So you’re finally ready to pop the 4-word question to your partner. And you smartly decided to propose in Paris, arguably the most swoon-worthy place in the universe. In the hours, days, and weeks leading up to your Paris proposal, you’ll feel almost impossible-to-describe excitement, wooziness, and even butterflies in your stomach. Drunk in love, anyone?
Lucky her (him)!
The truth, however, is that planning a dream Paris proposal—presumably from thousands of miles away—can be a little nerve-racking unless you stick to an ironclad game plan based on proven, actionable advice.
And that’s where this Paris Proposal Guide comes in: I’m going to show you—Step-by-Step (with pictures and video)—everything you need to pull off a deeply romantic proposal in Paris that will have her in tears … and make her friends jealous.
We’ll go over the prettiest places to propose in Paris, what to say when you pop the question, and the most epic ways to propose to your sweetheart … including loads of Paris-specific marriage proposal ideas.
Then I’ll help you confidently put together an experienced, caring, and English-speaking Paris proposal team.
It gets better:
Here’s what you should expect:
- Paris proposals 101: a crash course on getting to “Yes”
- How to propose in Paris: which knee, which finger, what to say
- Your blueprint for a picture-perfect marriage proposal
- Why propose in Paris
- Where to propose in Paris
- A deep-dive into Eiffel Tower proposals
- The most romantic, cute, simple and creative ways to propose in Paris
- How to propose in Paris when it’s raining
- The “Dos & Don’ts” of extraordinary proposals
- Get her diamond ring to Paris safely (without spilling the beans)
- How to identify, evaluate and hire the right Paris proposal photographer (and videographer)
- When do you actually need a marriage proposal planner?
- Making sense of paparazzi proposals (the pros & cons)
- Your sanity-preserving Last-Minute Paris Proposal Cheat-Sheet
- Holy moly, she says “Yes” … the first things you need to do after you get engaged in Paris
- BONUS: kickass hotels in Paris for the newly-engaged
But let me level with you first: today, there’s no shortage of readily available Paris proposal advice. Interestingly, most of it is not informed by experience and is typically a big waste of your time.
You see, having planned and photographed hundreds of sublime marriage proposals in Paris, I’m the #1 reviewed Paris proposal photographer and author of several influential industry publications, including the bona fide proposal guide, How to Propose to a Girl, which has been seen on abc, FOX, NBC, and CBS.
Importantly, I actually went through the process of proposing to the woman of my dreams myself and understand that you only get one shot at a memorable proposal she’ll cherish forever.
Sounds good? Let’s dive right in …
Paris Proposal 101: The Basics
In this chapter, let’s first nail down the Paris proposal basics, shall we?
How to propose: which knee, which finger, what to say
Which knee do you kneel on when proposing?
According to My Perfect Marriage Proposal,
- your left knee should touch the ground;
- your right knee is up;
- the ring box is in your left hand; and
- you open the box with the right hand.
Interestingly, most of the time, men actually drop down to their right knee.
And you know what?
When it comes to proposals that warm the heart, it really doesn’t matter which knee touches the ground.
The anatomy of a picture-perfect Paris proposal.
Follow these simple steps for the most picture-perfect, jaw-dropping marriage proposal ever:
- discretely—without giving away the surprise—get her to create an easy updo or pull her hair back into a ponytail or a bun so we see her reaction when she bends over to accept the ring;
- never arrive at the proposal spot or propose before the agreed-upon time;
- remove your phone, wallet, and any other bulky items from your pant pockets;
- unbutton your jacket to avoid lapel bulging when you lift your arms to present the box;
- ensure that your Paris proposal photographer is present—make brief eye-contact and/or give your photographer a signal that you’re about to propose;
- position yourself parallel to your desired backdrop and to your photographer;
- check your surroundings for distracting people and objects (e.g., trashcans, your own backpack, cars, etc.) before you kneel down;
- touch the tip of your rear foot to the ground;
- maintain harmonious spacing between the heel of your front foot and the knee of your rear leg;
- present the open ring box (facing her) with two hands as you would with anything precious;
- maintain eye contact as you make her feel like the most desirable woman in the world;
- don’t stand up before she comes to you to accept the ring (at a minimum, you need to stay on your knee for 5-10 seconds);
- it is acceptable to put the ring on her finger while you’re still kneeling or after you get up. However, leave the ring box on the ground so you have both hands available to slide the ring on her finger;
- slide the ring up to her knuckle while maintaining effortless eye-contact; pause briefly before you move the ring to the base of her finger.
