April 9, 2024

How to Plan a Surprise Proposal

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Surprise Proposal: Tips from a Proposal Photographer

Hey there, lovebirds! So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and pop the big question in the most unforgettable way possible. Congratulations! Planning a surprise proposal can be nerve-wracking, but with the right guidance, it can also be one of the most magical moments of your life. And what better way to capture that moment forever than with a proposal photographer? Here’s your go-to guide on how to plan a surprise proposal, curated by a proposal photographer.

Planning Your Proposal

The Big Picture

Visualizing the big picture is crucial when planning a surprise proposal. Take a moment to imagine the scene: the love of your life surrounded by the beauty of your chosen location, the anticipation building as you prepare to drop to one knee, the sheer joy and emotion as they say “yes.” Envisioning the moment you’ll become engaged helps you stay focused on the end goal and ensures that every detail of your plan contributes to creating that perfect memory. So, close your eyes, picture the scene, and let that vision guide you as you bring your dream proposal to life.

Keep it simple or go big

How intimate or extravagant will your proposal be? Think about what your partner would like. If they’re shy or introverted, consider keeping it simple. All you really need is a few thoughtful and heartfelt words and a ring. If you think they’d rather be surrounded by friends and family, or have onlookers witness a grand romantic gesture, then do what you think will make them happy.

Determine the Location

Think about places that hold special meaning for both of you. Whether it’s where you first met, had your first date, or just a breathtaking spot that you both love, choosing the right location is key to setting the scene for your proposal. If you’re traveling when you plan to propose, think about the general environment he or she is drawn to. Does your partner like to be near the water? Does she like to hike? Is he an art lover?

Determine Time of Day

Consider factors like crowds, lighting, and temperature when picking the time for your proposal. Early mornings or late afternoons often offer the best lighting for photos, and you’ll want to avoid peak times when your chosen location might be too crowded, unless that is what you are hoping for. Also, consider whether your partner is a morning person, or a night owl so you’ll know when they’ll be most comfortable and happy.

The Little Details

Don’t overlook the power of the little details when planning your surprise proposal. From the music playing in the background to the scent in the air, these small touches can elevate the moment and make it truly unforgettable. Consider playing a meaningful song in the background or incorporating a special memento from your first date. Pay attention to the ambiance and atmosphere to ensure it sets the perfect mood for your proposal. Remember, it’s often the smallest details that leave the biggest impact, so take the time to plan each aspect with care and consideration.

Personalize Your Speech

You don’t have to be a poet, but a heartfelt speech can add an extra layer of emotion to your proposal. Keep it short and sweet, but speak from the heart. Add a personal touch to the proposal by incorporating something meaningful into the words you say. You can write a handwritten love letter (trust me, this never goes out of style), or you could incorporate an inside joke.

Create a Plan that Isn’t Suspicious

Normally I wouldn’t suggest keeping secrets from your partner, but planning a surprise proposal is the exception. The key to a successful surprise proposal is to plan an alibi that’s simple and aligns with your partner’s interests. The more simple and believable the alibi, the less suspicious your partner will be. Most importantly, enjoy the journey as you plan to take the next big step in your relationship.

Are you having trouble thinking of an alibi? Here are some ideas below:

  • Picnic in the Park: Plan a romantic picnic in a scenic park, suggesting it as a casual date day.
  • Day Trip Adventure: Propose a spontaneous day trip to a nearby town or attraction, framing it as an exciting adventure for just the two of you.
  • Dinner Date Surprise: Arrange a dinner reservation at one of your favorite restaurants, hinting at a special date night without giving away the surprise.
  • Beach Bonfire: Suggest a sunset beach outing, proposing a cozy bonfire and star-gazing session as a romantic way to spend the evening.
  • Hiking Expedition: Plan a hike to a picturesque viewpoint, disguising it as a fun outdoor activity while secretly preparing to pop the question at the summit.
  • Weekend Getaway: Surprise your partner with a weekend getaway, presenting it as a spontaneous trip to unwind and relax together.
  • Scenic Drive: Take your partner on a scenic drive to admire the summer sunset, autumn foliage or Christmas lights. Play some of your partner’s favorite music or music that is nostalgic to your relationship. Use the opportunity to find the perfect spot to propose.
  • Art Gallery Date: Plan a visit to an art gallery or museum, presenting it as a cultural outing to explore together while secretly arranging for the proposal to happen amidst the artwork.
  • Stargazing Adventure: Plan a stargazing adventure away from the city lights, presenting it as a romantic evening under the stars while you seize the moment to make your proposal shine brightest of all.
  • Memory Lane Walk: Take a stroll down memory lane by revisiting significant places from your relationship, framing it as a nostalgic day together while you prepare to create another memory.

Have a Backup Plan

No matter how well you prepare, things don’t always go according to plan. Have a backup plan in case of unexpected hiccups, like bad weather or sudden changes to your chosen location. This could be a different location or a different day.

