So how could Jon Pardi possibly top his proposal on the stage of country music’s mother church, Ryman Auditorium? By sticking with a country theme — this time, Big Sky Country — for a destination wedding amid the snow-capped peaks of Montana.
“I love Montana,” Pardi told PEOPLE Wednesday on the CMA red carpet. “I’ve been going there for about 10 years. My friends have a ranch out there.”
Pardi popped the question to longtime girlfriend Summer Duncan on Oct. 2 as the grand finale of the second of his two sold-out shows. Of course, the Ryman has the ultimate country-coolness factor, but it also has personal significance for the couple.
“When she first came to town, going there was part of our first date,” he recalls. “I played the Ryman with Rhett Akins, and we got to hang backstage, and I was tour guide.”
Pardi kept his proposal plan a secret from everyone except his management team for months, but he was finally forced to divulge it to Duncan’s father a month before the date. Her parents were planning a Nashville visit to see his first show, “and I said, ‘You might want to stay to the second night,’” Pardi says. “We even kept it a secret from her mom because I didn’t want all her friends from back home showing up, and she’d be like, ‘Why’s everybody here?’ It worked out great.”
The couple met in 2017 through Pardi’s mother, who was certain the two would hit it off. A hairstylist from Northern California, where Pardi grew up, Duncan traveled to Denver to meet Pardi and see his show at famed honky-tonk the Grizzly Rose. The two have been a couple ever since; most recently, they showed off some stellar dance moves in Pardi’s music video for current Top 10 single “Heartache Medication.”
Pardi says their engagement won’t be long. They plan to marry in May, a time he wanted for practical reasons.
“Guess what, a non-sweaty wedding,” he says with a laugh. “It’s gonna be highs in the 60s. I don’t like sweating.”
Duncan has yet to visit Montana, Pardi says, but they’ll remedy that situation with a visit before the wedding. They’ve already picked a venue overlooking Yellowstone National Park, and he anticipates about 200 names on their guest list.
“We’ll see who comes,” he says. “It’s more of an adventure wedding, really.”
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Duncan is now hard at work on wedding details, and the couple is also getting additional help from Pardi’s team. “Most of my managers are female,” he says, “so they were all excited to be a part of it.”
Pardi has just wrapped a tour in support of his newly released Heartache Medication album; he also spent much of the year supporting Dierks Bentley‘s “Burning Man” tour. Looking ahead, he says, he’s planning to stay off the road more so he can start working on the next album.
“I’m kind of take a break from touring with other artists,” he says. “I’m just going to do the fairs and festivals or whatever comes my way. When you’re not on tour with somebody, you have a little bit more leeway to be like, yeah, we can go do that.”
Case in point: He’ll be playing to a crowd of more than 75,000 on Saturday, opening for the 2019 CMA entertainer of the year, Garth Brooks, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“We’re going to go rock that with Garth,” Pardi promises.