Please carefully study the textbook proposal posture above and rehearse in front of a mirror abundantly before you arrive in Paris.
On which finger do you put an engagement ring?
In most Anglo-Saxon cultures, the engagement ring goes on the ring finger (the fourth finger) of her left hand.
What to say when you propose in Paris.
Note that your marriage proposal speech is different and separate from the “Will You Marry Me?” question.
- your marriage proposal speech takes place before you drop to your knee, whereas
- “Will You Marry Me” is what you ask your partner after you’re down on your knee with the open ring box facing her;
She’ll typically be so excited that things will feel like one big blur to her.
Yet, the marriage proposal speech powerfully sets the tone for what’s about to happen … and draws a line between how far you’ve come as a couple and where you’re headed on your new life-journey together.
Sure, you’ll likely be a nervous wreck in the minutes and hours leading up to your proposal … and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
Unless you’re a polished speaker, I’d recommend putting pen to paper and jotting down your marriage proposal draft speech well in advance of the envisaged proposal date.
Then, over time, pull out your notes to rehearse and refine. Preparation begets confidence.
Look, you know your partner best; so as long as you sound like yourself and believably connect the dots between where you’ve come from and where you’re headed together, you’ll do just fine.
With that said, here are a few questions to help you develop a kickass marriage proposal speech:
- how does your partner complete you?
- What about her inspires you to be a better version of yourself?
- When did you realize that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with her?
- Tell her what you love most about her.
For more inspiration on what to say when you pop the question—besides the obvious—check out this excellent post courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings.
Why propose in Paris?
Because Paris is romantic …
Look, it may sound a touch cliché, but you should propose in Paris because it’s undeniably the most romantic city in the universe.
Whether you’re …
- strolling along the Alexander III Bridge at night with the Eiffel Tower sparkling at a distance,
- stealing naughty kisses on the stairs below Sacré Coeur, while being serenaded by a local street musician,
- making a wish as you toss the key to your love lock into the Seine River; or
- whispering sweet nothings into your sweetheart’s ear over a dreamy picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens
… Paris is the ultimate setting to move her relationship status from girlfriend to fiancée.
Because she wants you to propose in Paris …
Another obvious, but an important reason why to propose in Paris is that your girlfriend secretly wants you to do so. Don’t overthink this one—it’s her day and all about her, right?
Plus, there’s a certain cachet that just comes from saying “We got engaged in Paris.”
Because Paris is the perfect place to enjoy your first kisses as fiancés …
One huge advantage I see to doing a destination proposal in Paris is that it requires you to disconnect from work, pause everyday routines, and escape a familiar environment.
As a result, you should expect fewer distractions and, importantly, an enhanced appreciation of the life-changing journey you both are about to embark on.
You’ll get to stroll the lively cobblestone streets of Le Marais, stumble upon fellow-lovers stealing not-so-innocent kisses in secret alleys, say “I love you” in front of The Wall of Love (Le mur des je t’aime) … and toast with a well-deserved Dom Pérignon Champagne during a romantic Seine River private boat ride.
Get her dad's permission first.
Before you can kick your proposal planning into high gear, you need to first secure her dad’s blessing.
Asking your future father-in-law for your girlfriend’s hand in marriage is not old-fashioned; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
In fact, when it comes to chivalry, there is no modern-day twist. Getting her parents’ permission is the ultimate gesture of respect to her, to her family, and to the tradition of marriage itself.
I was touched when one of my clients recently sent an email informing me that he traveled all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet his partner’s dad in-person:
If ever, it’s just not possible or desirable to ask her dad, then simply reach out to her mom or sibling. It’s really the thought that counts.
With that said, schedule your in-person visit with her dad’s availability in mind. Pick a date when you know that your partner is otherwise occupied or out of town as to not give away the surprise.
