There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as the days and weeks leading up to your marriage proposal. Hey, you’re madly in love—head over heels so to say—and you can’t seem to stop thinking about her, how to propose, and your future together.
The mere idea of moving her relationship status from girlfriend to fiancée can be all-consuming.
Yet, it’s not enough to go engagement ring shopping, drop to one knee, and to pop the question.
There are loads of articles out there on how to propose a girl for marriage (or how to propose to a man). And such resources are fine if you want to spend hours trying to figure out which advice works (hint: most of it doesn’t).
Here’s the truth: asking your partner to marry you is the ultimate gesture of love, and you only get one shot at pulling off a deeply romantic proposal she’ll love forever.
Most people make one of three mistakes when they propose to their loved one:
- fail to come up with a sound game plan, which should be the starting point for any memorable surprise proposal;
- underestimate the time it takes to pull off a personalized engagement (the average gentleman spends approximately 4.5 months planning how to propose to a woman for marriage);
- make the wedding proposal about themselves instead of their significant other.
And with so many details to keep track of, popping the question can quickly become a little overwhelming.
But not with us.
You see, as #1 reviewed proposal photographer in Paris, I get to plan and witness fabulous marriage proposals almost daily (yes, that’s hundreds of proposals per year).
Importantly, I went through the process of planning how to propose to a girl myself and spent countless hours analyzing why some surprise proposals just work while others tend to fizzle out.
If you’re serious about your surprise proposal, then you need first to watch this mini-film by Cartier.
Well, because when it comes to extraordinary proposals that touch the heart, this sensational video offers three super-inspiring ideas on how to propose (the Airport Proposal will give you Goosebumps and have you in tears).
In this marriage proposal guide, I’m going to walk you through 13 Essential Tips on How to Propose to a Girl. Each tip contains proven advice that you’ll be able to turn to again and again as you plan a dream surprise proposal that will make your girlfriend proud (and her friends envious).
So if you want:
- the definitive proposal guide by the gentleman for the gentleman;
- Proven proposal ideas that work great;
- Master the Dos & Don’ts of remarkable surprise proposals.
Then you’ll love the actionable marriage proposal secrets in this guide.
Ready to dive right in? Let’s do this!
Acing your proposal: the basics
We all want a surprise marriage proposal that will make her heart sing—one that flows naturally, feels sincere, and crescendos with an emotional surprise-element.
But the difference between wanting and achieving is your ability to set realistic goals and stick to a fail-safe gameplan. Then hold yourself accountable.
Interestingly, it’s less about the budget than your earnestness, effort, and personalization.
How to propose to your girlfriend (or to a guy)
You know what?
The wedding proposal is not really about you! It’s her day and all about her.
When you keep that in mind, it’s easier to invest in the right ring, select a location worthy of the amplitude of the moment, come up with a truly personalized proposal concept, and confidently deliver a message from your heart that will touch her deeply.
In turn, she’ll tell everyone she’s the luckiest girl in the world to be engaged to you—her loving and dedicated true love.
So while each proposal concept is as unique as the relationship you both share—and assuming she’s the soulmate you want to spend the rest of your life with—it’s crucial that your “Roadmap to Yes” starts with a gameplan that prioritizes your effort, time, and resources.
Personalizing your proposal can make a massive difference in how she experiences, remembers, and even tells everyone about it.
Just by reading this guide, you’re already ahead of the game as long as you kick-off your planning well in advance of your envisioned proposal date.
This marvelous “Do’s & Don’ts of Marriage Proposals” infographic, courtesy of John Cunningham (the owner of The Wedding Band Shop), suggests that the average gentleman spends 4.4 months planning his proposal.
Personalize your surprise proposal with creative and romantic ideas that are unique.
You appreciate the need for a gameplan.
But what to do when you’re short on time or lack creative and romantic ideas on how to pop the question?
Well, you’re not alone.
My recommendation is to start with available online inspiration and then go a giant leap further by personalizing (i.e., putting your spin on) existing marriage proposal concepts.
Just remember that the most emotionally appealing proposal ideas are those that are within character for you as a couple.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite surprise wedding proposal resources:
Pinterest (search for the following keywords and consider adding your target city before or after the keywords, for example, Paris Proposal Tips):
- Proposal Ideas (Unique)
- Simple Proposal Ideas
- Cute proposal ideas
- Proposal Tips (for Guys)
- Marriage Proposals
- Marriage Proposal Ideas (Surprise)
- Surprise Proposal (Ideas)
- How to Propose to a Girl
- How to Propose (to Your Girlfriend)
- Best Ways to Propose
- Romantic Ways to Propose
- Where to Propose
In this romantic Eiffel Tower proposal—filmed on an exclusive terrace at the Shangri-La Hotel by Ping Pang Films—you’ll see a scavenger hunt, a vintage Rolls-Royce, Champagne pop, classical harpist, a hand-written love note, and plenty of additional proposal inspiration.
Get her dad's blessing
Before you can pop the four-word question, you must first secure her dad's blessing.
And I’m not talking about a casual “I’d like to marry your daughter” phone call.
