Choosing a Location for Your Surprise Marriage Proposal


So you’ve decided that you want to propose. (Let’s pause to celebrate!) ๐Ÿฅณ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽ‰  The next step is to choose WHERE and WHEN. That’s even more important than the HOW. Let’s be honest, you’ll both probably black out from excitement, so what you say and how you say it doesn’t matter too much. Hopefully that takes some of the pressure off!

In this post, we’re focussing on the WHERE.

Where you propose will have a huge effect on the entire experience. Not only will the location be the background of your photos, but it will also play a big role the vibe of the day, the clothes you wear, and the story you tell your partner to get them to that location.

Deciding where to propose can be overwhelming, to say the least. Some people have lots of ideas, and some people have no idea where to begin. The options seem never-ending, and if you’re open to travelling for a destination proposal, the options are actually limitless.

If you relate to either of those scenarios, keep reading! By the end of this post, you’ll have several concrete, personalized ideas! When choosing the WHERE, ask yourself these questions! ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡

Disclaimer to this whole conversation โ€“ If you plan to hire a photographer, don’t choose a venue/location/date/time without talking to them first! To hire a photographer, you don’t need a complete plan or the answers to all the questions below. Go ahead and contact your favorite photographer to schedule a date and time first!

Choosing a Location for Your Surprise Marriage Proposal, Austin photographer

What places are special to you?

Did you take a picnic to a scenic overlook on your first date? Were you walking downtown when you first decided that they were “the one”? Is it on your bucket list to visit a certain place? These are the first things to consider when choosing where you want to propose!

Take some time to think about the happiest and most fun moments of your relationship. What were you doing and where were you? How can you recreate those memories?

Choosing a Location for Your Surprise Marriage Proposal, Austin photographer

How private do you want it to be?

You have two options:

  1. Propose in a public area, like a park
  2. Rent a venue or reserve a private space

This can a HUGE factor in your overall experience. Do you think your partner will be nervous, anxious, or overwhelmed? Do you think YOU’LL be freaking out a little bit (totally normal)? Well, having strangers nearby may add to your stress.

My goal as a proposal photographer/planner is to eliminate as many unknown factors as possible. Public, crowded locations are FULL of unknown factors.

Lots of popular proposal locations are also tourist hot spots, which means crowds of people visiting on a daily basis. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ If you’re worried about crowds, visit the location on the same day of the week and time that you plan to propose. This will be the most accurate way to see how crowded it will be.

Renting a venue is usually not as expensive as it might sound! Lots of botanical gardens and wedding venues offer hourly rentals for parties and photo sessions. You could also check Airbnb or Peerspace for unique, rentable homes.

Timing Tip

Most public locations are MUCH less crowded on weekdays and mornings than during peak times like weekend evenings.

An example:

Auditorium Shores is a popular location for proposals in downtown Austin. I love the view, but it’s a risky location. I can’t recall how many times I arrived to find an informal yoga class happening in the exact spot my client wanted to propose. 50 people, loud music blasting from speakers… it’s not exactly the romantic spot we’d hoped for.

Sure, I always make sure we have a backup plan for risky locations, but it’s still nerve-wracking to show up not knowing what I’ll find. It can also be disappointing to switch locations at the last minute.

Choosing a Location for Your Surprise Marriage Proposal, Austin photographer

How much space do you need?

If you plan to include friends & family, or if you want to have an after party at the same location, you’ll need some SPACE.

Where will your friends hide while your propose? Can they park their cars somewhere your partner won’t notice them? At the after party, do you want to serve food? Would you rather go to a restaurant, hire a caterer, or DIY it?

Most venues can accommodate groups really well. Some public parks are awesome for this, and some may not be.

Do you want to propose outdoors or indoors?

Some locations have both indoor and outdoor options! This is AMAZING if you plan to propose outdoors but also want a backup spot in case of rain. There’s nothing worse than having a great plan for your proposal, but nervously checking the weather forecast every hour. (This could be an entirely separate blog, but I’d encourage you NOT to obsessively check the weather! It doesn’t need to be 70 degrees and sunny for your proposal to be awesome. Cloudy weather can actually be great!)

Laguna Gloria in Austin is the perfect example of this! There are beautiful indoor and outdoor options to choose from. ๐Ÿ‘‡

What story will you tell?

In order to get your partner to the proposal location, you may need to tell a small lie. This is the only time it’s ok to lie to your partner! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Some locations are easier to “stumble upon” than others. Your lie and your location go hand-in-hand.

Your lie doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it should accomplish 3 things:

  1. It should be normal and believable enough to keep your proposal a surprise
  2. It should actually work. By this, I mean that you’re successful in getting your partner to the right location at the right time.
  3. It should convince them to dress up or wear appropriate clothes for the location

The best, most effective “lies” I’ve heard have been the most simple. When in doubt, tell your partner you’re taking them to dinner or brunch at a new restaurant.

You’ve got this!

If you’ve asked yourself all of the above questions, you should have a good list of location ideas for your proposal! The next step? Start talking to a few trusted family members and your partner’s friends. It’s nice to bounce your ideas off of someone who knows you well.

After that, I recommend contacting a photographer who specializes in proposals. They’ll help you plan and give you lots of advice.

I’ve photographed more than 120 proposals! It’s one of my favorite things I do! Here a more resources to help you plan:

I also send all of my clients a PDF guide that’s PACKED with tips based on my experience! ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  1. […] And remember: It’s great to choose a beautiful location, but what’s even more important is your overall experience. Be sure to consider the timing, how crowded it will be, and the story you’ll tell your partner to get them there. Read more on this topic > […]

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