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I’m Jill, a natural light engagement & wedding photographer based in New Jersey — and I’m so excited that you’re here!

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 I have even been proposed to myself, so I have learned quite a bit along the way!

Quick backstory about my own proposal. My fiancé, Matt, proposed to me on a sailboat… which, I honestly would not recommend, cause those things TIP! But it was absolutely perfect. However, he sure was stressed. So I totally understand how overwhelming and anxiety-inducing this entire process could be, which is why I’m here to help alleviate some of that stress with 7 actionable tips about how YOU can 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.” The main diversion for my own proposal was that Matt had just gotten me an Apple Watch the week before for our anniversary – now, that’s definitely a costly diversion, but it really made me doubt that a ring was in my future! The second diversion (yes, he was definitely thinking this one through) was that because we were going on a trip for my photography, 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

So I admittedly might be a little biased here, but 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. In terms of timing, most photographers (myself included) prefer to shoot either right after sunrise or right before sunset, because that’s when the light is softest and dreamiest (it matters, trust me).

It’s important to talk to your photographer ahead of time because chances are, they have experienced way 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 really 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 feeling too unnatural, gives your photographer enough time to get several different shots of that moment, and of your future 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 one second and then hop back up immediately, they may only get one shot of that moment – which may be totally fine based on what you are 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 (God forbid) slip off their finger and get lost in oblivion. 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 literally $3-$8 on Amazon and I swear are a total life saver. This is the one I use – my ring is a little bit too big but I haven’t had the chance to get it resized yet, and the adjuster I use is perfect 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. Bring a fake press-on nail kit from CVS in case she truly doesn’t suspect a thing and hasn’t had a manicure in way too long.

My favorite press-on nails are from CVS or Target and are called the Kiss ImPRESS False Nails. In terms of color, you can’t go wrong with pale pink or nude!

5. Share your iPhone location ahead of time

This is another one that has been an absolute livesaver for me as the 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. This 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 almost fiancé will catch on to that and ask who you’re texting.

Along those lines, if your photographer is the same sex 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 future fiancé 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 future fiancé 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! You’ve got this!!! Congratulations again, and get out there and plan the perfect proposal.

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Hi, I’m Jill!

I’m a natural light engagement & 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.

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