Officially asking your future father-in-law for his daughter’s hand is a signal of respect to him, to her, to tradition, and the romantic institution of marriage.
It’s the proper way to propose like a gentleman. Period.
With that said, you need to time your in-person visit to your girlfriend’s family such that
- her dad is available and able to commit quality time (be respectful of his work schedule);
- Select a date and time when you know your girlfriend will be out of town or otherwise engaged as to not raise any suspicions. If you can trust your girlfriend’s best friend to keep a secret, I like the idea of sending them on a weekend getaway together. Like this, you can visit your girlfriend’s family in peace of mind;
- If, for some reason, it’s not possible (or desirable) to ask her father, then ask her mother or brother for permission. Remember that it’s about being considerate and paying respect to her and her family.
Decide when to propose
Timing your surprise proposal date is easier said than done.
According to a British survey, Christmas Eve is the most popular day of the year to propose. Next up is Valentine’s Day, followed by New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the couple’s anniversary.
Interestingly, the same study maintains that 23% of women prefer that the proposal take place on Valentine’s Day.
The most significant advantage I see to proposing on a holiday or birthday is that your partner is less likely to suspect the surprise proposal.
This makes it easier to explain why she’d need to dress sharp, get out of bed early, or even why you’re taking her on a trip to Paris.
With that in mind, pick a date with personal significance to you as a couple while paying attention to the following calendar-related considerations:
- Is your girlfriend available on your favored date? Consider her work schedule, school, kids or pets, birthdays, holidays, previous commitments, and other responsibilities;
- You need an official proposal date before you can hire a proposal photographer, make a restaurant reservation, book your flights and hotel, etc.;
- Will your marriage proposal involve extensive travel, the need to secure a visa, or requesting her employer for time-off;
- Are there any seasonal constraints, e.g., expected weather conditions for an outdoor proposal, sunrise and sunset hours, airfare deals, availability of critical vendors and venues, special events that could obstruct your fancied proposal spot (real examples I’ve encountered include Paris Fashion Week, United Nations event, demonstrations by the Yellow Vests, etc.)?
Below is an actual email from a client who had booked me just to realize that her girlfriend would not be able to get time off from work.
Happy New Year! I’m writing to get your opinion: I had initially scheduled the surprise proposal for October 1, and I am now wondering whether we can postpone it until February? I know your schedule is busy, and I feel awful to ask you for this favor. I just found out that Kathy is unable to get October off from work. Please let me know if it’s possible to switch the date? Anytime in February that works best for you. Thank you so much, and have a great day.
What's the best time of the day to propose?
Congratulations on picking a date for your surprise proposal.
You’re all set to kick things into high gear, meaning you can now confidently hire a team of vendors, get her ring engraved, book flights and hotel, and reserve the perfect table for your first dinner as fiancés.
With that said, choosing the right time of the day to propose has significant ramifications—let me explain:
Whether you propose at sunrise or in the early evening, your goal should be to indulge her five senses every waking moment of the day.
In general, the two most popular times of the day are at sunrise and before dinner.
What are the benefits of doing a sunrise surprise proposal?
- it’s a relief to get things out of the way early; plus you get to celebrate the entire day as fiancés;
- Sunrise proposals typically benefit from softer, flattering light, which results in less squinting and shiny skin;
- The only time of the day when famous landmarks are mostly devoid of crowds (this Eiffel Tower sunrise proposal is a great example);
- Fewer people translates to more privacy even in public places;
- If ever, you need to push back your surprise proposal (e.g., due to rain), you still have most of the day to come up with a contingency plan;
- you can follow the marriage proposal with a fun couple’s photoshoot while the emotions are at a unique high (you’ll already be dressed for out-of-this-world photos).
What are the drawbacks of a sunrise surprise proposal?
- shaking yourself out of bed too early means less beauty sleep—especially in the summer months when sunrise can be around 5.30 AM;
- Sunrise proposals generally don’t leave much time for beauty services;
- It’s more tricky to explain to your girlfriend why she’d need to dress elegantly (while not giving away the surprise).
What are the benefits of doing an evening surprise proposal?
- the most romantic time of the day;
- Evening proposals typically also benefit from soft, flattering light;
- Plenty of time to get rest and have her beauty services done;
- It’s easier to come up with a believable reason for her to dress elegantly;
- The perfect opportunity to transition into a divinely romantic dinner after she says, “Yes.”
What are the drawbacks of doing an evening surprise proposal?
- bigger crowds mean that some of the most popular places (i.e., those that are accessible to the public) are not possible (unless you don’t mind curious spectators);
- Less time to celebrate the remainder of the day as fiancés;
- The surprise proposal might be a tad more expensive to photograph since your proposal photographer will likely insist on you hiring an associate to help with crowd and theft management.
Get a ring as unique as your love
In many cultures, the diamond engagement ring—made out of almost indestructible material—is considered a romantic symbol of endless love and commitment.
So how much should you spend on her engagement ring?
I’m not a big fan of spending more than you can afford.
You don’t want to begin your marriage in debt, no? I also don’t give much credence to the 1-3-Months’ Gross Salary Rule, or national averages (according to The Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2016 was $6,163).
