Tips for Planning a Surprise Marriage Proposal from a NYC Wedding Photographer

Planning on “popping the question” soon? Surprise marriage proposals can be scary, even when you’re confident your significant other will accept your proposal. Sometimes, the scariest part of a proposal can be deciding when to do it… and how.

A few days ago, I received a message from a very excited soon-to-be groom. He wants to surprise his girlfriend on their trip to NYC by “popping the question”. He’s asked me to go “undercover” and document their special moment as it happens. Luckily, “this ain’t my first rodeo”. I’ve played the role of “engagement paparazzi” a few times before, which means I’m familiar, not only with the strategies to capture the moment beautifully, but also with those elements that are important when planning the perfect surprise marriage proposal.

So whether you’re planning on “popping the question” soon or you’re just curious as to what some tips are for planning a surprise marriage proposal from the perspective of an engagement and wedding photographer, I invite you to keep reading below.

  1. Buy the perfect engagement ring – Even though they’ll most likely love anything you get them, the reality is, they may already know exactly the kind of ring they want. Before putting up so much cash on an expensive ring, make sure the ring is the right style for your significant other. Make as much effort as possible in finding out the kind of ring they want. Chances are, they may have already hinted towards it, or told one of their close friends. You should even consider having them pick it out (while still keeping the actual proposal a surprise!). You just want to make sure they’re excited about the ring they will be wearing forever.
  2. Make a respectful gesture – Talk to the parents. It’s not about asking permission. It’s about involving the parents in an exciting moment in their life.
  3. Custom tailor the proposal – Some people dream of a grand gesture – a BIG proposal in front of dozens of people – because they love being in the spotlight. Others may prefer their proposal to be in a more private, intimate setting. It’s critical to understand your significant other in order to figure out how to custom tailor a proposal that they’ll both LOVE and feel comfortable with. When in doubt, it’s best to play it safe and pick a spot where it’ll be just the two of you. For example, if it’s at your favorite restaurant, ask for a table in the back.
  4. Incorporate meaningful details – More than anything, proposals should be personalized to your relationship. Selecting a sentimental location (like the place where you had your first date or first said “I love you”) is a perfect example. Incorporating their favorite music or bringing a bouquet of their favorite flowers is, not only a romantic touch, but also a great way to show them how well you know them. Surprising your significant other by having their friends and family close to where the proposal is happening is another wonderful way to make the proposal “unforgettable” because they’ll likely appreciate you asking their favorite people to share in the moment with you.
  5. Speak from the heart – A few days before the proposal, plan a meaningful speech by jotting down what you would like to say. And practice it. But don’t memorize it! You’ll risk sounding unnatural or forced. Your words will sound better when they’re spoken from the heart.
  6. Pick the right time – If you want it to be a surprise, avoid obvious holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas. Also, make sure you are picking a moment in time when they’re relaxed and not overly stressed due to work or school obligations. Proposing during a special trip can be a great idea, but doing it at home on a seemingly ordinary day may be the best way to go too.
  7. Develop a good decoy – Knowing a place you can easily convince them to go to is critical in executing a surprise proposal at your location of choice. Think of things they would never say no to – like meeting friends/family for dinner at a specific restaurant, or going to a show or a movie at a specific part of town. Having an accomplice to go along with your plan is useful in making sure everything goes according to plan.
  8. Don’t let the secret out – While having an accomplice is a great idea, keeping it to a “need-to-know” basis increases your chances of keeping your proposal plans a secret up until the very last minute. Make sure everyone who knows is absolutely capable of keeping your secret.
  9. Have a backup plan – Having an alternate plan for the proposal is important in the event things don’t work as planned. Sometimes, the weather doesn’t cooperate, or the location you had picked is closed or unavailable. Don’t rush the proposal because you think you need to get it done at the precise time/place you had initially intended.
  10. Hire a professional photographer – Hire a pro to capture the priceless look on their face when you ask them to marry you. It’s important to build a proposal plan around a set schedule and clearly communicate it with that photographer. Communicating your backup plan is also critical in ensuring the photographer doesn’t miss your special moment.
  11. Plan a post-proposal celebration – Have something exciting planned out for after the proposal. If you’re not already at a restaurant, make a dinner reservation, or have some celebratory champagne stored away at home. It’s fun to extend as much as possible the proposal celebration!


Are you interested in having your proposal photographed? I absolutely love proposal stories, and I love it even more when I get to witness it happen! You can contact me by emailing me at, or by using my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox!

Have any other ideas or tips to plan a surprise marriage proposal? Drop them in the comments below!

Already been proposed to but not sure whether you should get engagement photos? Give me a moment to convince you why you should! Check out my blog post – Should I Take Engagement Photos?

  1. Isabel Padilla

    November 22nd, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    You didn’t miss any tiny detail in order to how to plan so important event. You are very creative and decided to do a very, wonderful work


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