Need wedding proposal help? A How to Propose planning guide

Stressed out about planning a proposal? Make your life easier and check out this proposal planning guide with info on how, when, and where to propose!

Brunette woman with her hand on a man's shoulder and an engagement ring on her finger

Steps to planning a proposal

  1. Decide that you’ve found the perfect person for you and you both are ready to take the relationship to the next level.
  2. Figure out what type of ring you want to get and purchase it.
  3. Ask your partner’s parents for their hand in marriage (if you’re doing this).
  4. Decide on a location and/or activity for your proposal.
  5. Decide on whether and what type of celebration you want afterwards.
  6. Choose a proposal photographer to capture the moment.
  7. Figure out and practice what you are going to say.
  8. Make sure you have a backup plan and have thought through logistics for the day.
  9. Pop the question!
Lesbian couple standing in the snow together in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Proposal Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO take your time to figure out your game plan. A lot of people start to feel like the ring is burning a hole in their pocket as soon as they get it. Trust me, it’s worth it to take your time and figure out what you want to do for your proposal. There are no do-overs!
  • DO choose a way to propose that feels like you and your partner. Most people proposing want to make this a special moment for their partner, which means you want to spend some time thinking about what THEY want. But that doesn’t mean you want to go with a plan that is totally out of your style.
  • DO have a solid backup plan (or plans) in place. More often than not things may not go exactly as planned, and you will have to roll with the punches.
  • DO make sure you feel confident your partner is going to say yes. While you want this to be a surprise, there are plenty of ways to hint around and figure out if he or she is ready for marriage. Your partner being ready for this moment is just as important as you being ready.
  • DON’T Stress! It’s totally normal to feel some butterflies about something like this. It is actually a big moment in your relationship. But having a good plan in place can help you feel excited rather than nervous! You’re giving your partner such a meaningful moment and story that he or she can tell for the rest of their lives, and that is something to feel really good about!
  • DON’T involve too many people. You can definitely enlist some trusted friends for help if you want, but keep in mind the more people involved, the more likely the secret will slip.
  • DON’T forget about what comes after the proposal! It’s easy to think only about the moments leading up until the big question. But the celebration afterwards can really seal the deal on the perfect proposal day. You both are going to be so excited. Having an activity or celebration planned will be the cherry on top of the sundae!
Couple sitting on big grey rock outcropping drinking mimosas to celebrate their engagement

Brainstorming ideas for how to propose

How to pop the question seems to be the biggest challenge for many people when they’re planning a proposal. And while this is a totally normal and reasonable way to feel about such a big moment, it’s important not to get caught up in this type of stress.

While your proposal should make your partner feel special, it doesn’t necessarily have to be grand or over the top. At the end of the day, your proposal needs to feel right to you and reflect both of you in the relationship. 

Kissing couple behind the branch of a pine tree while the woman has an engagement ring on her finger

That being said, the first question someone will normally ask your partner when they hear about the engagement is “How did he/she propose?” This is because a proposal really is more than just asking a simple yes or no question. It’s about the entire experience you give your partner. Your proposal story is a special chapter in the story of your relationship.

So whether you choose something grand or something simple, it’s important to show that you put thought and effort into the moment. Here are a few tips:

  • First, take some time to write down and brainstorm ideas that you think your partner might like. 
  • Think back and consider if your partner has ever talked about a friend who proposed or got engaged. Did he or she comment on the style of the proposal? If you can’t think of such an occasion, maybe you can broach the subject to your partner about one of your friends who recently proposed or got engaged. Simply tell the story and try to gauge his or her reaction. This may give you a lot of insight into what your partner would want.
  • If you need some ideas to get you started with brainstorming, check out this guide.
  • If you’re having trouble thinking of a way to ask the big question that feels right, it can help to take a step back and think about the whole experience. Think about planning something before and afterwards (for example, a dinner, a hike, kayaking, etc.). Sometimes the surrounding activities can add some extra oomph to make your proposal extra special.

How to choose where you should propose

Another common question people have when planning a proposal is how to decide on a proposal location. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. The choice depends entirely on you and your partner’s personalities and on your relationship. But here are a few tips that might help get you started.