With that said, when you’re ready to put a ring on it, you can look at her diamond engagement ring as an investment in an appreciating asset, her happiness, and the commitment it represents to you as a couple.
And while there’s no right answer, you need to carefully balance your financial situation with her expectations, keeping the following in mind:
- The best place to start is by thinking in terms of a total marriage proposal budget that includes the engagement ring and also accounts for travel + hotel, surprise proposal photographer & videographer, a romantic dinner, Champagne, flowers, musicians, and other personal touches. The proposal budget should maximize impact by prioritizing those elements of your proposal gameplan that affect her five senses and result in a more memorable proposal;
- Be prepared to do plenty of research since you’re likely to spend real money on her engagement ring. As with any significant investment, quality jewelry comes at a cost;
- This nifty engagement ring affordability calculator allows you to estimate the cost of an engagement ring based on the quality of the diamond you’re after. I highly recommend that you first familiarize yourself with the 4Cs—cut, carat weight, color, and clarity—and ideally visit a reputable jewelry retailer in-person to get a sense of what kind of ring you want;
- Appreciate that companies, such as Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, and others spend millions on marketing and operate with higher margins, which in laymen’s terms means you’re paying more for an equivalent diamond ring;
- It happens that despite best efforts, she may still not love the ring or its setting. For instance, my wife didn’t like the modern setting I created for her fancy yellow diamond, and so we ultimately changed it to something more classic. The point is to go with a reputable retailer who offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee with a hassle-free return policy, which amounts to increased peace of mind and value;
- Do you desire the iconic Tiffany Blue Box? Well, you’re not alone, but you’ll need to pay a premium for the convenience that comes from dealing with a luxury brand. Below is an interview with one of my clients who splurged on a sublime 2.57-carat Tiffany pear-shaped engagement ring with a diamond platinum band.
I went with a Tiffany Soleste 2.57-carat H VVS1 pear-shaped halo engagement ring. Windsor loves the pear-shape, so I’m just glad I figured that out since I love the classic round brilliant cut and probably would have gone that route otherwise. I must have looked at 30 stones before I settled on this one.
My approach was to provide each jeweler a size range of 2.5-3 carats and then ask them to present some options without initially telling me what the specs were.
When I walked into Tiffany & Co and saw this exquisite ring, I knew immediately, and the funny thing is that my preferred ring wasn’t necessarily the biggest or best in terms of color. However, it does excel in terms of cut and fluorescence.
The cut was by far the most important criterion for me since I went with a fancy shape in the pear-cut. Tiffany took the cut into account more so than any other jeweler I encountered, so that’s perhaps why this stone spoke to me.
The manager at my local Fort Worth, Texas, Tiffany & Co was the most helpful guy: I showed up in my workout clothes the first time, and he treated me no differently than when he found out I was a doctor.
You do pay a premium for a Tiffany ring, but I think when you’re blessed and can afford to go with a designer, then why not treat your partner to the distinctive Tiffany Blue Box?
How can I save money on her diamond engagement ring?
A popular option to save money on the engagement ring is to go with an online retailer, such as Blue Nile, which offers a fantastic 30-Day return or exchange policy as well as free, insured shipping.
We are also big fans of James Allen, which offers a lifetime warranty, free international shipping, and a 100% money-back guarantee.
If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, then I’d book a trip to New York City’s famous Diamond District (home to more than 4,000 wholesalers and located along West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue).
You can get a splendid GIA-certified loose stone diamond at wholesale, and then have a jeweler design a pretty custom-setting for your diamond.
It’s possible to save up to 30%-50% off the retail price of a comparable diamond at, say, Tiffany, but never go unprepared, or you risk being ripped off. Here’s a fantastic primer on how to avoid scams in NYC’s Diamond District.
Another solution to keep costs down is to sacrifice on one of the 4C’s. Again, Blue Nile’s nifty calculator effortlessly lets you play around with the 4Cs variables and instantly see the impact on the estimated price.
And, finally, you can save real money just by passing on the popular round-cut diamond. Fancy shaped diamonds include all other shapes than round; the princess-cut diamond is the most common non-round diamond. Check out this fantastic diamond shape vs. price chart to appreciate just how much the stone’s shape can affect its price.
What's my girlfriend's engagement ring style?
The diamond engagement ring is a precious investment she’ll enjoy every day, so you need to go with a ring she’ll love, and that speaks to her personality.
Let’s face it: your beloved will be the one wearing the engagement ring and expect you to produce a superb piece of jewelry when you get down on one knee.
Most of us wouldn’t even let our significant other decide what we wear, so why should we expect our partner to choose the diamond engagement ring we’ll wear for the rest of our life?
That means you should take time to understand your girlfriend’s style expectations and be receptive to innuendos intended to influence your decision.
Look out for any hints concerning the metal of the band, the cut of the stone, size, etc.
According to The Diamond Loupe, the most popular engagement ring metal is white gold (61%), the most popular shape is round (52%), and the average carat weight of the center stone is 1.2 carats.
Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 couples go engagement ring shopping together.
