Jason Aldean Reveals He'll Marry Brittany Kerr 'Sooner Than Later' – And Other AOTY Highlights!
updated 12/03/2014 AT 05:35 PM EST
•originally published 12/03/2014 AT 01:00 PM EST
"I love red on a red carpet," said Kerr, in a figure-hugging short red sheath. "But it does double duty this time of year. This dress is very Christmasy!"
Aldean revealed that despite knowing he was a winner, he didn't have a speech prepared. "I kind of like to shoot from the hip up there." And as the only act to have been named AOTY every year since the inaugural show in 2010, he's had plenty of practice. "The pressure is off since you know you've won before you get here. There's no other awards show like that and I really like it."
However, one thing he is preparing for – a wedding! "It's kind of hard when you're touring as much as we do," he said. "But with the holidays coming up, we'll have some time off. I can't tell you when, but it will definitely be sooner than later."
Another future groom, Tyler Hubbard, arrived with fiancée Hayley Stommel, but walked the carpet with his Florida Georgia Line partner Brian Kelley. The duo – named CMT AOTY for the second consecutive year – also knew what to expect. "You kind of come here knowing you're going to party," said Kelley. "This night is so special because it's a more stripped down, intimate kind of awards show. The artists being honored tonight are epic artists. We're so honored and humbled. We're just trying to soak it up. This show is a look back at everybody's year, to kind of relive this year in country music, to take a deep breath and live in it for the moment."
Hubbard agreed completely. "What he said! He can cover the remarks tonight," he joked. "I'm saving it for our song." Before receiving their award from Wiz Khalifa ("We're big fans of his," said Hubbard. "We had a great time together in Vegas.") they performed their current single, "Sun Daze."
Keith Urban brought the house down and the audience to its feet with a fiery cover of James Brown's classic "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," backed by a 13-piece, all-woman band. "I've always wanted to do something with predominantly female players," he said. "There are great female players in this town. Once we got into it, the band went from a six-piece to 13. It's a mix of session musicians, touring musicians and Belmont [University] students. Then we needed the right song and this just seemed like the perfect lyric."
In a nod to the women in his off-stage life, Urban accepted his AOTY trophy with a heartfelt thanks to wife Nicole Kidman, beaming with pride from a table in front of the stage. "This all makes sense because you are in my world. What I do is all for you and the girls."
Honoree Miranda Lambert came stag, though after performing "Holding on to You" in a short winter-white dress, made a tearful thank-you to husband Blake Shelton. "He's my rock," she said.
Though the tragic death this weekend of his brother-in-law Ben Lee Cheshire kept fifth AOTY Luke Bryan with his family, his country music family had the CMA Entertainer of the Year in their hearts, thoughts and prayers. Lady Antebellum and songwriter Chris Stapleton moved members of the audience to tears with their performance of Bryan's song "Drink a Beer." "Luke, we're thinking of you and love you," said Hillary Scott.
Merle Haggard was honored as CMT's first Artist of a Lifetime, receiving a musical tribute from Eric Church, T Bone Burnett and Ashley Monroe singing "Workin' Man Blues."
The 2014 CMT Artists of the Year show will re-air at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 7, on CMT.