  • Consider whether you and your partner would enjoy a more private proposal or one in a public location. You could also choose a middle ground of a public location with a private area (for example, a secluded area off of a hiking trail). Also, just because you want a private location doesn’t mean an at home proposal is your only option. Consider renting an Airbnb or a hotel room to step your private proposal up a notch if that appeals to you.
  • Consider whether there are any special or meaningful places to you and your partner. This could be something like a first date location or a place you visited and both really enjoyed.
  • Even if there isn’t a specific place you have in mind, you can think about what types of places you both enjoy. For example the mountains or the beach.
  • You can also think about what type of activities you enjoy doing together to come up with a location, such as traveling, backpacking, or camping.

If you’re planning a proposal in Colorado, check out this Colorado proposal location list!

Couple who just got engaged are kissing in front of La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica

How to choose when you should propose

Choosing when to propose is also important! Here are a few things to consider:

  • Consider whether you want to propose during a particular time of year or at a holiday. For example, maybe a certain season (such as fall) appeals to you and you think your partner would appreciate a proposal at that time.
  • Think about whether there are any other days that hold particular meaning, such as an anniversary.
  • Sometimes, practicality simply rules the day here, and you are going to want to propose at a time that lines up with a personal timeline you have.

Deciding what you are going to say

You’re probably going to want to say a little more than just “Will You Marry Me?”

Check out this guide to crafting an amazing proposal speech that will lead in perfectly to the big question!

Deciding on a photographer

Asking your partner to spend the rest of their life with you is absolutely one of the biggest moments in your relationship, and capturing your proposal is something you will not regret.

Even if you are choosing to have a more private proposal or you are camera shy, many photographers have a more candid style and are very adept at capturing moments as they happen and even from a hidden location!

Not to mention, some photographers are able to actually help you with quite a bit more than just the photography. When I work with clients as a proposal photographer and guide, I help with everything from location planning, proposal ideas, logistics, timelines, and more. Most people who are proposing have never done this before, and it can definitely help to have someone with experience on your side!

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, it is rare that everything on your big day will go exactly according to plan. It can really make a big difference to have a photographer that has helped you think through backup plans and will be able to keep you calm and collected on the day of.

Marriage proposal checklist for the big day

Here is a checklist to make sure you have everything ready for the big day:

  • The ring and insurance on the ring
  • A game plan for your proposal, including logistics and timing
  • A backup plan
  • A photographer to capture the moment
  • You’ve gone through a list of thoughts you want to remember to say
  • Any proposal decorations or supplies you want to use
  • You’ve asked the parents (if you’re going to do this)
  • You know what you want to do after the proposal to celebrate
Couple standing and holding hands on Guanella Pass in Colorado during peak fall folliage

More questions to consider (FAQ)

Do you want to get down on one knee?

How you propose is a very personal decision, and only you can know what is right for you and your partner. But many people consider getting down on one knee to be a tradition that is romantic and will never go out of style.

Which knee do you get on to propose?

A lot of people actually ask this question and luckily the answer is simple! It doesn’t matter! Choose whichever is more convenient for your proposal set up. 

Where should I keep the engagement ring before proposing?

Security is the top priority when thinking about where to keep the engagement ring before proposing, and having insurance is always a good idea. Next, you want to find a place where your partner will not be looking. If you need to keep the ring outside of the home, you can always keep it in a safe deposit box or leave it at the jeweler you bought it from.

Does the engagement ring box matter?

If it’s possible for your proposal activity and choice of clothing, it’s always better to use the engagement ring box. While not completely necessary, it can add to the presentation of your proposal. It also makes it less likely that you will lose the ring. If you are concerned with the bulkiness of the ring box in a pocket, you can look into getting a slim engagement ring box.

Let’s chat about your vision for your proposal!

Elopement Photographer Kim from Wild and Found Photography

Hi I’m Kim, a Denver, Colorado based photographer specializing in epic proposal photography in Colorado and worldwide! Photographing couples on such a special day is a true honor for me. But I’ve made it my mission to take it one step further than that. When you work with me, you’re getting more than just a photographer. I’m here to help you with all of the planning resources you need to plan the most amazing proposal ever! That includes everything from assistance with location planning, proposal ideas and logistics, plus lots more free resources. So you can forget the work, and focus on having fun!

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