Surprise Proposal Canyonlands National Park

How to Plan a Surprise Proposal Photo Session

You’re planning to propose! This is a biiiiig deal. And I know that planning a surprise proposal can be a nerve-wracking process, but you don’t have to do it alone. As Moab engagement photographer, I’ve helped many couples capture this magical moment of their love story. And because of that, I wanted to prepare a guide that will help make your surprise proposal photoshoot successful!

Step 1. Choose a Location

I believe that choosing the right location is one of the most important parts of a successful proposal. I like to tell my clients to choose a place that is meaningful or that they want to be meaningful. As a local Moab photographer, I would definitely opt for a breathtaking backdrop because… Well, it is a BIG moment and you want to be intentional about and… why not have spectacular photographs that you can look back on for years?

Surprise Proposal Canyonlands National Park
Suprise proposal location in Moab, UT – Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park

Some questions to consider when choosing a place to propose:

  • What’s your vibe? Outdoorsy, outsidey, urban, artsy, chill, traditional?
  • Will it be crowded (you don’t want to get intimidated by the people around you)?
  • Does your partner care how they’re going to look in the photos (from my experience 95% do)?
  • If you answered yes to the previous one then think of a way to incorporate fun outfits into that day, and maybe opt out of strenuous hikes, and choose something accessible.
  • If the answer is no, then the sky is your limit. Truly.

Here are some options for your surprise proposal. Let’s see if any of them resonate with you:

  1. Traditional (more formal attire, probably in a garden)
  2. Casual (wearing your regular clothes in a place that you love)
  3. Themed (think Abba, or leather or anything that brings you joy)
  4. Adventure (more hiking, spectacular views, think helicopter rides, climbing, nighttime photos, or whatever feels true to your adventurous spirit)
  5. Documentary (you being you and the photographer tags along and captures a slice of your life story, this can happen at home or while you’re out and about)
  6. Urban (you and the love of your life in the city that you love, all the fun lights, and angles, you can make it formal you can make it casual – choose your own adventure).

I like to tell the partner who is planning the proposal to think about what would be a place that truly feels like them. Would it be staying at home and cooking together and having the best stay-at-home date turn proposal or would it be seeing a place you both had dreamed about for years?  These questions are a good place to start when choosing the perfect surprise engagement photo location.

Surprise Proposal in Moab

Step 2. Hire a Surprise Proposal Photographer

Once you have your location sorted out, I recommend hiring a surprise proposal photographer. Your big moment will not only be documented so you have tangible memories to look back on but it’s very likely they had helped plan a surprise proposal multiple times so they can share their experience and help to walk you through the process and offer some good sequencing tips, and prompts. A good surprise proposal photographer will know the area well and help you create an experience that will be memorable and… smooth. As a Utah engagement photographer, I have a list of amazing locations that are near Moab, and you can find this list here: Where to Propose in Moab, Utah?

There are a couple of pieces I would consider here:

  • You might want to use a “couples photo shoot” as a cover for the big surprise. If you do you might start hinting at that earlier on. I heard people say that “they haven’t had any nice photos taken since they got together” or “it’s our anniversary coming up, let’s do something special”. Sometimes the partner mentions wanting to have professional photos taken so you use that as a reason to book a session as a gift.
  • You can also make it a complete surprise. Have your photographer hide nearby, ready to capture the moment – I would suggest making dinner date plans that day so you both look good 😉

I am mentioning these because the photoshoot option tends to be easier and often allows for better images that you can later use to create artwork or use as you Save the Date.  As the one proposing, you have an easy reason to explain why a photographer will be there. It also eliminates some of the added stress and pressure of when to pop the question.

When couples book me for a surprise proposal, I usually plan for a specific prompt that works well with dropping on one knee. This way, as a photographer I can make sure that not only the location is perfect, you two look perfect but that the light is there too to make it all look… yep, perfect. I do recommend proposing toward the beginning of the shoot your hike, or whatever activity you choose. Mostly because the nerves are real, and they build up over time. I’m all about the joy and love and kisses and not sweaty palms and stressful hikes 😉

Step 3. Plan a post-proposal event for just the two of you.

It’s nice to finish your day with a dinner or something that feels special. Trust me, you’ll remember this day forever and it’s good to make it count!

All riiiight. I think that covers it! (I felt butterflies in my stomach just reminiscing on all the surprise proposals I got to photograph, and ah, there’s just something romantic and beautiful about starting a new chapter together).

Anyways, if you’re looking for an engagement photographer in Moab, Utah…

Planning a surprise engagement photo shoot doesn’t have to be stressful. Once you find the perfect location and choose a photographer you vibe with, you’ll be one step closer to making it happen! Good luck! Sending lots of love your way!


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