Yet, unless your upcoming proposal is an open secret (some people are so particular about the ring that they want to pick it out themselves), try to figure out her style before going ring shopping.
You typically know your partner best, but there’s nothing wrong with enlisting her mom, sister, or best friend for advice as long as they can keep a secret.
Ask yourself whether your partner prefers gold or platinum, vintage or modern, trendy or classic, bold design or understatement, a natural fancy colored diamond, or a white diamond (here’s a phenomenal primer on fancy colored diamonds).
And while we’re at it, take this quick quiz by Shane Co. that will ask you a few simple questions about your girlfriend’s lifestyle to help you understand her perfect engagement ring style.
How do I figure out my girlfriend's ring size (without her knowing)?
If your girlfriend already wears a ring on her right ring finger, you can use it as a guide once she takes it off.
Just trace the inside of the ring on a piece of paper, or even slip it onto one of your fingers to mark the spot where it stops.
If you ultimately need to take a wild guess, note that the most common ring size for women is size 6 (16.5mm) and size 10 (19.8mm) for men. The ring should easily slide over her knuckle of the fourth finger on the left hand, but not make for too much movement around the base.
Importantly, most rings can be resized if they don’t fit, which a reputable retailer will usually do complimentary.
For example, James Allen will resize your engagement ring free-of-charge for 60 days from the date of purchase.
Should I engrave her diamond engagement ring?
Adding an eternal message of love, a monogram or graphic, your proposal date, or initials is the ultimate way to personalize her diamond engagement ring.
Many reputable dealers will offer complimentary engraving but ask how long it will take so you can plan with confidence.
If or some reason your jeweler is unable to engrave her ring, ask the jeweler to recommend someone who can.
Just make sure to double and even triple-check the desired inscription before you approve the final engraving design.
Ok ... so you purchased the engagement ring ... what's next?
Well, you’re not done:
- make 100% sure that the engagement ring will be in your hands well before the marriage proposal date (no ring => uncool surprise proposal);
- Protect your investment against loss, damage, and theft with comprehensive jewelry insurance; you may also want to check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it covers damaged or lost jewelry. Do note, however, that many homeowner’s insurance policies are subject to exclusions or maximum limits that may not cover the full replacement value of your ring (here’s a list of 16 ‘listed perils” that are typically fully or partially covered by homeowners insurance);
- As an extra measure of security—if her diamond ring is ever lost or stolen)—consider having it laser-inscribed with its GIA report number;
- If you’re considering a destination proposal (i.e., one that includes travel), you unquestionably want comprehensive insurance coverage. Importantly, you need to come up with a foolproof method of keeping the ring unnoticed as you and your girlfriend go through airport security and share a hotel room.
Do I need a proposal planner?
Do I need to hire a marriage proposal planner?
Well, it depends.
- Are you considering a more elaborate surprise proposal and find it challenging to put together all the pieces on how to propose to a girl;
- Perhaps you want to hire a wedding proposal planner to help you come up with romantic ways to propose;
- Or maybe you have your heart set on a destination proposal and don’t have the time to assemble an experienced local team of vendors;
- Flash mob anyone?
- Hey, I’ve worked with clients who hired a professional marriage proposal planner to gain access to an exclusive venue, a rooftop terrace, celebrity performer, helicopter, vintage car, or a yacht.
If you go with a proposal planner, make sure to understand her approach to proposal planning.
Have her spell out the process from initial consultation over concept design to execution:
- what’s her method and frequency of communication?
- Does she charge the vendors she recommends a commission (think of conflicts of interest)?
- Can she leverage her relationships and reputation to secure a discount or added value for you?
The bottom line is that an experienced and well-connected marriage proposal planner will save you loads of time, inspire you with unique proposal ideas, and provide invaluable peace of mind on the date of your proposal.
If you can afford a proposal planner, it’s almost always worth it and a surefire way to take things to the next level.
I want a surprise wedding proposal planner, but am not sure I can afford to hire one.
Some luxury resorts will direct their guest relations officer or catering staff to assist you when you book one of their exclusive suites, salons, roof-tops, or grounds & gardens.
It works out well since such hotels have well-oiled systems and vetted vendor relationships in place. You’ll effectively get the equivalent of a day-of coordinator at no additional cost to you.
And yet another option would be to lean on the experience and network of your photographer, videographer, and other vendors.
It’s quite common for me to assist my clients with location choice, attire recommendations, timeline, a curated list of vendors, and even memorable ideas on how to propose to a girl like a rockstar.
Decide where to propose
I cannot overstate the impact of your proposal location choice on her overall experience.
I’m going to come right out and connect the dots: two things will shape your partner’s experience:
- how does reality meet (her) expectations;
- Your ability to create a setting that stimulates her five senses in concert.
That should be music to your ears since you pretty much have full control over both elements, and it’s relatively easy to move the needle in your favor when you appreciate the importance of location choice.
So first take a step back and ask yourself what type of person your girlfriend is.
If she’s more the sentimental type, I’d consider taking her to a spot of personal significance, such as where you first met or professed your love for one another—it kind of symbolically brings your relationship full circle.
As you note in the photo above, Jeff chose to propose to Koeun at the Atelier Cologne, her favorite perfumery boutique.
