First off, congratulations are in order! Deciding to propose to your partner is hands down, one of the most exciting times in your life. You and your partner are about to enter a whole new season of life that will be exhilarating, exciting, and full of love. As a wedding and elopement photographer, I have shot my fair share of surprise proposals and I have learned so many amazing tips that I hope will help you have a seamless, stress-free proposal experience.

Man proposes to girlfriend in Central Park, NYC.

Before I dive into all the juicy details, there is one overarching piece of advice that I think is key when implementing any/all of the tips below. And that is COMMUNICATION. Now, by no means am I a relationship expert of coach, but I believe that communication is key to making everything work. So, before proposing, here are some of the things I think that you and your partner should talk about and be on the same page. I know the whole of idea of surprise proposing is to keep it a surprise, but I promise that talking about what you both would want beforehand will not ruin the surprise. If anything, it will help you plan the best proposal that they will absolutely fall head over heels for.

My Top 5 Tips for a Seamless Surprise Proposal

Do they want a surprise proposal?

So without further ado, the first thing that you should consider before proposing is if they actually want their proposal to be a surprise. By now, I am sure that you probably know if your partner likes surprises or not, but proposals are a huge event that they may not want to be caught off guard for. So take some time to talk things through with your partner and decide whether a surprise proposal is something they would want (or not want).

Couple embraces in Central Park, NYC.

Should you propose with a ring or a placeholder?

My next tip for a seamless, surprise proposal is to decide whether you want to propose with a ring or a placeholder that will late be replaced by their ring. Now it may seem like a no brainer, of course you have to propose with a ring. But honestly it may depend on your partner. If they want a complete surprise, then trying to pick out their dream ring without much guidance may be a little scary. Engagement rings are a big investment and you want to make sure they have the ring of their dreams. So if your partner is the type of person that has specific tastes when it comes to jewelry and they want to be completely surprised, consider proposing with a simple band and then make an appointment to go ring shopping together. Alternatively, you and your partner can go ring shopping before hand so that you can get an idea of their tastes and preferences. You can still make the proposal a surprise, but you will still have a good idea of what kind of ring to select.

Couple shows off engagement ring while kissing.

Where should you propose?

The next big consideration when proposing is the location. Does your partner want a destination proposal or do they want to stay closer to home. Have they always dreamed of getting proposed to while on a trip in Europe? Or is their ideal proposal at your neighborhood restaurant that you always visit. Along the same line, does your partner want to be proposed to in public, like at a sporting event, at a restaurant, at a public park? Or would they prefer to be in a more private location like on a hiking trail or in your home? Whatever they want, make sure to take your time and start planning early.

Couple runs through central park in NYC as the leaves change.

Should you hire a photographer or videographer to capture the moment?

One of the biggest things you should consider when planning your proposal is whether your partner wants the occasion photographed or videoed. Obviously, I’m all for people who want to document this once in a lifetime event, but others prefer to keep this moment private and intimate (which is 100% okay too!) Whatever your partner prefer, be sure to talk about your preferences beforehand. If your partner does want their proposal documented, I recommend reaching out to a photographer at least 2-3 months in advance. Most couples and wedding photographers book out well in advance and only leave certain days open for couples sessions. So to ensure you can secure a photographer for your day, reach out as soon as you’re forming your proposal plans!

Couple sits on the stairs of bethesda terrace in Central park after surprise proposal.

Should you invite friends and family to witness the moment?

The last major thing you should consider when planning your surprise proposal is if you or your partner want your families or friends present for this moment. Some people want their family to be near them when you actually propose, and others want to meet up with them after the proposal. If you do plan on inviting family and friends to your proposal, be sure to give them clear instructions to follow so that they stay hidden away before the big moment!

Couple strolls through central park after surprise proposal.

A Few Other Tips to Ensure Your Day Goes Smoothly

  • Change name of photographer in phone to someone you know. This way, if your partner sees your phone, they aren’t tipped off by you texting a photographer.
  • Hide the ring well! Try hiding the ring somewhere safe, and somewhere your partner would ever look.
  • If you’re traveling somewhere to propose, do not keep the ring on you when you go through security. Instead, put it safely in your carry on bag. The ring box can set off the alarms and ruin the surprise.
  • Share your location with your photographer so they can see when and where you’re coming from on the day of your proposal.

I hope all of these tips help you feel a little more prepared when it comes to planning your surprise proposal. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so be sure to put your own spin on the occasion and speak from the heart. A HUGE congratulations once again for taking this next step in your relationship! Your life is going to change in all the best ways. Happy planning!

Meet Your Proposal Photographer

Photographer stands on Bushwick roof with manhattan skyline in the background.

Hi friend! My name is Molly and I am a NY based wedding and elopement photographer. Proposals are just one of the many occasions that I absolutely love to capture. If you want to learn more about the services I offer, check out my Investment Page. To learn more about what it is like to work with me, check out my Experience Page. I can’t wait to learn all about you and your story!


March 30, 2023

Couple proposes on rock in Central Park

How to Pull Off the Best Surprise Proposal

Molly Waring


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