Plan a Celebration

Think about how you want to celebrate after the proposal. This could be something simple, like bringing a 6-pack of your favorite drinks with you to sip on right after you’re engaged. It could be something romantic, like a nice dinner or pre-planned picnic. If your partner has a strong circle of friends or is really close with their family, consider planning a surprise gathering with friends and family.

Hiring a Proposal Photographer

Thinking about hiring a proposal photographer? Hiring a professional photographer can ensure that all the all the small details of your big ask are captured forever. Sure, you can take a few selfies, but to really immortalize the moment, it may be worth it to hire a photographer. A professional photographer brings expertise, creativity, and gives you the ability to be fully immersed in the moment and not worry about remembering to take pictures. Imagine, for a moment, the look on your partner’s face when you drop down to one knee. Now imagine having a photo of that exact moment to look back on after decades of growing old together. If that doesn’t make your heart swell, i don’t know what will.

Should you hire a Proposal Photographer?

Whether or not you hire a photographer to capture your surprise proposal is a very personal question and depends greatly on you and your partner’s personalities and preferences. While I think that hiring a photographer to capture your proposal is a wonderful idea, there could be some instances where it may not be right for you. Below, I’ll list a few reasons why you could benefit from hiring a proposal photographer, as well as a few scenarios in which hiring a proposal photographer may not be right for you.

Reasons to hire a proposal photographer:

  • Expertise in being candid: Proposal photographers specialize in capturing surprise proposals and know how to discreetly document the moment without spoiling the surprise.
  • Expertise in planning: A photographer with experience in planning and orchestrating surprise proposals can help you plan the details of your proposal, making the whole experience stress-free and well-planned.
  • Creative Ideas: Photographers can help brainstorm creative ideas for your proposal and suggest locations, setups, activities, and poses that will make your photos truly memorable.
  • Focus on the Moment: With a photographer on hand, you can focus on the proposal itself without worrying about getting the perfect shot or asking a friend to take photos that may or may not turn out well.
  • Stunning Photos: Of course, the photos themselves! When you hire a proposal photographer you’ll have photos that you can keep, share, and treasure forever.

Reasons NOT to hire a proposal photographer:

  • Privacy Concerns: Some people are very private and/or shy, and the presence of a photographer could disrupt the natural flow of the moment.
  • Less Pressure: Without a photographer present, there’s less pressure to orchestrate the perfect moment or worry about posing for photos. You can simply focus on being present with your partner.
  • Intimate Setting: If you’re planning a proposal in a very intimate or private setting, like in your home, having a photographer present may feel intrusive or unnecessary.
  • Preference for Unplugged Moments: In an age where we’re constantly connected and documenting every moment, choosing to have an unplugged proposal may feel refreshing and authentic for some couples.
  • Uncertainty: If you have doubt in the back of your mind that your partner may not say yes, then you may not want to move forward just yet. Humans are unpredictable, and there is not way to know for sure how your partner will respond. However, if you have any doubts that they will say yes, you may want to have a conversation with your partner first before popping the question.

When to hire a photographer

Hiring a surprise proposal photographer should ideally be done well in advance, ensuring their availability on the day of your proposal. As soon as you start planning your proposal and have a general idea of the date and location, it’s a good idea to reach out to photographers to discuss their availability and pricing. Some photographers may have busy schedules, especially during peak proposal seasons, like holidays or Valentine’s Day, and peak wedding season, which varies depending on your location. In Alaska, peak wedding season is May through September.

How to find the right photographer

Some photographers may specialize in surprise proposals. However, most wedding and elopement photographers also photograph couples and engagements and would likely be happy to photograph your proposal. If you’re wanting help in the planning process, make sure you find a photographer that has experience with surprise proposals. You can search google for photographers in your location, such as ‘Alaska engagement photographer’ or ‘wedding photographers near me’. You can also search for hashtags on social media such as #alaskaweddingphotographer or #alaskaengagementphotos. Bookmark a few photos that stand out to you, then do some research on the photographers you find. By looking at their websites and social media pages you can get a sense for their style to see if it aligns with your personality as a couple.

Working with a Proposal Photographer

Now that you know the pros and cons of hiring a photographer, here is a glimpse of what you can expect when you start working with a proposal photographer.


Communication is key in working with a photographer for any type of photo session, but it is especially important when a surprise is involved. Most professional photographers will want to schedule a phone call with you before you book with them to ensure you are both on the same page and so you both know what to expect before, during, and after the proposal. In some cases, the photographer may suggest either a followup phone call to fine-tune the small details, or even a rehearsal at the location before the big day to iron out any potential pitfalls. On the day of, you’ll want to stay in touch with your photographer throughout the day to coordinate logistics and ensure they’re in the right place at the right time.

