Q: I’m planning to propose to my girlfriend and would love the moment documented. How can I have a photographer there without her knowing?

How exciting! A lot of thought goes into planning a proposal, so deciding to have it photographed is a wonderful idea! Capturing this moment will create wonderful keepsakes and it’s a great way to later share a private (and exciting!) moment with your family and friends. It’s safe to say you’re already doing a lot of things secretly. So hiring a photographer is just another detail that will take some quiet planning.

If you already have a location in mind, you could start with an online search for surprise proposals in your chosen location. You might want to enlist a friend of your girlfriend’s to help with the choice, if you’re having trouble narrowing it down. Finding a photographer who has already shot a surprise proposal or has worked in that location is not mandatory, but it could definitely help things go more smoothly on the day.

Once you’ve selected a photographer, keep in mind that they are now another key component in your proposal plan.  It’s important to be open to their suggestions on time of day, location and other elements, as they are an expert in photography and will know how to capture things best. Definitely plan to meet with them in the location where you are going to propose beforehand. Together you can work out logistics such as the following:

Which direction will you and your girlfriend be coming from?
At what point will you stop and propose?
Will there be a signal you give to the photographer?
Will you get down on one knee when you ask?
What is the best vantage point for the photographer?
What is the rain plan (if outdoors)?

Working out important details while standing in the proposal location will most certainly help things align when the day arrives.  Also your photographer will now know what you look like, which is a huge help!

On the  proposal day, be certain you have your photographer’s number in your cell phone (a previous proposal client of mine put my cell in their phone under their best friend’s name, so that texting wouldn’t look suspicious!). The morning of, text your photographer to let them know what you and your girlfriend are wearing so that you are more easily identifiable.  It’s important to realize that on the day, there can be bumps in the plan. Keeping your photographer informed is very important.  I usually ask for a signal text when the couple is about ten minutes away from the site.

Lastly, decide if you’re going to reveal that you’ve hired a photographer or keep it secret.  Revealing the photographer can make for adorable reaction images and you can do a mini-engagement shoot directly afterwards, which can be fun.  However, not telling her can make for a pretty emotional surprise gift to be given at a later point (say on the wedding day!).  The impact of a framed image from the day you proposed? That could be a pretty spectacular wedding gift!