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Here is a guide to help you plan a surprise proposal in Miami. I’ve incorporated as much information as possible from my over 10 years of photographing surprise proposals. I’ve encountered so many different situations so I decided to put together an informative post to help couples plan for this momentous occasion.
- Decide where you want to propose.
The first step when you plan a surprise proposal is to choose the location. Do you want to propose at a beautiful Miami location – such as the beach before sunset, Vizcaya, or Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, for example? Or do you want to propose at a location that has some personal meaning or significance to both of you? Think about what kind of location your partner would appreciate. Your partner might love the natural beauty of the ocean, a more elegant location such as Vizcaya, or a beautiful botanical garden such as Fairchild.
There are several options for how to propose. Options 1 and 4 are great for people that want the proposal to be a surprise. Options 2 and 3 are perfect for people that want to know about the proposal and get dressed up for the occasion. I am also open to any other idea you may have in mind!
Keep it a total surprise! Your partner has NO idea you are planning a proposal. You simply plan it as an outing. For example, perhaps you make plans to check out the Cape Florida Lighthouse one day. Or you’re staying at a hotel on the beach and you ask if they want to take a walk to the water at sunrise or before sunset (make sure you know your partner will likely agree to what you’re suggesting!).
Some people, in order to get their partner on board with being at a certain place at a certain time, might create plans to get dinner afterward. So say you have a reservation to eat at Smith & Wollensky at 7pm, you plan to be at South Pointe Park to propose at 5:30pm or 6pm. Or you might make plans to meet up with a friend afterward (some sort of ruse that they would believe).
For proposals that are a complete surprise, arrange with your photographer ahead of time the exact proposal spot and time. I then arrive a little early to be in place and will either follow you from a distance, or will remain discreetly out of sight as best as possible to capture the proposal.
Let your partner know you are going to propose on a certain day and time. The surprise element can be that they don’t know where you’re taking them to. This can be a great option for partners that don’t like to be surprised AND they like to get dressed up. Perhaps they would want to get their hair, makeup and nails done if they know a photographer will be capturing the proposal. I’ve photographed several proposals where the person knew their partner was proposing, they just didn’t know exactly where or how they were going to propose. In situations like this, sometimes I’ve met the couple and treated it as an actual photo shoot where the proposal takes place in middle of the session, or I captured the proposal discreetly from a distance and then met the couple after the proposal.
If you want to maintain the surprise element of the proposal, but you know your partner would want to be dressed up for the occasion, another option is to tell them you hired a photographer to take professional photos “just because”, or because you won a free session or something of that nature, or perhaps they were running a New Year’s Eve special, etc. This way they can get dressed up for the photos, but they don’t know about the proposal. Then coordinate with your photographer about how you plan to propose in middle of the photo shoot. What I’ve done several times is that after perhaps 5 minutes of photographing and setting the couple up in different poses, I tell whoever is being proposed to, to face a certain direction (for example: face the water) and that is their partner’s cue to stand behind them and go on one knee. I’ll then tell the person facing the water to turn around and look at their partner 🙂
I can pretend to be a student photographer and ask if I can photograph both of you to test out the lighting. Then I can place you and your partner in the best possible spot based on the lighting, people that are around, etc. I would take a photo – I can even show it to you on my digital camera to make sure you approve, and then you can say – do you mind taking one more? Once I go to take another photo, you get down on one knee and propose to your partner!
This can be a good option if you KNOW your partner will definitely agree to be photographed, and also if you’re concerned about being in the best spot at the agreed upon location (I am able to position both of you in the best place based on wind, lighting, avoiding people that are around, etc.)
How important is it to have some privacy or huge crowds around? If you want less people around, consider proposing at a time when the location you’re thinking of proposing at is less crowded. You can speak to the venue and the photographer to see what they recommend. MAKE SURE you speak to the venue ahead of time to ensure there are no events taking place. For example, Vizcaya sometimes will close off certain areas if there is an event taking place. Also, if you plan on proposing on private property (for example, at a restaurant, on hotel property, etc.), you must obtain permission from them ahead of time! A lot of hotels and private locations do not allow professional photography without getting permission first.
If you don’t mind having people around, a weekend afternoon on the beach will likely have people around (and cheering for you!) when you propose.
- Give yourself enough time to arrive at the location.
Traffic in Miami can be crazy depending on the direction you’re going in, time of day, etc. There are a lot of factors to take into account such as if it’s a holiday weekend, if there’s an event taking place, or if it’s simply rush hour. Check ahead of time to see how much time you need to arrive at the pre-arranged location and give yourself some buffer time (include finding a parking spot if that pertains to you). Also take into account how much time your partner needs to get ready. If you know they tend to run late, perhaps tell them you need to meet 30 minutes earlier to ensure a prompt arrival at the location. A lot of places close early, such as Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. If you are planning a sunset session on the beach, arriving too late can mean having no light for your photos. This is just one of the important parts for how to plan a surprise proposal – keeping to a time schedule so there’s enough natural light available.
- Tips for getting the Best Proposal Photos
So, you planned out the entire proposal. You have the ring. You have the location. You have the day and time. You even have your speech planned. The day has come and you want to ensure you get the best proposal photos. Here are a few extra tips to make your photos even better!
- If it’s a windy day and your partner has long hair, try to have them face a direction where their hair is blowing out of their face. For example, on the beach, often times just facing north or south will mean the difference between your partners hair covering their face (so you won’t be able to see their expression in the photographs) or being blown out of their face so you can see their facial expressions. You might also suggest they bring along a hair tie, hair clips, etc.
- Before you propose, you might want to remove any bags, purses, etc. your partner may be carrying. This isn’t essential, but just a suggestion. You can place them 10-20 feet away so it’s not a distraction in the pictures.
- Stay on your knee as long as possible. This gives the photographer time to really capture the moment.
- If all else fails and you get nervous and hair was blowing everywhere or people were blocking the shot, etc. No worries, we can do a take two to set up the perfect shot and no one will know the difference!
- Backup Plans
When you’re beginning to plan a surprise proposal, you might wonder what to do if it happens to be a rainy day. If you’re from out of town, I suggest booking the proposal session on the earliest day possible. First of all, you won’t have to be nervous the entire trip! Second of all, in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, you have more of a chance of being able to postpone the proposal for another day (if your photographer has availability of course). It just gives you a little more flexibility if there are other days available as a backup.
- Communicating with your Photographer
Accidents and emergencies happen even though we never plan for them. When you plan a surprise proposal, it’s super important to let your photographer know how you prefer to communicate in both the days and weeks leading up to the proposal, and the day of the proposal itself. Do you prefer email or text message? Let your photographer know the best way to stay in contact.
For example, I had a proposal planned for a specific spot on the beach on New Year’s Eve. I arrived early and noticed that the area was being cordoned off. Turns out they were closing that area off to spectators for fireworks safety. I texted my client immediately and we quickly adjusted the plan. He would simply walk to a different area of the beach to propose.
For surprise proposals, I ask couples to send me a photo beforehand so I know who to look for that day, and what they’re both wearing the day of the proposal so I can spot them easily from a distance.
It’s also really helpful when I receive a text message just before letting me know that they’re coming down from the hotel, or they’ve just arrived at the location, etc. Stay in contact and let your photographer know what’s happening!