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.
Step 1: 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.
Step 2: Pick your date
Do I have to propose on a weekend? NO! I’m also a full time wedding photographer and Saturdays will typically be booked 7-14 months out during busy fall/spring seasons. In fact, I suggest choosing a non-Saturday day like Thursday or Monday. Weekdays will be cheaper for hotels, flights and just all around easier to navigate Austin.
Step 3: Arrange for it to be a special day.
Show your person you’re thinking about them and encourage getting dressed up/doing hair/ makeup or whatever is going to make them happy to be photographed.
If you’re planning on proposing outside consider the time of day: The best light is Golden Hour which is 1 hour prior to sunset or 30 minutes after sunrise. Choosing a time close to noon-1pm results in unflattering shadows. Not at exactly magical or the way to remember “That Moment.”
Nature and outdoor areas photograph best during the late afternoon/early evening hours. Make sure you research your public space just in case there is a conflicting event going on!
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 luxe picnic, or order a flower arrangement and have some framed pictures of your favorite adventures. Doing this will wow your partner and make you look like you thought of everything.
Austin proposal Location guide
Below, I’ve listed my favorite proposal location ideas that I think are the most romantic and photogenic locations for proposing in Austin.SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
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.
Azul Rooftop Bar
Located at the Westin hotel the Azul Rooftop Bar has an incredible 20+ story view that feels like you’re in the middle of the city, and floating amongst the clouds on a rainy day.
The 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. I don’t advise showing up, unless you’re willing to wait. ETA: for a fee, a small corner with a set of chairs can be reserved.
Photographs best: Year round. This photographs well at sunset or dusk for a romantically lit set up.
- REAL PROPOSAL: 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. However, I think that’s the beauty of a proposal!
- REAL PROPOSAL: Michael & Sarah
The Long Center
The Long Center is a a great choice for views of the skyline and a low-key walk up. This is a centrally located location and usually has free, or cheap parking close by. A popular location for engagement sessions due to it’s wide open concrete space and views of downtown. The colorful glass wall on the building is another popular backdrop. The patio area is popular with kids, skaters, workout groups and other photography sessions making it easy for me to hide in plain sight for your proposal. Be aware of the date as public concerts and other events that may have this area reserved.
Photographs best: Spring and Fall. The Long Center is a great location for sunrise or a blue hour proposal with the city lights twinkling.
NOTE – The white columns get wrapped like candy canes starting in December. We can avoid this mostly by having a blanket set up on the lawn or on the lighted platform. Also in the spring and summer concert season the patio area can often be booked out completely. We should consider moving slightly west towards Doug Sahm Hill or to a new location for plan B.
Skyline views and retro boats
New proposal location for the future is Retro Boat ATX behind the 4 Seasons in downtown Austin. If the hotels and other locations you want are booked up for private events try this spot as a backup. Surprise your partner with a boat ride in the morning or a happy hour cruise at sunset.
Town Lake Boardwalk
Known also as the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk or simply the Boardwalk in Austin, to new transplants, this hike and bike trail is another popular destination for photos that just “feels like Austin.” It’s very modern with clean lines and endless sky. A dusk proposal will give you views of the water, trees and a peek of the downtown skyline if you choose the right spot.
Photographs best: All-year round but does get very warm in the summer. Since it’s a hike and bike trail, you will have to deal with runners, dogs and potentially your location being occupied with other photo sessions. I highly recommend having friends or family set up some decor to make the spot obviously reserved for us.
REAL PROPOSAL: We ran a bit late and missed sunset but here’s an example from December. Boardwalk Proposal
There are a couple great locations at Laguna Gloria to choose from here. The most popular is a hidden gazebo called the Temple of Love. Take a stroll with your boo, enjoy nature and some cool sculptural art, and “stumble” upon this gorgeous spot. It’s tucked away down a gravel pathway about 6 minutes from the entrance. The path is lined with string lights to double down on the romance.
Your other option is to get to Laguna Gloria early and secure a spot inside the Villa with the couch and the beautiful natural light. **This is great for midday or summer proposals if you can’t get an evening time slot.**
You must make your photo session reservation in advance through the Contemporary Austin’s website. Or I can add it to your quote if you prefer.
Photographs best: year round due to the lush greenery. However I recommend early morning sessions in the summer months of June, July, August and September to beat the heat. This location is super close to Mt. Bonnell, but more artistic and less hiking necessary.
Secret Garden and Glass house Locations
Talk about incredible privacy and something unlike anyone else’s photos.
Secret Theater is a true Austin gem and a perfect place for a surprise proposal. It’s a total find in East Austin that feels like it’s straight from Alice in Wonderland. Some people choose to really go all out with the decorations, and some prefer it simple and classic as is.
It’s a popular spot for proposals, family sessions, seniors, microweddings and just about all things “weird Austin.”
Photographs best: Fall mornings or Summer evenings. The light is super dappled in the afternoons and the mosquitos are vicious during summer. It’s the most magical setting for a proposal if you can RESERVE AHEAD and book golden hour. 1 hour session slot is enough time for us 3 if you’re not planning on setting anything up or have guests. Any extra people will require the extra booking time.
Reserve your proposal timeslot on their website.
It’s hard to “stumble upon” this greenhouse as it’s in the middle of a neighborhood in East Austin but with a little backstory about a wine tasting or even the truth about a glass house in a backyard is worth trying, depending on your partner’s clever mind.
REAL PROPOSAL: December morning proposal at Sekrit Theater