How to Propose: 7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Proposal

The key to the perfect proposal? PLANNING!

I’ve photographed countless marriage proposals. I’m here to tell you that of all the photo shoots I do – weddings, portraits, maternity sessions – proposals are the most difficult!

I only have one second to capture the proposal itself… all while dealing with a lot of unknowns.

Planning a proposal is the best way to ensure the perfect moment to pop the question!

1. Timing is Everything

Let’s face it… you’re going to be nervous before you propose. That’s why it’s best to make it the first thing you do!

That engagement ring will be burning a hole in your pocket.  And you don’t want to raise suspicion by acting differently.

For example, make your dinner reservations for after the proposal. You can order some champagne and toast your future together!

It’s often hard to determine exactly when something like dinner will end, so if you have others, like a photographer involved, timing can get stressful.

Put your mind (and your heart!) at ease by popping the question first!

2. Location, Location, Location

I said it three times and it’s so important that I’ll say it again… Location is everything!

Choosing the right location is part of a good decoy story (more on that below).

Choose a place with meaning to you.  Maybe it’s a spot that’s already special to you or one that you will hope to return to when you celebrate the day you got engaged.

If you’re hiring a proposal photographer, choose a place that’s not too crowded or busy… You’ll want your photographer to have a clear angle when you pop the question!

Scout out the location ahead of time.  If you’re walking, figure out how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. If you’ve made dinner reservations, know how long it will take you to get to the restaurant.

Do the same things for an alternate location.  You never know what’s going to come up on the day of a proposal – weather, crowds, construction, etc. – so you need a solid back up plan for your proposal (more on that below).

3. Create a Decoy Story

You’ve got to figure out how to get them you where you want to be and when you want them to be there… So you need to create a good decoy story.  It may be as simple making reservations for a nice dinner.  Or you might need to involve an accomplice such as a friend or family member.

The most important aspect about the decoy story is setting yourself up for success. Keep it as simple and as close to the truth as possible!

Give some thought to what you and your love will be wearing. (And don’t inquire about getting nails done – that’s a sure giveaway that you’re about to propose!)

If you’re hoping to be dressed up, your story should involve an occasion – a nice dinner, a party, a special event – that would require dressing up.

If you’re going for a more casual setting, like a hike or a walk on the beach, let your story convey that.  You want your love to feel their best when you pop the question!

4. How to Make a Back Up Plan

Weather or a change of circumstances might mean that you need to go to Plan B… So have that back up proposal plan in place ahead of time!

Keep an eye on the weather forecast… especially if you’re planning an outdoor proposal.  You don’t want wind and rain to ruin one of the most special moments of your lives!

Someone – whether it’s you, your proposal photographer, or a friend – needs to scout your locations ahead of time so that you know where to go if you have to change plans.

You never know what unexpected happening – a pop-up event, crazy weather, unexpected crowds – might necessitate a different location.

Having a back up location is key to keeping you calm and confident!

5. Communication is Key

Proposals are unpredictable. Circumstances can change and your love has no idea what will be happening!

Having a plan to communicate with your team ensures that everyone can adapt to changes and keep the proposal on track.

Have all of the numbers that you need ready to go. Plan to text your proposal photographer and anyone else who’s helping.

Sending quick texts about your progress ensures that everyone is where they need to be… when they need to be there… including you and your beloved!

Make sure that everyone is clued into the proposal plan – and back up plan – ahead of time. Other than quick updates you won’t have time to communicate much else.

Things move fast once the plan is set in motion… so planning and communicating are key!

6. Hire a Photographer in the Know

I have spent many a lengthy phone conversation helping people plan their marriage proposals.

I shoot most often in Mackinac and Northern Michigan where people might not be as familiar with the locations as I am.

I give advice on where to propose, when to propose, how to get your love where they need to be, and what to do for a back up plan.

I also arrive at the proposal location 30 minutes ahead of time to get a read on the situation.  I help clear people out of the way or suggest switching to the back up plan.

For example, if you’re planning a proposal at the beach, I can start staking out a spot and making sure that people aren’t going to be in your pictures.  And if it’s rainy and windy there, it’s not going to make for great photos, so I can let you know to switch to the back up plan.

You’ll likely have a lot of questions about how to plan the best proposal… and chances are that I can answer all of them!

7. Plan for After the Proposal

So much goes into planning the proposal itself that people often forget to plan for after the proposal!

Like I said before, make the proposal the first thing you do… then you can just celebrate and relax afterwards.

Consider how your love might like to celebrate their amazing news.  Would they like to see family + friends right away… or would they rather spend time alone with you? Would they like an intimate dinner or a surprise party?

You might enlist the help of friends and family if you’re planning a party to celebrate… You’ll have enough on your mind with planning the proposal itself!

Bonus Tip: Your Proposal Photos

If you’re hiring a proposal photographer, plan out a mini photo session with them ahead of time.

It’s a fun way to spend time together and celebrate your engagement… and get great pictures to use on all of your save-the-dates and wedding decor!

You’ve put all the hard work into planning your proposal… capture it all in photos!

If you’d like to know more, contact me by clicking this link.

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