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At this point, I am an Austin proposal photographer expert. I’ve fielded many last minute panicked texts from concerned guys, and even pretended to be a professional family photographer for a few. It’s a real treat to be a part of a surprise and I still get NERVOUS CHILLS every time.

Here are my tips for how to plan the perfect surprise proposal in Austin.

Before we start…

Location: Have you ever been set up for a surprise and find it out through context clues? Location is the key to a successful proposal. Choose a location that is easy to make up a story for, one that has a bit of background sentimentality or just something sweet. 

Do I have to propose on a weekend? NO! I’m also a full time wedding photographer and Saturdays will typically be booked 6-9 months out during busy fall/spring seasons. Consider choosing a non-Saturday day like Thursday or Monday for a total surprise. 

If you’re set on proposing outside consider the time of day: Choose as close to sunset as possible, or very early in the morning like sunrise, for best weather, light and lack of crowds. Look up “golden hour” and plan around that. Shooting close to solar noon results in raccoon eyes or squinting. Ugh. Not  romantic or the way to remember “That Moment.”

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 your public space just in case there is a conflicting event going on!

I recommend using the WeatherUnderground app or SunSurveyor to check sun position using your phone. Pre-scout your location so you know exactly where to head and what the light will look like at your proposal.

Decorations are encouraged with me!  Make your proposal special and show your partner you thought of the little things by decorating the spot with a blanket, candles, flowers and pictures of your favorite adventures. Doing this will a) give it away but b) wow your partner and make you look good.

Let’s get to the location ideas!

Below, I’ve listed my favorite proposal location ideas that I think are the most romantic locations for proposing in Austin.

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Downtown Austin Rooftop Proposal in the rain
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Laguna Gloria Austin Outdoor Art Museum Proposal

Downtown Austin proposal places

If the city is your scene or a restaurant proposal is kind of romantic, here are some suggestions. Skylines & patios with classy downtown vibes.

  • The Long Center is a a great choice for views of the skyline and easy to park/walk to.  
  • Azul Rooftop Bar has an incredible 20+ story view of downtown Austin. You feel like you’re in the middle of the city, andThe best views are in the far western corner of the pool deck which is usually open to the public and may not be available for a surprise proposal. Call them with your questions.
    • Dani & MC’s rainy, winter proposal. Please note, this proposal was like lightning in a bottle. It’s unlikely your proposal here will be completely the same due to weather, construction, or other events.
  • Fairmont Austin has a GORGEOUS bar with views of the Austin skyline. Rules & Regs is a great downtown rooftop location since the patio is huge, wraps around, and doesn’t require moving around a pool. They will set you up with champagne, rose petals and a private table to keep suspicions low.
  • Eberly Austin has beautiful light and a private dining space in the middle of the restaurant that will definitely surprise and delight your partner.
    • For any and all restaurants, I recommend calling and speaking to a manager first to make sure you’re allowed to take photographs. Set your time for just before dinner service that way you don’t disturb other restaurant patrons.
  • The Driskill is a beautiful, traditional, classy option and the staff is full service.
    • Check out Nico & Palavi‘s indoor proposal. I recommend proposing on the top balcony which is open air, but covered. But if it’s Christmas or super cold you may want to be indoors in front of the tree! Please check with the hotel staff for suggestions.
    • There is a photo shoot fee for the Driskill (like many hotels) but the quality of service and the beautiful locations inside and out make this a top tier choice year round, but especially during the holidays.
    • For $500, they can host you in a private event space and set the room how you envision for the proposal. This space would be completely private and give you access to decorate it as well. 

Winery proposals

Wineries are the perfect spring and summer weekend activity away from Austin.

Fredericksburg has a ton of great places to pick from – just call one and set it up secretly! Most wineries will be happy to “give you a tour of the vineyard” to the specific spot where I’ll be hiding with my camera. This is an easy and simple choice for proposing.

  • Hawk’s Shadow – Dripping Springs
  • Southhold Farm & Cellar is in Johnson City, so a bit further out of Austin but what a perfect weekend trip away! They only have private wine tastings and some of THE best views of the hill country at sunset. Tell her you’re on a wine tasting trip and I’ll be there to taste along with you, ready to jump into action when you’re about to propose!
Andy surprised Jaqui with a birthday trip to a winery in November. The look of surprise on her face is everything!!

Nature, parks and scenic overlook proposals

The most popular and with the best view of the water is at Mt. Bonnell. This is always a classic choice. The view is gorgeous and it’s a romantic place to watch the sun go down.

Just don’t expect to be alone for your proposal. If total privacy is desired, I would look at a different location.

Since it’s a location that faces due West and you can literally watch the sun set, it does get crowded on a pleasant day and VERY WARM in the Summer. Consider your partner’s level of dressiness and choose SUNRISE or very very close to sunset (or a cold day when no one is going to be outside)

  • Town Lake Boardwalk at dusk will give you the lake, trees, downtown skyline a clean, man-made spot to drop to your knee and a great bump out for night shots of downtown. Since it’s a hike and bike trail, you will have to deal with runners, dogs and potentially your location being occupied. Because of this, I recommend going the extra mile and decorating it to designate a spot.
    • We ran a bit late and missed sunset but here’s an example from December. Boardwalk Proposal
  • Laguna Gloria has a beautiful gazebo called the Temple of Love tucked away down a gravel pathway lined with string lights and trees. The grounds are gorgeous and reminiscent of an Italian villa so you really can’t go wrong wherever you pop the question.
  • Botanical gardens are always beautiful. The Zilker Botanical Garden is ours!

SECRET GARDENS

Talk about incredible privacy and something unlike anyone else’s photos.

  • Jennifer’s Gardens looks like a Moroccan dream in the middle of the city. Make it an evening your partner will NEVER forget and have flowers and candles everywhere. I think this is the most beautiful, romantic and sweet way to ask your person to spend the rest of their life with you.
  • Sekrit Theater feels like it’s straight from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a popular spot for proposals morning or evening. If you’re planning on proposing here at hard night (i.e. complete darkness) please understand I will have to add lights and therefore it may not work as a surprise proposal. Email me for more info.

There is a reservation and fee required to reserve both of these locations but for privacy and total surprises, it is 100% worth it.

Got somewhere in mind that has meaning for the two of you?

Email me with your thoughts & date(s) and let’s book this Austin proposal photographer.

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Despite neither being outdoorsy, Jeffery knew the way to propose to Raven was through a surprise trip to Enchanted Rock in Fredricksburg.

from our couples:

TESTIMONIALS

Caitlin went out of her way to make my proposal better than I could have imagined. Her pictures were out of this world.

WILLIAM - MT. BONNELL

My fiancé hired Caitlin for a surprise engagement! She did such an amazing job and I had no idea she was there for us! Her pictures are absolutely amazing and I’m so glad she was there to capture our day! It’s a day I will never forget.

JAQUI - SPICEWOOD VINEYARDS

My fiancé hired Caitlin to capture the day he proposed to me, and she did an absolutely amazing job!! She was extremely easy going throughout the day yet eager and responsive as we needed her. We so appreciate you, Caitlin! Thank you for allowing us to always cherish our special day.

Allison - Horseshoe Bay Resort

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