How to Plan a Secret Proposal: Tips & Tricks from a Wedding Photographer

August 4, 2023

A couple hugging on a pier after getting engaged after one of them learned how to plan a secret proposal.

Are you wondering how to plan a secret proposal? You’re in the right place!

Planning a surprise proposal can be an exciting experience, but it’s also one that can be difficult to pull off. It requires planning and care to make the moment special for both of you and as a Pennsylvania wedding photographer with experience in capturing secret proposals, I want to help! 

In this blog post, I’ll give some tips and tricks on how to plan a secret proposal that you’ll both remember forever.

Meet the Couple Who Planned a Surprise Wedding Proposal

Black and white photo of a couple hugging after getting engaged.

I was lucky enough to recently photograph a surprise wedding proposal, so before we dive into the how-to, I wanted to give a bit of background to the couple!

Brady reached out to me to photograph a secret proposal he was planning for the love of his life, his girlfriend Caitlin. This was a dream come true! He was planning a weekend getaway where he was going to propose on a pier, overlooking the beautiful water in Shady Side, Maryland. Caitlin jokingly asked him if he was going to propose during their trip, but Brady played it cool and she didn’t suspect a thing!

Throughout this post, you’ll be able to see some of the photos that I captured during this secret proposal.

How to Plan a Secret Proposal

Consider the location

The location you choose can have a huge impact on the overall feeling of the proposal. Try and choose a special place that will make your partner feel relaxed and happy, such as where you had your first date or somewhere you both love visiting together.

If you want an extra surprise factor, why not take them someplace neither of you has visited before but that’s been on your “must-visit” list? There’s nothing quite like visiting a new destination with someone special by your side! Whatever location you choose, be sure to ensure it’s somewhere that captures the essence of who you are as a couple.

A couple holding out a hand with a ring on it as they kiss.

Come up with a plan

When it comes to planning the perfect secret proposal, consider involving your photographer. Your photographer can provide invaluable insight and guidance on how to get your partner to the specific location without them suspecting anything. 

In Brady and I’s case, we hopped on a few phone calls in order to nail down the perfect plan. He decided on a plan that involved telling his soon-to-be-fiance they had dinner reservations earlier than they actually did, then asked her to walk out onto the pier for a photo before dinner – where he ultimately popped the question! 

Going through this process not only helps ensure you execute the surprise flawlessly but also adds an extra layer of excitement to the occasion as well.

A close up view of people sitting on the edge of a pier.

Don’t do anything too out of the ordinary

Since you don’t want your partner to know what’s going to happen, it might be best to stick with a plan that’s already familiar to both of you. Going for a walk on the beach or dinner at a favorite restaurant is one thing, but if you go out of your comfort zone too much, it might be all too suspicious and could potentially ruin the surprise. 

If you two have never gone for long walks on the beach and suddenly decide to, it may leave your partner wondering if something more is up!

A couple hugging as they are about to kiss.

Keep the ring somewhere safe

Making sure your partner doesn’t discover the ring before you have a chance to surprise them with it is probably one of the most important things when it comes to how to plan a secret proposal. An ideal hiding spot should be secure, private, and out of reach. Consider hiding it in a place that only you could think of, where they wouldn’t be looking. 

Whatever you decide to do, make sure there’s no evidence left behind – look for receipts or other purchases that they might stumble across! Remember also to avoid using a joint credit card or bank account, as this may easily alert them to something being up.

Overhead view of a couple sitting on a pier while one holds out their hand with an engagement ring on it.

Have select family and friends help (if needed)

The perfect proposal requires careful planning and attention to detail – so don’t be afraid to lean on a few trusted friends and family members if needed. Enlist their assistance to help ensure that the entire event goes off without a hitch! 

They can help you get the ring set up at the perfect location and even coordinate with vendors like photographers or florists. By leaning on your loved ones for support, not only will you be able to stage the surprise of a lifetime, but it’ll also create an unforgettable day.

