By this point, I’m practically an Austin proposal photographer expert. I’ve fielded many last minute panicked texts from concerned guys, located over a dozen secret hiding spots, 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 chills every time.
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? 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 normal.
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.
Time of Day: Depending on your location, but as close to sunset as possible, or very early in the morning like sunrise, for best weather, light and lack of crowds. If you’re set on proposing outside: shooting close to solar noon results in harsh lighting and sunglasses. Ugh. Not exactly 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!
Places I don’t recommend: Auditorium Shores, Red Bud Isle, The Long Center during summer concerts outdoors, Zilker Park during ACL (closed)
Below, I’ve listed all my favorite proposal location ideas that I think are the most romantic locations for proposing in Austin.
Downtown Austin proposal places
If the city is your scene, try during the week to see if your favorite restaurant can get a table reserved in a well lit, private area. Not by the kitchen or trashcans. During the week or during happy hour is probably your best bet for this to happen.
- The Long Center is a a great choice for views of the skyline and easy to park/walk to.
- The Driskill is a beautiful, traditional, classy option and the staff is full service. They will set up flowers, have a bottle of champagne ready and offer tours to make it seem legit. This is a great idea at Christmas because of the giant tree in the lobby.
- 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. Please check with the hotel staff for suggestions.
- Azul Rooftop Bar has an incredible 20+ story view of downtown Austin and can be reserved ahead of time. Check out Dani & MC’s rainy, winter proposal.
- Make dinner reservations at Mattie’s and then a stroll around the grounds with the white peacocks. Surprise her with a photographer you booked on Instagram for a private couples’ session. Serenade her with a solo guitarist.
- Eberly Austin has beautiful light and a private dining space in the middle of the restaurant that will definitely surprise and delight your partner.
Wineries are the perfect spring and summer weekend activity away from Austin.
Fredricksburg 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 the easiest surprise ever!
- 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!
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.
- 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 the effort your partner put into her outfit and choose SUNRISE or a very close to sunset.
- 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 potential other photo shoots.
- Laguna Gloria has a beautiful gazebo 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 nice. The Zilker Botanical Garden is ours!
- SECRET GARDENS? Talk about incredible privacy and something unlike anyone else’s photos.
- Jennifer’s Gardens looks like an oasis in the middle of the city. Make it an evening your partner will NEVER forget and have flowers and candles (LED powered!) everywhere. This is great if you don’t want a public place.
- Sekrit Theater feels like it’s straight from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a popular spot for proposals day or night.
There are a million other places you could propose but these are my thoughts on places and activities that are easy to do.
Got somewhere in mind that has meaning for the two of you? Like a really cool private, personal location or an epic scavenger hunt across the city?
Email me with your idea & date(s) and we can compare calendars.
“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