Jeff used his charm (and relationship with the New York City-based Atelier Cologne) to privatize the Atelier Cologne in Le Marais, Paris.
He even got the store manager to engrave their names and proposal date on her favored fragrance, Clémentine California.
If you’re thinking of romantic ways to propose—a destination proposal custom-made for lovers—then how about making your next vacation a dreamy escape to Buenos Aires, Rome, Paris, or Venice?
Here’s a list of the World’s Most Romantic Cities. There’s something undeniably romantic about the idea of professing eternal love to your significant other on a gondola in Venice.
Say she’s into adventure or the untamed wilderness, then a private helicopter tour in New Zealand or a majestic hot-air balloon ride in Colorado might be beyond legendary! Hey, there’s always the mountaintop in Aspen, Colorado, where Paris Hilton said “yes” to Chris Zylka.
This crazy-epic proposal post by BRIDES is well worth your time if you’re after an extraordinary destination proposal, but are not quite sure where to go.
Next, ask yourself whether she’s more of a public or private person.
Unless you think she would appreciate curious onlookers and spectators, I’d recommend making your proposal as private and exclusive as possible.
Public proposals don’t necessarily make things easier—especially when you’re thinking of, say, a flash mob or streaming your surprise proposal onto a jumbo-screen in a stadium during a live event (here’s how to propose to a girl at a live baseball game).
Then again, the whole idea of a public proposal is presumably to have it witnessed by the cheering masses, right?
As such, you at least don’t need to worry as much about crowd management and other potential distractions, and can instead shift your focus to messaging and logistics.
There’s nothing wrong with proposing in front of family, friends, or even thousands of people. After all, you know your partner, traditions, and cultural practices best.
So you've settled on a general location to propose (e.g., a Paris proposal) ... and let's further assume you value privacy. What's next?
Well, as you might imagine, you’re not done yet.
Most cosmopolitan cities offer plenty of terrific options. Options, in turn, mean you’ll need to make some decisions.
Let me explain applying a simple, real-life example:
Say you have your heart set on a romantic Eiffel Tower Paris surprise proposal. You could propose in plain public view, e.g., the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, Champs de Mars, Alexander III Bridge, along the Seine River or Trocadéro.
As you see from the photograph above, the public view can be stunningly beautiful and, at times, even offer privacy if you’re lucky.
With that said, as in any major cosmopolitan city, it’s equally possible to arrive at, say, Trocadéro to find the square
- blocked off for the filming of Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster;
- Congested with tourists, Paris photographers, street vendors, thieves, and other bystanders;
- Obstructed by large cranes building out a runway set for Yves Saint Laurent during Paris Fashion Week.
Or you could opt for a more discrete vantage point of the Eiffel Tower, e.g., from an exclusive terrace or rooftop at the Shangri-La Hotel, The Peninsula Paris, Raphael Paris, or the Four Seasons Hotel George V.
When you invest in a private venue, you've essentially secured the following surprise proposal benefits:
Enhanced control over your environment:
- More privacy: privacy and intimacy seem to go together. In the absence of any public boundaries, some of us do not feel comfortable expressing our true self, exposing vulnerability, and sharing our most personal thoughts;
- Noise control: allows you to reduce noise from cars, bystanders, and other unwanted distractions. You might even be able to play her favorite song in the background softly;
- Ability to personalize the marriage proposal setting: since you now de facto rented space, you, the proposal planner, florist, or the venue’s catering staff are free to transform the environment according to your vision and surprise proposal concept—candles, rose petals, classical musicians (bands & ensembles, solo musicians, or even a choir), scavenger hunt, candlelight dinner, a personal butler, caricaturist, and a host of other cute proposal ideas;
- Predictable lighting conditions: light is the one element nobody wants to pay for; yet, it affects our five senses and helps bring the atmosphere to life. Imagine being able to create a romantic setting with the same exposure as the Eiffel Tower at night—it’s just you both and the most magical structure in the universe.
Timeline flexibility is a significant side-benefit of acquiring a private venue—notably for surprise proposals given that it’s not always straightforward to get your partner to be ready and show up at the designated spot without giving away the surprise.
Weather contingency plan: well, I always tell my couples to box up their worries and not stress over factors beyond their control, such as the weather.
I don’t give much credence to Plan B thinking.
With that said, venues that offer both indoor and outdoor solutions will often accommodate a surprise proposal location switch on short notice which, ultimately, amounts to more sanity, right?
Book a photographer & videographer
Let’s make this one easy: you need to hire a professional proposal photographer to document your surprise proposal forever.
Sure, we’ve all heard horror stories of proposal photographers who ruined the surprise element, missed the actual proposal, or otherwise diminished the experience.
Then again, that’s all the more incentive to take the photography decision seriously and invest in the best proposal photographer you can afford.
We encourage you to go with an experienced and caring professional who’ll deliver extraordinary pictures fast (yes, you’ll almost certainly want a few spectacular photos that very same day when you announce the great news to the world).
So how do you identify and book the right secret photographer for the proposal?
The simple answer is you need to get to know and trust your proposal photographer and feel her work.