I’d recommend showing up with a gift and a heartfelt message of why his daughter means the world to you. Hey, if you already have her diamond engagement ring, consider bringing it along to reinforce your commitment.
Invest in the perfect diamond engagement ring.
Now that you’re ready to go engagement ring shopping, it’s important that you first educate yourself a little—notably on the 4Cs of Diamonds.
I have broken down everything you need to know in clear, simple language here.
As you’ll find out below in this must-watch 1-minute video tutorial courtesy of Blue Nile,
- the cut affects a diamond’s brilliance (i.e., sparkle) and is the single most important characteristic, closely followed by
- its color grade (the less color, the better),
- clarity (fewer imperfections = more desirable), and
- carat, or the weight of the stone.
Here are a few additional tips to help you save time and get the right ring:
- choose an engagement ring style that speaks to her personality—after all, she’ll be the one wearing it, right? Be receptive to her dropping subtle hints with respect to her preferred diamond shape, the metal of the band, vintage vs. modern, bold or understated, white diamond vs. natural fancy colored, …
- ideally, visit a local jewelry retailer to get a sense of the quality of the stone that falls within your budget; experienced and non-commissioned diamond and jewelry experts will be able to elaborate on the 4Cs and answer your questions in layman’s terms;
- looking to save a little on her engagement ring? Then consider buying it online. We’re big fans of James Allen and Blue Nile—both of which offer spectacular return and exchange policies, free insured shipping, and complimentary engagement ring resizing;
- if your proposal intentions are an open secret, then it’s acceptable to go ring shopping together. The benefit? Well, she’ll get the exact ring she wants. You’ll save time and know that the ring fits;
- speaking of figuring out your girlfriend’s ring size … if she already sports a ring on her right ring finger, simply use it to estimate her size (trace the inside of the ring on a paper after she takes it off). Alternatively—if you need to take a wild guess—the most common engagement ring size for women is 6 (16.5mm) and for men is 10 (19.8mm);
- make certain her engagement ring is ready and in your hands well before you head to Paris to propose;
- it’s highly recommended that you protect her ring against loss, damage, theft, and other disappearance with worldwide jewelry insurance—notably when you’re planning a Paris proposal where travel is involved. For an extra level of peace of mind, consider laser-inscribing the ring with its GIA report number;
- finally, you may want to quickly scan these helpful travel tips on how to keep her ring unnoticed and safe as you pass through airport security and share a hotel room.
How do I keep the diamond engagement ring box secret on the day of the proposal when it comes with a bulky original ring box?
One brilliant solution to keeping her ring discrete on the day of your Paris proposal is to invest in a flat/slim diamond engagement ring box with a rotating ring holder.
Here are our TOP 4 choices (the boxes will fit a diamond ring with a maximum diameter of approximately 9.5mm or roughly 3ct round solitaire), which you can conveniently order on Amazon:
Where to propose in Paris
I’m going to come right out at you and paint the big picture: your partner’s Paris proposal experience and, by extension, the way she’ll remember it will be shaped by two related factors:
- how does the actual surprise proposal meet her expectations; and
- your ability to create a fabulous proposal atmosphere that powerfully awakens her five senses.
Fortunately, you control both factors … so it should be easy to move the needle in your favor as long as you appreciate the influence location choice has on the Paris proposal.
Paris is the romantic proposal capital of the world. Needless to say, the Eiffel Tower stands out as the most instantly recognizable and iconic place to pop the question.
And while there’s no tried and true formula for selecting the best places to propose in Paris, it is helpful to first filter potential location options along the following two dimensions:
- Eiffel Tower view vs. non-Eiffel Tower view; and
- exclusive spaces (i.e., for rent) vs. publicly accessible spots.
Next, it’s time to further narrow down your options based on location-specific characteristics, such as whether a place is naturally …
As you’ll note in this fabulous video, it is entirely possible to come up with a locale for your Paris proposal that is at once super-iconic and not crowded.
What's the most popular place to propose in Paris?
