By Lauren Fair Photography

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I’m Jill, a wedding photographer based in New Jersey — and I’m so excited that you’re here! Follow along with the blog to get a glimpse into the heart behind my work.

How to Plan the Perfect Proposal

Are you thinking of proposing to your significant other? First of all, congratulations! Second of all, you are in the right place. I have photographed many proposals, and have even been proposed to myself, so I’ve learned quite a bit along the way!

A super quick backstory about my own proposal — my now-husband, Matt, proposed to me on a sailboat… which I honestly would not recommend, because boy do those things tip! But it was absolutely perfect. However, he was extremely stressed. So I completely understand how overwhelming and anxiety-inducing the entire process could be, which is why I’m here to help alleviate some of that stress with seven actionable tips to help you plan the perfect proposal.

1. Come up with a diversion.

Now, let me preface this by saying I am never a proponent for lies in a relationship, but in this case a little white lie never hurt nobody – and sometimes it can even help make for a really amazing proposal! It usually helps to have a backstory or an idea of why you are taking your future fiancé down to the beach on a weekday evening, or why they should get dressed up nicely to “just go to dinner.”

One diversion to throw me off before my own proposal was that Matt had just gotten me an Apple Watch the week before for our anniversary, primarily to give me the impression that I probably wasn’t getting a ring anytime soon. Now, that’s definitely not the cheapest diversion, but it really made me doubt that a proposal was in my future! The second diversion (yes, he was definitely thinking this one through) was that since we were going on a trip for me to shoot a client’s engagement session, he wanted to plan our one free day to let me focus on work instead. And thus, I unknowingly allowed him to plan my proposal.

Other great diversions I’ve seen clients come up with are:

1) Zac and Natalie were from Ohio, and often visit New York City for Zac’s work. Zac planned an entire trip based around “work” and told Natalie they were going out for a client dinner. Instead, he took her down to Brooklyn Bridge Park, asked her to take a selfie with him, then dropped to one knee and popped the question!

2) Tyler and Christie were celebrating not only Christie’s birthday, but also picking up their new puppy! A few days before her birthday, Tyler suggested going to dinner at their favorite spot down the shore. Before dinner, he brought her down to the beach where they first talked about spending the rest of their lives together and asked her to marry him.

3) Luke told Alex his family was taking family photos at their farm that day, however instead he had planned a gorgeous proposal and engagement dinner on their property! He told her that the photographer (me!) was taking some photos of the family’s tractors first, and then brought her to a truck bed full of flowers where he popped the question.

2. Hire a professional photographer.

Although I might be a little biased here, hiring a photographer is a great way to make sure you have every special moment captured! Coming from someone who has been proposed to, there are SO many emotions you experience in that instant, and a photographer who knows what they’re doing will be able to document each gasp, each laugh, and each tear. Not only that, but they will also have thoughts on location, timing, and lighting that you may not be thinking about.

It’s important to talk to your photographer ahead of time because chances are, they have experienced far more proposals than you have! When I work with clients to plan a proposal, I always offer a complimentary consultation before they book with me to chat through the entire process and explain what my role will be that day. Your photographer should be willing to stay hidden, or at the very least inconspicuous, so your future fiancé doesn’t suspect anything is awry before you pop the question.

3. Stay down on one knee for at least 5 seconds.

I know this one can be tough to remember in the moment, but it is one of my all time favorite pieces of advice to give to a client who is proposing. Staying down on one knee for as long as possible, without it feeling too unnatural, gives your photographer enough time to get several different shots of that moment and of your fiancé’s reaction.

Chances are, your photographer will start off a bit farther away from you two to remain out of sight, and then once you get down on one knee they will head closer to get different angles and closer reaction photos. If you pop down onto one knee for a quick moment and get back up immediately, they may only get one shot of that moment – which may be totally fine if that’s all you’re looking for, but as someone who has been in the shoes of capturing one of the most important moments of a couple’s life thus far, I always appreciate some extra time to get the shot.

4. Buy a ring size adjuster.

If you think the engagement ring might be a bit too big (or even if you just aren’t sure) buy a ring size adjuster so they can wear it right away without worrying if it will fall off! The last thing you want is to give your new fiancé the ring of their dreams and then have it slip off their finger and get lost somewhere. Better to be safe than sorry – so have the ring adjuster on hand! Your fiancé will be SO impressed with you that you thought of that detail, and feel free to take all the credit. Plastic ring adjusters are only $3-$8 on Amazon and are a total life saver. This is the one I used for nearly a year before I got my ring resized, and it was the perfect way to keep it safe and snug on my ring finger.

5. For the ladies, bring press-on nails.

If your girl is like most girls, she will not want her ratty, un-manicured hands in photos – regardless of how beautiful her new ring is. If you’ve done a great job creating diversions and convincing her that nothing out of the ordinary is going on, she will probably not suspect that she should be getting her nails done ahead of time. My favorite press-on nails are from Kiss ImPRESS and you can order them on Amazon or buy from CVS, Walgreens, or Target. In terms of color, you can’t go wrong with pale pink or nude! Again, she will be so imPRESSed (no pun intended).

5. Share your iPhone location ahead of time.

This is another one that has been an absolute live saver for me as a photographer, but also super helpful for family and friends who may be hiding out nearby! If you have an iPhone, share your location with your photographer or family/friends so they can track you in the moment. That way, you won’t need to be suspiciously on your phone frantically texting everyone beforehand saying “we’re five minutes away” or “we’re walking up now.” Chances are, your partner will catch on to that and ask who you’re texting. Along those same lines, if your photographer is the same gender as the person you are proposing to and you think it may raise a red flag, save their name in your phone as a different name! I always say to save my name as “Ben” instead of “Jill.” Everyone has a friend named Ben, right?

6. Have champagne on hand to pop and celebrate!

Because who doesn’t love champagne?! Also, if your proposal is anything like mine was, you will probably want to chug some champagne afterwards (because poor stressed out Matt certainly did), plus it’s always a fun prop for photos! I never say no to a champagne spray shot. There is nothing like popping a bottle of Moët to celebrate finally being done with simultaneously the best and most stressful/overwhelming/surreal moment of your life.

7. Plan something special for afterwards.

You know your partner better than anyone! Plan something afterwards that feels right for you. Some of my clients have had all of their friends and family hidden, waiting to pop out and surprise their new fiancé and celebrate all together – while others know their fiancé would prefer to celebrate just the two of them and reach out to tell people one by one. Spoiler alert: the latter fiancé was me! I am relatively introverted in nature, and Matt knew that I would want it to be just the two of us after the proposal. After our proposal, we drank champagne and FaceTimed friends and family, then got ready for dinner and had an amazing night at a restaurant that I’ve always wanted to go to. For me, this was perfect. But your partner may be different, and like I said – you know them better than anyone! But be sure to think of the “after” and have something special in mind.

Now take a deep breath – you are going to propose to the love of your life, and you’ve got this! Congratulations again, and get out there and plan the perfect proposal.

1. Come up with a diversion.
2. Hire a professional photographer.
3. Stay down on one knee for at least 5 seconds.
4. Buy a ring size adjuster.
5. For the ladies, bring press-on nails.
5. Share your iPhone location ahead of time.
6. Have champagne on hand to pop and celebrate!
7. Plan something special for afterwards.

If you liked this post, check out my favorite NJ and NYC engagement session locations.

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