Identify a handful of proposal photographers whose proposal photos and style speak to you.
A great place to start your research is Google.
Next, check out a bunch of testimonials to see what other customers have to say about the photographers you’re considering.
Any photographer worth hiring for such an important life-event should have plenty of public praise in the form of 5-Star reviews readily available on the Knot, Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Facebook.
Now you’re ready to reach out to your favorite proposal photographers; do so as soon as possible to ensure their availability.
The chances are that if an artist is good enough for you, she’s also good enough for other gentlemen. In other words, the best proposal photographers get booked fast and well in advance.
For a multi-photographer studio, make sure to understand whom you’d be working with and have him/her listed contractually.
In your inquiry email, be personable, engaging, passionate, and forthcoming with as much information as you feel comfortable sharing.
Tell the photographers about you as a couple, why your partner is your soulmate, your initial ideas on how to propose, and what you love about their photography.
People like to work with people they like, and you might even get a better deal on your proposal photography package when a photographer feels like you’re a good fit.
How much does a proposal photographer cost?
It’s an excellent time to ask potential photographers for their proposal packages, the process and turnaround time for your proposal photos (after the proposal), and how many pictures their collections include (edited in high-resolution format).
Be mindful not to make your inquiry about price per se.
It’s a touch uninspiring. It can also come across as though you’re looking to buy a commodity rather than invest in a compassionate companion to document one of the most special moments in your relationship.
While prices vary considerably depending on your proposal location and the quality of the photographer, good proposal photographers typically cost anywhere from $350-$650 per hour.
Remember that a proposal photographer spends more time helping a client prepare for a surprise proposal than, say, for a regular couple’s photoshoot.
Plus, a reliable photographer will generally show up at least 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time to ensure she’s hidden and ready.
Some studios will even offer popular complementary services as part of your proposal package, such as classical musicians, red roses, limousine, and a post-proposal photoshoot.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices of potential proposal photographers, you must decide how much you want to invest in your photography services?
The answer depends on multiple factors—notably on your economic situation, your overall wedding proposal budget, and how important the photos and photography experience are to you as a couple.
Just keep in mind that there are no do-overs and that photography may be more important to her than to you.
You see, proposals (and weddings as you’ll find out soon) do not come cheap, and chances are you’re already spending a pretty penny on the engagement ring, a fancy hotel, potentially flying your families into town, props & Champagne, fine dining, the proposal setting, and a host of other elements related to your proposal concept.
Why then take a risk and cut corners on your proposal photography?
What about surprise proposal videos—should I hire a filmmaker to capture my wedding proposal?
The short answer is a resounding “Yes” since proposal videos—when done right—are splendidly complementary to photography.
Take a look at one of the best proposal videos ever, masterfully filmed at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte by Chris from Zen Film Works, to get a sense of how marriage proposal videos add emotional context, movement, and energy in a different way from photography.
Just imagine streaming your love story film onto a large screen at your wedding reception moments before your grand entrance.
Goosebumps and tears are virtually guaranteed.
If you’re not convinced yet, then here are 10 wedding proposal videos sure to have you in tears.
Filmmakers—and, by extension, marriage proposal videos—are not created equal, and you pretty much get what you pay for.
That’s why you need to step up and confidently invest in a professional cinematographer who is experienced, discrete, and appreciates that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for you.
Anything less is probably a waste of your resources and potentially sets you up for disappointment.
Here are some of the most common questions and answers we get all the time when it comes to proposal videos and proposal videographers.
Photoshoot vs. Paparazzi proposal
You smartly decided to hire a secret photographer for the proposal.
Now, you have two distinct options on how to have your marriage proposal captured—as a total surprise proposal (a.k.a. paparazzi proposal) or as part of a planned couple’s photoshoot.
Both options will be magical, but there are significant differences, and it’s crucial for you to understand them.
Let’s examine the pros & cons of both scenarios.
What's a paparazzi proposal anyway?
A paparazzi proposal is for you when you want to maximize the surprise element since you’ll ask a photojournalistic proposal photographer to stay hidden until you’ve popped the question.
In other words, your partner may or may not know about your intentions to propose, but otherwise has no clue when, where, and how you’ll do so.
As a result, her reaction during the actual proposal moment is guaranteed to be legendary.
With that said, paparazzi proposals necessitate extra preparation—particularly for a proposal in a public setting.
At a minimum, you’ll need to
- agree on the location—pinpoint the location on Google Maps and share it with your photographer and vendor team;
- Decide on the exact time you intend to pop the question—never arrive early, but also do not come much later than agreed;
- Make sure you and your proposal photographer easily recognize each other from a distance—ideally, send your photographer a selfie of you both in your proposal outfits before you leave your hotel;
- Optionally agree on a signal that you’re about to propose.
The calculus becomes even more involved once you include multiple vendors, such as classical musicians, proposal videographer, and florist.
What are the advantages of doing a paparazzi proposal?
- no camera awareness means no distractions;
- Paparazzi proposals typically result in the ultimate surprise and, by extension, the most emotional reactions.
What are the drawbacks of doing a paparazzi proposal?
- paparazzi proposals require substantially more precision in planning;
- While unlikely when you hire an experienced proposal photographer, the chance of missing the actual proposal moment is higher for candid paparazzi proposals;
- It’s not easy to get your significant other to dress sharp, get her nails manicured, and arrive at the designated proposal spot on time (without giving away the surprise);
- A paparazzi proposal may be less visually impressive if you can’t find a good excuse for her to pull her hair back in a bun or otherwise ensure that we get to see her reaction when she bends over to accept the ring.
How's proposing during a couple's photoshoot different from a paparazzi proposal?
We are big fans of proposing as part of a planned couple’s photoshoot since you’ll get almost all of the benefits of a paparazzi proposal without the risks.
It’s pretty easy to convince your girlfriend to do a couple’s photoshoot without giving away your intention to propose. After all, a couple’s photoshoot is fun, your friends have likely done one as well, and your family can never have enough frameable photos of you as a couple.
Ask one of her friends to persuade your girlfriend to do a super-fun couple’s photoshoot with you—especially if you both have a romantic vacation planned (which in turn is on you to organize).
The most obvious albeit not necessarily most crucial difference to a paparazzi proposal is that your partner would be aware of a photoshoot and, by extension, a professional photographer.
What are the advantages of doing a proposal as part of a couple's photoshoot?
- You and your proposal photographer/videographer will have full control over the environment, the timing of the actual proposal moment, your positioning vis-à-vis the desired backdrop, and privacy. Translation=better photos;
- Since the photoshoot is not a surprise, she’ll have plenty of time for beauty services and to dress the way she wants to look in photos;
- It’s easier to shake your partner out of bed and be on time—even for a sunrise proposal, which is the only time of the day to avoid crowds near popular tourist spots;
- Both of you will typically feel more relaxed;
- You can hire a photographer associate to keep crowds at bay, thereby further enhancing privacy;
- It’s pretty straightforward to incorporate sensational props, Champagne, and other romantic proposal ideas.
How do you propose as part of a photoshoot?
There are many ways you can go about this, but one of my favorite scenarios goes something like this:
- I might ask your partner to turn around, softly close her eyes, and visualize you;
- I’ll explain that you will walk up to her, wrap your hands around her hips, and passionately kiss her neck;
- And while she’s waiting for you to approach her, you’ll instead take a big step backward and descend to your knee with the open ring box facing her;
- I’ll then notify her that we changed our minds and she should turn around;
- Goosebumps are virtually guaranteed.
What to say when you propose
It’s not enough to come up with a romantic proposal concept, an eye-catching engagement ring, and to drop to your knee.
Your partner likely expects more and deserves more.
How to put together the perfect proposal speech.
And while there are no hard rules, it’s probably safe to say that you should budget a fair amount of time and effort to perfect your marriage proposal speech.
When you rehearse, try saying the words out l0ud, look in a mirror, and practice opening the engagement ring box with the ring facing up and forward.
Will you be my wife?
Just like with her engagement ring—which symbolically brings your relationship full circle—your “Will you marry me?” moment should be prefaced by a wedding proposal speech.
It powerfully sets the tone, sharpens her senses of what’s about to happen, and connects the dots between how far you’ve come as a couple and where you’re going on your life journey.
Chances are you’ll be a nervous wreck in the hours leading up to the proposal.
A few innocent jitters are quite reasonable and will serve to sharpen your senses further before you pop the question.
If she knows you well, she’ll likely suspect that something is not quite normal, and that’s how it is supposed to be.
How to propose to a girl and what to say
As already mentioned, whether you’re a polished speaker or not, I highly recommend jotting down some notes months ahead of the proposal date.
Then, over time, pull out your proposal speech to refine and rehearse as you come up with more romantic things to say.
It is an iterative process, and the more you practice and refine what to say when you propose, the more confident you’ll feel.
So when your heart is pure, and you’re entirely focused on your partner and convey how much she means to you, then that’s already a big success.
6 Marriage proposal speech ideas to help you pop the question:
- provide some historical context on how your relationship has evolved since you met;
- How is she the soulmate who completes you?
- How does she enrich your life, inspire you, and make you better?
- Why is she the person you aspire to live with forever?
- What is it about her that you love before you fall asleep and when you wake up?
- Where do you see your future together—paint a picture and tell a story?
My favorite proposal speech example:
I’m a big fan of Richard Gere’s surprise wedding proposal pitch to Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride, where he so magically delivers the following lines:
If you’re too nervous or simply not great with words, it is acceptable to put your marriage proposal speech in writing as one of my clients did recently:
Life before you was colorless. Life with you has been a dream. Life without you will be unknown from this moment onward. Your future husband, Ashton.
The dos and don'ts of proposals
Perfecting the proposal speech is one thing.
Then there’s still that little detail of getting on your knee.
Even the less traditional gentlemen among us, please suck it up, kneel to the ground, and make her feel like the most desirable woman in the universe.
It will make the proposal more romantic and visually impactful.
Anything less would rightfully be considered lazy.
Chances are you’ll be comforting her tightly while you deliver the “Will You Marry Me” pitch.