If you’re after the most awe-inspiring views of the Eiffel Tower, you absolutely need to head to Trocadéro (Palais de Chaillot), where our two favored spots are located immediately below Café de l’Homme and Girafe Paris.
As you see in the maps below, Trocadéro is astonishingly symmetrical with two brilliant, publicly accessible, Eiffel Tower proposal spots (marked as 1A and 1B).
I prefer Spot 1A over Spot 1B for two reasons:
- when you photograph from perspective 1B, the 210-meter-high Montparnasse Tower (often referred to as the “World’s Ugliest Building”) looms and distracts behind the Eiffel Tower at a distance. The good news is that it can be removed in post-production;
- soothing morning sunlight hits Spot 1A well-before it hits Spot 1B … making for more flattering photos.
Take a moment now to check out this dazzling Eiffel Tower proposal, where Kevin asked Jane to marry him at sunrise on Spot 1A.
P.s. you’ll see Kevin’s adorable Paris proposal concept, including classical musicians, a make-believe art exhibition, a heartwarming love note, and a $500K Rolls-Royce PHANTOM with chauffeur).
Since Trocadéro is the busiest spot in all of Paris, you and your Paris proposal photographer need to arrive at sunrise in order to beat the crowds and take advantage of the best light.
Mid-morning, afternoon, and evening proposals at Trocadéro tend to be extraordinarily difficult and stressful considering the substantial crowd levels, the potential for theft, and tricky lighting conditions.
- possibly the most iconic view of the Eiffel Tower (here are 10 additional amazing views of the Eiffel Tower);
- the symmetrical, expansive, and elevated vantage point is splendidly beautiful;
- unlike some of the private (for rent) venues with Eiffel Tower view, Trocadéro is completely free of charge.
- little control over the environment, which means there is a real potential for distractions by other couples, photographers, tourists, performers, commercial entertainment, and public workers (cleaning staff and security);
- Eiffel Tower views are obstructed twice per year by hideous cranes and construction during Paris Fashion Week;
- reduced privacy;
- low on the romance scale;
- not so original;
- can be a touch dirty.
What's the most romantic place to propose in Paris?
This has been a tough decision to make—notably because Paris is blessed with an abundance of ridiculously romantic spots.
Plus, I had really wanted to go with a romantic place other than one with an Eiffel Tower view.
Yet, The Secret Table of the Peninsula Paris is simply unique and custom-made for lovers. Sure, its stunning private terrace offers jaw-dropping views of la grande dame.
And clearly, there’s cachet in being able to say “he proposed to me at the Peninsula in Paris” … accompanied by an exquisite candlelit dinner with Champagne and a dedicated butler.
But what I really love about The Secret Table is that you have full control over the ambiance … and, unlike many other exclusive Parisian rooftops and private terraces, the layout of The Secret Table is remarkably spacious and easily accessible without giving away the surprise.
So whether you enlist a world-class Paris proposal planner or Peninsula’s catering team, the only limit to creating a fairytale proposal is your imagination.
Sunset and the Blue Hour (Evening Civil Twilight).
Here’s great news: The Secret Table at the Peninsula works well pretty much any time of the day except for nighttime (almost no surprise proposal photographs well when your photographer needs to use flash or other distracting light sources).
Yet, there’s something undeniably romantic about proposing in La Ville-Lumière (City of Lights) during the Blue Hour … and subsequently transitioning into your first romantic dinner as fiancés.
Since you’ll have essentially privatized The Secret Table, you should expect the following benefits:
- unparalleled privacy: The Secret Table is perfect when you seek a public boundary of sorts in order to comfortably express yourself, show vulnerability, and be intimate with your partner;
- substantial sound control: no cars, curious bystanders or other noise translates into fewer distractions. Plus, you can typically have the Peninsula play her favorite songs or hire classical musicians to do so;
- bring your Paris proposal vision to life: you, your floral designer, and Paris proposal planner are free to transform The Secret Table as you see fit. Candles? Check. Rose petals? The more, the merrier. Band & ensembles? Why not!
