I also wanted because of that for it to be her, her mom, and her dad together.”
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Dec 19,2018 My life forever changed for the better. I got down on one knee in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and looked into the eyes of the most beautiful soul I have ever known and asked her to be my wife!! Carly, you make it all make sense, every step of my life good and bad was leading me to you. You are the biggest blessing I have and will ever receive. You are my best friend, my partner in crime, my workout,grilled chicken,wine drinking classic country Opry loving, Nashville palace hanging,Publix grocery shopping, this is us watching, living room late night dancing, laugh until we cry soul mate. I’m glad we have forever together my love cause it is gonna take every second of it for you to understand how much I truly adore,respect,honor and love you! You are gonna be MY WIFE !!!!!!!!! Thank you for choosing me honey I can’t wait to walk life with you. Yo family get ready I’m bringing my FIANCÉ home for Christmas!! @hernan_santiago_magicart
Following the romantic proposal, during which Pearce allegedly blurted out, “Of course I’ll marry you!” before Ray even asked, the couple met up with Pearce’s parents for a celebratory toast and cheers. “We celebrated with more wine and more crying, and it was really special,” she says.
Now, in time for National Wedding Planning Day, the couple is looking ahead to their nuptials, which will likely take place this fall. “My mom and I are doing it ourselves,” Pearce says. “We didn’t want to hire a wedding planner, and really just wanted to do this simple and sweet and very much about the people that love Michael and I as Michael and I and not as artists. It’s going to be a very intimate, very special, small wedding.”
Ray, who released the acoustic version of “Dancing Forever” on March 1, says he was inspired by Pearce. “She’s changed the way that I write songs for sure. I mean, I’m writing more love songs than ever and I think that’s the cool part of being in my position as an artist and a writer, is that we get to take our fans on this journey with us, and our fans are going through the same thing we’re going through,” he concludes. “I have fans that are around my same age that are getting engaged and falling in love—so it’s awesome to take them on this journey with me and that they allow me to be a part of their journey too. … my songs have changed as the meaning of my life has changed.”
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—With Reporting by Esther Lee.