The country singer's wife has inspired his music
It was love at first sight for HARDY (born Michael Wilson Hardy) and his wife, Caleigh Ryan.
Their romance began on Instagram in 2018 when HARDY slid into Ryan’s DMs. They were living on opposite sides of the country at the time; HARDY was touring with Florida Georgia Line and Ryan was a student at the University of Mississippi. The pair didn’t officially meet face-to-face until he landed a gig at a theater near Ryan’s college, and they’ve been together ever since.
"I loved her after the third time that we ever hung out," he said. "It was the realest thing I had ever experienced. I actually told her I loved her at Stagecoach, out in the crowd."
While her husband is known for being a genre-bending artist, Ryan told PEOPLE that she feels lucky to know the “softer side” of the famous musician.
"He is very caring and very thoughtful and a very loving person," she said. "A lot of people don't get to see that. It just makes it feel that much more special to me that I get to share those moments and sides of his personality with him."
So, who is HARDY's wife? Here’s everything to know about Caleigh Ryan and her relationship with the country singer.
She met HARDY through Instagram
HARDY first laid eyes on Ryan when she appeared on his “For You” page on Instagram, and he sent the San Diego native a private message.
"We just started talking about San Diego and how she goes to Ole Miss and my family's Mississippi State thing," HARDY told PEOPLE. "We kept in contact until I had a show nearby her school and told her I'd love to meet her there."
The pair officially met when HARDY played a show at The Lyric Oxford, a local venue near the University of Mississippi campus. Ryan recalled that she “dragged” her roommates to go with her for moral support.
"I saw him come through the door and I was like, 'Oh my God.' I was just chugging my drink — I was so nervous,” she recalled. After the initial jitters passed, HARDY and Ryan became inseparable and began dating on April 19, 2018.
"Once we met each other, there really was no one else," Ryan said. "We never entertained anyone else. It was just so easy."
She has a background in marketing
Ryan graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in marketing and corporate relations in 2019.
When she first exchanged messages with HARDY, she was in her third year of school, and although they had brought up the possibility of marriage at the beginning of their relationship, her education was a priority. Ryan told PEOPLE that it was important that she finish school and establish her career before they walked down the aisle.
While in college, Ryan was a student ambassador for several brands, including Kellogg and A&E's Lifetime, promoting events on campus. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is in the hospitality industry as a marketing coordinator for Graduate Hotels in Nashville.
She and HARDY got engaged in 2021
After three years of dating, HARDY asked Ryan to marry him on Aug. 23, 2021. The special moment happened in the spot where they first met, the historic Lyric Oxford theater in Mississippi, where HARDY got down on one knee surrounded by rose petals.
"I'm not her boyfriend anymore ❤️," HARDY wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo from the proposal. The caption was also a sweet nod to a love song HARDY wrote inspired by Ryan and their relationship.
In a previous interview with PEOPLE, the country artist shared that his song “Boyfriend” originated when he and Ryan were vacationing in Clearwater, Florida. The two were in the pool being playful with each other when HARDY jokingly said, "''Fine, I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore.' "
Though Ryan had a witty comeback, HARDY saw a musical opportunity. "She said something along the lines of, 'It better be because you want to be my husband' with a wink," he recalled. "I looked at her, and instead of turning that into a really sweet moment, I said, 'This is a great song!' "
HARDY quickly got to work messing around with chords and writing the rest of the lyrics. When he finally played the finished song for Ryan, HARDY said she “loved it.”
She and HARDY got married in 2022
HARDY and Ryan wed on Oct. 29, 2022, in front of 350 of their closest friends and family at Diamond Creek Farms in Nashville. The bride wore a custom-designed dress by Naama & Anat and Haut Bridal, which she swapped for a mini “exit dress” for their post-reception afterparty. The newlyweds also decided to do a first look and share their vows privately before the ceremony.
"We want the ceremony to be like 30 seconds long. We just want to have a big party for everybody,” HARDY exclusively told PEOPLE ahead of the big day.