Well, there are not many, except …
- such an extraordinary location comes at a cost and will add to your proposal budget;
- The Secret Table is only available from April 1 through September 30 and books out fast;
- in case of inclement weather, your dinner will be served in L’Oiseau Blanc, which is spectacular (and in competition for a Michelin Star), but not as romantic as the private terrace (you may still get to propose on the terrace, though).
Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The Shangri-La Hotel, Paris is an excellent (for rent) alternative to The Secret Table—and here are a few important differences:
- you typically first rent a hotel room, such as the legendary 750 square foot Duplex Terrace Eiffel View Suite, from where you’ll enjoy unrivaled views of la grande dame … literally from the comfort of your own Shangri-La Signature bed;
- the Shangri-La Hotel offers the most intimate Eiffel Tower view among all Palace Hotels in Paris (the Palace designation is a level above the five-star rating);
- since you’d be using your hotel suite’s exclusive terrace, the logistics of embellishing your proposal setting and secretly escorting your partner to the proposal spot are different.
Along the Seine River
I find the Seine River particularly romantic and quintessentially Parisian; hey, there’s a reason it’s affectionately referred to as “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” and been the subject of countless poems, films, and ballads, right?
The river meanders through the City of Love with its famed bridges and quays and extends past Notre-Dame to the East and the Eiffel Tower to the West.
With that said, not all Seine River spots are created equal … so it’s again helpful to filter prospective proposal locations along several dimensions:
- Eiffel Tower view vs. non-Eiffel Tower view;
- exclusive (i.e., for rent) vs. publicly accessible (free);
- down by the Seine River Bank;
- on a bridge/passerelle that crosses the Seine;
- on a boat on the Seine.
When you privatize a luxury boat, your loved one is literally in for a ride: she’ll get to experience the historic monuments of Paris—the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and much more—in the most exclusive, quiet, and even unexpected way possible.
You should expect the following benefits:
- complete timeline flexibility: there’s no need to get up before sunrise to beat crowds since there won’t be any!
- unequaled privacy: hey, it’s just you, your partner, and a happy ship crew (plus, some boats are large enough to discretely bring a paparazzi proposal photographer/videographer). So you’re effectively investing in the ideal space to set public boundaries, which means that privacy is practically guaranteed;
- she’ll not expect anything: most of us struggle a little to preserve the surprise element while still getting her to prep (beauty services) and dress for the occasion. All you need to say is that you’re taking her on a boat ride, followed by an elegant dinner in Paris;
- the ultimate unique Paris proposal idea: we’re asked all the time for unique surprise proposal ideas. And it makes sense since you only get one shot at pulling off a dream proposal. Now, what could be more unique than asking your soulmate to marry you as you sail through the City of Love?
- some boats are too small for a proposal photographer to join … which means the photographer will need to capture the proposal moment from the Seine Riverbank … which, in turn, requires insane coordination between you, the captain of the boat, and your photographer;
- expect a private Seine River boat, including crew, to inflate your proposal budget a little;
- it’s almost obligatory for you to hire an experienced Paris proposal planner—especially when you desire to embellish the boat and secretly sneak a proposal photographer/videographer aboard;
- the logistics of pulling off a surprise proposal on a riverboat require the utmost precision in timing and communication. Let me explain:
- you both will board the boat at a designated time and place. But since she can not yet know of your intentions, the proposal setting must initially remain inconspicuous (undecorated);
- then, while you’re enjoying a romantic lunch/dinner together in the interior of the boat, the boat will dock for a few minutes;
- this is when your vendors (Paris proposal photographer, videographer, and floral designer) discretely hop aboard;
- after the boat undocks, your florist needs to quickly and quietly create a worthy proposal setting;
- finally, the captain will stop the boat at a specified place … which is when you bring your loved one out to pop the question.
The most beautiful bridges of Paris (across the Seine River) to propose on
When it comes to pretty bridges in Paris, you are truly in for a treat. Paris is simply blessed with a mind-blowing variety of breathtakingly beautiful bridges.
As you know by now, it makes sense to broadly categorize Seine River bridges along the following two lines:
- Bridges with Eiffel Tower view vs. bridges without Eiffel Tower view;
- Pedestrian-only bridges (a.k.a. Passerelle) vs. bridges where pedestrians share the bridge with cars.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim: