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 Friday 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 at Christmas or summer (concerts outdoors), Zilker Park during ACL or the Trail of Lights.
Below, I’ve listed all my favorite proposal location ideas that I think are the most romantic locations for proposing in Austin.
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 an expected choice down on the patio area. Great 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. Check out Nico & Palavi‘s indoor proposal. I recommend proposing on the top balcony floor for best privacy, but if it’s Christmas or wintertime you may want to be indoors. Please check with the hotel staff.
- Make dinner reservations at Mattie’s and then a stroll around the grounds with the white peacocks. Surprise her with a photographer you found on Instagram for a couples’ session.
- Eberly Austin has beautiful light and a private dining space in the middle of the restaurant that will definitely wow.
Wineries in Dripping Springs & beyond
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
- Spicewood Vineyards
- Fat Ass
- Pontotac Winery
- 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.
Nature, parks and scenic overlooks
- 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.
- It does get crowded and VERY WARM in the summer, so if sweat and onlookers aren’t your thing, choose SUNRISE or a more private location – maybe check out some of the golf course/resorts around the lakes and have all your friends meet you there with champagne and signs.
- 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. This has to happen exactly at sunset or sunrise in order to get the best photos.
- 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.
- Botanical gardens are always nice. The Zilker Botanical Garden is ours!
- Want something like Morocco but also a super private, SECRET GARDEN? 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 a flowers and tea candles (LED powered!) everywhere. This is great if you don’t want a public place.
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?
Not quite sure when or where you’ll pop the question, but thinking strongly about it? 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