He added, “I'm trying to avoid having a complete meltdown in front of everyone, and I don't think I could get through vows at the altar, and she's the same. The vows will be for us. It doesn't have to be for everybody else."
The party was flowing with A-list guests, one of the most important being singer-songwriter Smith Ahnquist, who married the couple. In addition to having a DJ and live band, the pair also had a tattoo booth where guests could get a love- or wedding-themed tattoo.
Their first dance as a married couple was to Journey’s “Faithfully,” which resonated with HARDY when they heard it on a road trip two months into dating. He revealed that he "got choked up" thinking about potentially struggling to balance his rising career and new relationship.
"There's a line in 'Faithfully' that says, 'They say that the road ain't no place to start a family,' and that line just shook me because I was so worried," he said. "Now, years later, we've been able to balance all that stuff."
"But that was just such a huge moment for me because how hard that line hit me assured me how much I loved her. I wanted to always make sure that she came before any of that," HARDY added.
She and HARDY live in Nashville
HARDY and Ryan moved into their first place together the summer before their wedding, settling in Nashville.
“AND THEY WERE ROOMMATES!!!!!” Ryan wrote on Instagram, alongside snaps of her and HARDY posing outside their new front door.
While the pair are “so over the moon” about the milestone, Ryan revealed on The Spillover podcast that Music City may not necessarily be their forever home. As for relocating, Ryan said she wouldn’t mind moving to Florida.
“I don’t see us leaving anytime soon. We have our home and we love the city,” she shared. “It would take a lot for us to leave right now, but we aren’t opposed to it.”
She is open to joining The Real Housewives franchise
While appearing on The Spillover podcast, Ryan admitted that she could see herself joining Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise if it expanded to Nashville — though she is hesitant about how it would affect her personal life.
“I feel like it’s the kiss of death,” she said, who earlier in the interview described herself as a “Bravo freak.” Ryan noted that the show tends to “blow up” the lives of returning cast members if they’re “on long enough.”
When asked what type of housewife she would be, she channeled her inner Vicki Gunvalson for her response. “I would be the woo girl that would be my thing," Ryan explained. "I’d be trying to get us on a party bus, going down Broadway everyday, and doing the pedal taverns.”
As for HARDY, Ryan believes he would be supportive. “He’d be into it,” she said. “I think he would think it’s hilarious.”
She has been there for HARDY through thick and thin
In October 2023, HARDY shared via Instagram that he was experiencing “serious anxiety” that caused "panic attacks" and led to him being hospitalized. The "Truck Bed" singer explained that it was a result of the serious tour bus crash he was involved in the previous year.
In the following days, Ryan took to her Instagram Story to thank fans for their sweet words and unwavering support for HARDY’s health.
“It can be really scary to put intimate pieces of your life out there, so thank you for being so understanding with my hubby,” she wrote, per Country Now. “If nothing else, just hearing how many people go through this or know someone who struggles, gives an immediate sense of community. Just remember that you are never ever alone! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
She is HARDY’s biggest muse and critic
While promoting his debut album A Rock, in 2020, HARDY teased that his toughest critic also happens to be one of his biggest inspirations lyrically.
"We've been together for over two years, so now she's my biggest critic," he told PEOPLE about Ryan. "She's not going to hold back, and she's going to tell me if she loves it."
Ryan has inspired several songs throughout HARDY’s career, including “i in country” and “wait in the truck” — not all of which are love songs.
Speaking with Music Mayhem magazine, he admitted that “wait in the truck” is about a guy who made a pass at Ryan during one of HARDY’s shows and his reaction. “She told me about it and I got really fired up and I made a comment about wait in the truck.”
HARDY also shared why "i in country" reminds him of his wife.
“I think what the song preaches is that I know how to do a lot of things in this life, but what’s the point of doing that if I don’t get to share that with somebody?" he said. "And that’s sort of the message that it conveys and I really feel that way with her."
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