Engagement Photos

After the surprise is caught on camera and you’ve had a moment to enjoy the rush of emotions and collect yourselves, you can take advantage of having a professional photographer on hand. Plan to turn the proposal into an engagement session while you’re both glowing and beaming with excitement. However, don’t pressure them if they’re not ready or they feel uncomfortable. Becoming engaged is an incredibly emotional moment and everyone reacts to surprises and handles their emotions differently. In my experience, most partners need a few minutes to compose themselves and really enjoy the moment, then once they’re ready, they feel happy and excited to take engagement photos.

What to do with your photos afterwards

Once the dust has settled, discuss with your photographer what you’d like to do with your photos. I highly encourage you to think of ways to print your photos. Too often I find that people have every intention of printing and framing their photos, but then this crazy thing called life happens and they get busy. Sometimes, hard drives crash and phones get stolen and these photos become hard to find or even lost forever. If you’re not sure what to do with your proposal photos after you have them, here are some suggestions:

  • Create a Photo Album: Compile your favorite proposal photos into a beautiful photo album or scrapbook to preserve the memories in a tangible and lasting format.
  • Frame Your Favorites: Select the most stunning and meaningful photos to frame and display in your home as a daily reminder of that special moment.
  • Share on Social Media: Share your proposal photos on social media to announce your engagement and share the joy with friends and family near and far.
  • Make Thank You Cards: Use your proposal photos to create custom thank you cards to send to loved ones who helped make your proposal day extra special. They also make great Christmas cards!
  • Gift for Parents and Loved Ones: Print and frame proposal photos as heartfelt gifts for parents, grandparents, or other loved ones who played a significant role in your relationship.
  • Include in Wedding Invitations: Incorporate proposal photos into your wedding invitations or save-the-date cards for a personal touch that sets the tone for your wedding.
  • Use in Wedding Décor: Incorporate proposal photos into your wedding décor, such as displaying them on a photo wall or using them as table centerpieces. You can also use them in a wedding slideshow.
  • Share with Your Photographer: Share your proposal photos with your wedding photographer to provide inspiration and help them understand your vision for your wedding day photos.
  • Save and back them up: On a more technical note, I always suggest backing up your important photos in multiple locations. Because photographers take so many high-resolution photos, they typically do not store them for more than a year or two, so it is ultimately the clients responsibility to save and backup their photos. Nowadays, it is easier than ever! External hard drives can be found online, at electronic stores, and even in the electronic section of most grocery stores. You can also backup your photos using a cloud based system like Apple iCloud, Google Photos, and Dropbox.

More tips from a Proposal Photographer

Now you should have a basic idea of how to plan a surprise proposal, how to find and work with a proposal photographer, and what to do with your photos afterward. You’ve probably determined by now whether or not you will hire a photographer. If you do decide to hire somebody to capture the moment, here are a few more tips to really make the moment well planned and special.

Find out their love language

Understanding your partner’s love language can add an extra layer of thoughtfulness to your surprise proposal. Whether they thrive on words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, or receiving gifts, tailoring your proposal to their love language shows that you truly understand and appreciate them. Here are a few ideas:

Words of affirmation

Write a heartfelt letter expressing your love and reasons for wanting to spend your life together. You can read it aloud during the proposal or give it to them to read later.

Quality time

Plan a surprise date or weekend getaway filled with your partner’s favorite activities and experiences, ending with the proposal at a meaningful location.

Acts of service

Prepare a picnic at your proposal location, complete with your partner’s favorite foods and drinks, as an act of service to show your love and care.

Physical touch

Plan a romantic evening under the stars with cozy blankets and cuddles, or simply give an extra long hug after you’re officially engaged.

Receiving gifts

Surprise your partner with a meaningful gift or keepsake during the proposal, such as flowers, a custom ring box, or a memory box filled with mementos and tokens of your relationship.

Make sure your partner looks and feels their best

Give them an excuse to get their nails done within a week of the proposal. Your partner is going to be in the spotlight, and so is the ring, and you don’t want chipped nails to ruin the photos. Give them a reason to dress up a little bit the day of the proposal. Whether you’re taking them on a date night, or telling them you’d like to visit a friend, they’ll be more likely to want to make themselves look “presentable”, which can boost their confidence when they are in front of the camera. Also, avoid excessive drinking or eating the night before to avoid a hangover or bloating.

Bring Tissues

Trust me, there will be happy tears from both of you. Bring tissues, touchup makeup, and something to celebrate!

For more tips, check out these helpful resources:

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Considering planning a surprise proposal in Alaska?

I’d love to be considered as your proposal photographer! Simply fill out the contact form to get started!

Hey there, I’m Sierra! I’m your photographer, travel guide, and biggest hypewoman. When you work with me, you can expect to dance, run, piggyback, motorboat, swear, laugh, and get messy. So what I’m saying is: wear comfortable shoes, throw the rulebook away, and don’t take life too seriously (none of us get out alive).

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