Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Over the years, Sarah and I have had the joy of photographing more than 25 surprise proposals as we watched young men ask a single question that would change the course of their lives. Between that and my own experience of proposing to Sarah, we’ve learned a lot! I certainly wish I had all this information before I got down on one knee!
But now it’s our turn to pass along our experience and wisdom to every guy out there wondering to himself, “How do I propose to my girlfriend?” Every week throughout this Spring, we’ll be posting an updated version of this 2018 blog series. It’s mostly written as a note directly from me, Hunter, to all the guys out there who are exactly where I was back in 2016: head over heels in love with a girl, with absolutely no plan on how to ask her to be yours! Sarah will even be chiming in with some of her input to the ladies who think the big question might be coming soon!
Welcome back fellas! Last week, we talked all about how to pick out that special piece of bling that she’ll wear for the rest of her life. This week, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of how to plan your day around a proposal, and really make it special! Next week we’ll get more into the big ask itself, but don’t overlook the importance of the logistics of the day!
No matter what day you choose, the day that you propose to your girlfriend will be a day you both remember for the rest of your lives.
For some of you, the choice will be obvious. You’ll be on vacation next month with her family, and know that it would mean the world to her to have them gathered around in that special moment. Or maybe you’re huge fans of a sports team or a certain Broadway musical, and you’ve got tickets for the big game or show. Or maybe there’s a big transition day approaching, like a graduation or moving into a new city, and you want to put a ring on her finger as a promise that you’re in it for the long-run, even as you transition into a new season of life.
But for others, there’s no perfect day approaching, which means you’ll have complete control over how and when you propose. This can be just as awesome! As in all things, keep her and the context of your relationship in mind, and do your best to choose a day that will have meaning. Is there a dating anniversary (or even monthiversary) approaching? Is her birthday or Christmas Eve around the corner? If all else fails, secretly take a look at your calendars and just pick a day that works well for you both!
Whether proposing at the beach, in the city, or in the mountains, when Sarah and I help our guys plan their proposals, we recommend the same thing as with all of our portrait sessions: aim for “golden hour”. In case this is a new concept to you, golden hour is the 60-90 minutes after sunrise and before sunset in which natural light is most soft, most golden, and most dreamy. Golden hour is, without a doubt, the best time to take photos each day, and since most couples are NOT interested in a 6:00 am photoshoot, we always aim to plan our shoots around the sunset!
Proposals are no different. We recommend that our guys plan to propose about 75 minutes before sunset. There are three reasons for this:
1. Sunset makes everything more romantic. She’ll swoon, and so will her friends and family as she re-tells the story them. “Oh Mom, it was SO romantic! We walked out to the pier as the sun was setting and he asked me to marry him!!” Cue tears of joy. Cue fist-bump from her Dad.
2. Sunset allows for beautiful photos. Both of the proposal itself, and any portraits that follow. All of the guys that hire Sarah and I to capture their surprise proposal know that we include a 30-minute portrait mini-session to capture the excitement, love and joy that always follows a proposal. If we’ve timed the proposal for just before sunset, this mini-session captures you two in the most romantic and beautiful light!
3. Now that your portrait mini-session is done, it’s dinner time! Let the surprises keep rolling as you finish up your mini-session and reveal to her that not only did you get her a shiny new ring, but you also got reservations at one (or multiple, if options are her thing) of your city’s nicest restaurants! Or maybe it’s where you went on your first date. Or maybe just a place up the street that you heard has great tacos. Either way, the photos are done, and it’s time to go enjoy your first meal as an engaged couple and talk about your future together, now that it’s official!
This is frequently a dilemma for our guys as they plan a surprise proposal. They know that their bride-to-be is going to want to look nice for the proposal and for the photoshoot that follows. This is especially true since the photos will be splashed all over social media in a matter of hours! If she knew about it in advance, you can bet that her hair, makeup, nails and outfit would all be meticulously selected and she’d be looking her best. But how can you achieve that same look without tipping her off?
We’ve found that the best way to encourage dressing up without giving away the surprise is to let her know that you’re going to take her out on a nice date that evening. This way, she’ll get all dressed up without expecting anything, and it can also prime the evening for a bit of romance!
You can also recruit a friend or two to subtly and gently encourage a manicure in the days or week leading up to the proposal. Or maybe the night before the proposal, a friend of yours can invite her over for some girl time, and maybe they’ll end up painting their nails while they chat. Just be careful if secrecy is your thing, as this can be a dead giveaway if done without subtlety!
While this isn’t always possible because of the stage of life and location you find yourself proposing in, we know from experience that a surprise party can really blow the top off an already incredible night. The night I proposed to Sarah, we went out to a nice dinner afterwards, and Sarah assumed that our nice meal was the end to an already incredible evening.
To her surprise, when I pulled into the driveway of my college house, my seven housemates and all of her girls had teamed up to help me pull off the most ballin’ surprise party ever! We had close to 100 people packed into our tiny living room and front yard, and it was the perfect cherry on top of the day.
However, we were in college and Sarah had just moved from another city, so it was easy to plan the party without her finding out. Maybe an intimate dinner with a few close friends is more up your girl’s ally. Or maybe just having both your immediate families meet you out for drinks afterwards would be all the love she desires. Either way, think about how you can make this day totally over-the-top, and really love her well as the first official step towards your marriage!
In the next section, Sarah will take over the blog series and talk directly to the ladies about the sometimes wonderful and sometimes frustrating feeling that girlfriends across the world experience as they wait for their man to get the hint. Guys, if you’re reading this blog series, this probably isn’t for you (unless of course, your girlfriend sent the series to you, in which case, THIS IS YOUR HINT). Happy planning!