However, when you’re ready to get down on your knee,
- do ask Dad for her hand in marriage;
- Don’t tell many people about your proposal plans;
- Don’t propose without a ring;
- Do consider a manicure for both of you since your hands are likely to be photographed;
So what finger does the engagement ring go on?
In most western countries, the engagement band goes on the “ring” finger of the left hand (the fourth finger).
What to wear when you propose
Look, figuring out what you both should wear is the easy part.
After all, you only get engaged once, and remember you’re likely to be photographed.
So dress to impress—especially if the marriage proposal is part of a planned couple’s photoshoot where she can commission beauty services and dress the way she’d like to look in photos.
Formal wear is by no means necessary, but stylish attire is.
Your choice of proposal location will typically influence your outfit choice.
For instance, you’d presumably bundle up warm for a mountain top proposal, whereas you’d probably not wear a suit and tie when you propose at home.
If it’s cold or you’re just not sure about the weather, consider wearing layers and find a way to reveal her gown before you propose.
For paparazzi proposals, avoid bringing distracting elements, such as shopping bags, an umbrella, or water bottles, to the proposal location.
Don’t underestimate the importance of comfort and keep in mind that your outfit (or a small backpack) will need to safely hide her engagement ring box and other bulky items, such as your hotel key, wallet, and phone.
3 surefire ideas on how to get her dressed for the proposal without giving away the surprise:
- tell her you’re going to take her to a fancy restaurant for brunch or dinner (also see how to propose in a restaurant);
- Make the surprise proposal part of a planned couple’s photoshoot;
- How about making up a farewell party for a co-worker?
Your Day-of Proposal Checklist
On the day of the marriage proposal, you’ll likely feel a combination of anxiety and excitement. That’s normal and precisely as it should be.
You prepared well and poured your heart into making the surprise proposal one of the most special moments of her life.
That said, here’s a handy day-of proposal checklist to keep you organized:
- make sure to charge your cell phone—you’ll need it to communicate with your vendor team and also to notify your families after she says “Yes;”
- Create a WhatsApp group and invite all key proposal vendors to join—it’s the best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you can interact efficiently;
- Ideally, send a selfie of you both in your proposal attire to your photographer shortly before you leave the hotel;
- Do not carry a wallet, phone, keys or anything bulky in your pant pockets;
- If you’re concerned about the bulkiness or size of your original ring box, then consider a flat/slim diamond engagement ring box with a rotating ring holder. Here are three popular choices:
- Since we need to see her face and reaction in the photos, try to have her pull her hair back in a bun discretely;
- Take your time before, during, and after the proposal;
- When you arrive at the proposal location, bring your relationship full circle with the perfect proposal speech before you drop down to your knee;
- Just before you get down on your knee, make sure you’re parallel to your desired backdrop and your photographer. Check your surroundings for any distracting people or other visually problematic issues;
- When you’re ready to propose, take one big step backward before you drop to your knee.
How to propose, which knee?
Most of the time, men drop down to their right knee.
That said, it doesn’t matter which knee to propose on (i.e., which knee touches the ground) even though many people will try to convince you otherwise. What is essential, however, is that the tip of your rear foot touches the ground as in the photo below.
Likewise, maintain generous spacing between the heel of your front foot and the knee of your rear leg.
- Look her in the eyes and make her feel like the most amazing woman in the universe;
- Mind your posture and feet spacing;
- Present the open ring box (with the ring facing her) with both hands as you would anything precious;
- Ask her to marry you;
- Don’t get up from your knee until she comes to you to accept the ring (it may feel like an eternity, but be patient);
- You can put the ring on her finger while you are on your knee or after you get up, but make sure to leave the ring box on the ground so you can use both hands to put the ring on her finger;
- Slide the ring up to her knuckle and pause briefly to look her in the eyes (and always remember how she looked at you when you put the ring on the finger) before you push it to the finger base;
- Don’t feel obliged to turn to your proposal photographer or videographer immediately, but instead hold her tightly, lift her in the air, dance, enjoy, and kiss.
She said "Yes." What's next?
She said, “Yes!” Congratulations. It’s time to celebrate in style. If you can afford a Dom Pérignon, go for it. Otherwise, any Champagne will do.
Now, don’t stop there. As previously mentioned, it’s not enough to invest in a ring, drop to your knee, and ask her to marry you.
Instead, look at the entire day—every waking moment—as an opportunity to pamper her five senses.
Think in terms of multi-layered proposal ideas that elicit anticipation, create unforgettable moments, and build organically.
The idea is to keep her guessing from the time she wakes up until the wee hours of the next morning.
The possibilities of what to do after she says “Yes” are truly endless, but here are a few fun post-proposal ideas:
- how about a romantic couple’s photoshoot or so-called engagement photo session;
- Consider spoiling her with a luxurious spa experience of pure serenity and rejuvenation;
- No lady would ever say no to an obscene shopping adventure, or?
- How about hiring a private tour guide for her favorite museum;
- After an evening proposal, follow-up with a romantic candlelit dinner—possibly in combination with a Broadway show, opera, or even a private sexy cabaret.