Brady received the help of his Uncles to stage the perfect proposal! Caitlin believed they were all going to dinner together, but the reservation was actually just for Brady and Caitlin! Brady’s Uncles helped keep the plan under wraps (and surprised them with glasses of champagne right after he popped the question!). 

A couple sitting on a pier talking together.

Plan for dinner or drinks afterwards

Treat yourself and your significant other to an exquisite dinner or a round of drinks to top off the perfect evening after the proposal. If you’re looking for something more intimate, you could go for a romantic walk to your favorite restaurant or head back home and spend quality time together while you cook dinner together. 

On the other hand, if you want to make the celebration even more special, invite your closest family members and friends to join in on the occasion. 

A couple kissing while standing on a pier.

Secret Proposal Ideas

Looking for some secret proposal ideas? Here are a few that you could use to build from!

Go on a picnic

A picnic is a great way to make your secret proposal extra special. Imagine having an intimate and romantic time with your partner in the outdoors. Pack a picnic basket full of tasty treats that’ll make you feel like you’re in a fairytale! 

A few candles and some floral decorations can also help set the mood for an unforgettable experience. Make sure to bring along a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider to toast when your partner says “yes”!

Depending on your location, you might be able find a local business that will help you put the entire picnic together. 

A couple holding hands and walking along a pier.

Plan a scavenger hunt around your city or town

Planning a scavenger hunt around your city or town is an exciting and unique way to propose to your partner! You can plan out a course with different stops that lead up to the main proposal site. 

Make sure each location hints at something special that you both have in common, like walking along the beach where you had your first date or stopping by the cafe where you shared your first kiss.

At each stop, provide clues that lead to the grand finale – popping the question! It’s definitely a great way to keep your partner guessing and add an extra element of surprise. 

You could even enlist friends or family members to help set up decorations and gifts along the way. If possible, let your photographer know each stop along the scavenger hunt so you can capture all these special moments and memories!

A couple hugging while one kisses the others forehead.

Ask during a dinner date

You could plan a special dinner date for your significant other, with some meaningful decorations and music to set the mood. During the meal, you can take out the ring and get down on one knee. A totally unexpected yet romantic proposal! 

To add an even more personal touch, try presenting a poem or reading a letter dedicated to your partner. If they enjoy surprises, you can also hide small trinkets inside their napkin or dessert plate as a sweet surprise and sign of your love.

A close up view of two people holding champagne glasses.

Meet at sunset at your favorite spot

A sunset proposal at your favorite spot can be an incredibly romantic and meaningful way to pop the question. Whether it’s a beach, park, or mountaintop, this could be a beautiful setting for your engagement. 

You could also plan some activities leading up to the proposal that involve thoughtful gestures like writing love letters, giving gifts, or even incorporating previous memories shared together into the mix. Make sure you (or a trusted family member or friend) can arrive early to set up decorations and create the perfect atmosphere for your partner.

A person kneeling down on a pier proposing on a pier.

During a hike in the great outdoors

Hiking in the great outdoors can be a great way to propose for couples who enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring nature together. Pack a picnic basket or romantic dinner that you can set up at the top of your destination, and surprise your partner with a thoughtful gesture as a sweet surprise and sign of your love. 

If you want to add an extra layer of romance, bring along some flowers, chocolates, or their favorite drink and present it when you get to the summit to propose. Make sure to pick a spot with incredible views so you can take in the beauty of the moment together!

A couple waking along a field towards the water.

Final Thoughts: How to Plan a Surprise Wedding Proposal

A surprise wedding proposal should be memorable and personal, so it’s important to consider the type of setting you both would enjoy the most. Collaborating with a photographer can help you capture those precious memories and create beautiful photos to remember the occasion.

If you or your partner need help figuring out how to plan a secret proposal or a photographer for their special day, it’s best to reach out as soon as possible so that all details can be discussed in advance. (Psst… feel free to get in touch with me here to chat details!)

When organizing a surprise wedding proposal, put careful thought into every detail and make sure that your partner feels loved and appreciated with your thoughtful gesture. With a little bit of creativity and research, you can plan an unforgettable moment that will last forever!

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