How to plan the perfect surprise proposal in AustinBy this point, I’m practically a proposal photographer expert. I’ve fielded many questions from concerned guys, scheduled over a dozen secret hiding spots, and even pretended to be a professional family photographer for some. Here are my tips for how to plan the perfect surprise proposal in Austin.

Location Have you ever been set up for a surprise and find it out through context clues? Or led to an event and the gig was up before you got there? Location is the key to a successful proposal. My recommendation? Choose a location that is easy to make up a story for, one that has a bit of background sentimentality or just something you two would normally do together.  It will be easier to keep the secret going and your significant other won’t be as suspicious.

Time of Day Unlike weddings, there aren’t strict times and social codes to adhere to. I typically like to schedule the session close to sunset for best weather, light and views. Although, this somewhat depends on the location you chose.

Below, I’ve listed 8 (holy moly) location suggestions that are almost *all* tested, tried and truly legit locations for popping the question.

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If downtown is key, try calling a nice restaurant downtown during the week on their off hours to see if you can get a secluded spot to set up props like balloons, signs, candles and photos of the two of you. Perhaps even try re-creating your first date, or a sentimental date spot will woo her AND keep her from wondering why you’ve been so fidgety all night.

  • The Long Center is a *classic choice* either down on the patio area or the top floor of the adjacent parking garage.
  • Parkside has a special event area upstairs that is all weather and has a great view of downtown 6th street.
  • Heck, any parking garage downtown after 5pm will be empty and a fantastically unique location to propose. Line the way at dusk with candles, string lights and rose petals and she’ll be so impressed you thought of all the styled details.
  • The Seaholm Project is industrial, urban and super chic. It’s hardly ever crowded, and if you *really* want to make an impression, reserve a romantic dinner for that night at the swanky & new Boiler Nine. The views of the lake and downtown from the outside patio are some of the best in the city.

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If you guys are more of an outdoorsy couple or you think your better half might enjoy a quiet spot with nature views, I’ve listed 6 good spots below.

  • 360 Bridge Overlook. This place used to be a secret alternative to the popular Mt. Bonnell but it seems to be featured quite a bit more these days. It’s a bit of a hike to get up, so get there early!
  • Austin’s nature and city parks have wonderfully maintained. We are also lucky enough to be in the best area for state parks within a 45 minute drive. Depending on your idea of fun, Pedernales Falls SP to the west, and McKinney Falls SP just to the east of town are a good way to enjoy nature without too much hiking & sweating.
  • Popular with runners, the Town Lake Boardwalk at dusk will give you the lake, trees, a most importantly clean, man-made spot to drop to your knee and a great bump out for night shots of downtown. Modern, clean and easy to get to! What more could you want?
  • Laguna Gloria has a beautiful gazebo tucked away down a gravel path way lined with string lights and trees. Intimate AND no hiking required!
  • The tippy top of the Hope Art Gallery/Graffiti park at 6th & Baylor. It’s the perfect place to watch a sunset or a sunrise over downtown. There’s not very much parking and it can be difficult to avoid a crowd but it’s the most unique option.
  • Botanical gardens are always a safe bet with pretty flowers and perfectly tucked away spots. In south Austin the Zilker Botanical Garden  is a perfect location for that. Call ahead to check hours and prices.

Obviously the smaller the space, the harder it is for me to “hide” but the surprise on her face will be worth all of it! There is so much less stress on all of us to get the timing “just right” because it’s a split second between you on one knee, and her (hopefully) saying “yes!!” and giving you a giant hug.

The most important thing to remember here, guys, is lighting. 

Nature and outdoor areas photograph best during the late afternoon/early evening hours when the sun is just about to set, aka “golden hour.”  Make sure you research just in case there is a conflicting event going on! Popular locations like the Long Center during Christmas/Nutcracker season and Mt. Bonnell at sunset will have a lot of foot traffic to contend with.

Places I don’t recommend: Auditorium Shores, Red Bud Isle, Pfluger Pedestrian bridge, The Long Center at Christmas or summer, Zilker Park during ACL or the Trail of Lights and the Greenbelt during the summer.

Finally, these are just a few of my suggestions! I got asked a lot of location opinion questions last year from out of town couples and wanted to put all my thoughts together in one post. Got somewhere in mind that has meaning for the two of you? Say, your first kiss? Or a really cool private, personal location? Let’s talk details.

Hiring a professional photographer for your proposal shows your investment in the start of this new chapter of your relationship. It also makes for some really heckin’ cool photographs that your special person, your mom, her mom, your aunts, uncles and grandparents will love. Oh and for Facebook bragging too. Plus, if you decide that I’m pretty cool and good at my job and want to continue with hiring me for the wedding, we’ll already be comfy with each other and your family will already know me! Be like Peter & Mallory and hire me for all sessions! Bonus points all around.

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