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Tips to Pull Off a Surprise Proposal + 10 Unique Ideas

Looking to pull off the perfect surprise proposal? Check out our latest article for all our top tips and tricks.

By Jennifer Prince

Surprise Proposal
Photo by Creatrix Photography

The First Look ✨

Life affords many surprises. While there’s the wrong kind—cracking your iPhone screen or a flat tire—many unexpected circumstances are oh-so-right. Popping the question is one of those, but keeping it a secret can be difficult.

If you’re trying to pull off a surprise proposal, there are ways to fly under the radar. Below, our experts share a number of under-the-radar tips on how to plan a surprise wedding proposal, so you'll have no issues in planning that special moment without your partner knowing.

Does an Epic Proposal Need to Be a Surprise?

How to Pull Off a Surprise Proposal | ZolaPhoto Credit // Pixabay

Surprise wedding proposals aren’t for everyone. Catching your partner off-guard can be exciting, but there are a few cues that it may not be an ideal way to ask. Gauge what’s best for you and your significant other before you shock them by popping the question. Here are a few things couples should think about before doing a surprise wedding proposal:

  • Be sure that you’ve talked about your future together. Topics such as kids, moving for a job, and—of course—marriage should be touched on before taking the leap and asking.
  • If there’s ever a question about which partner should propose, then maybe you should ask each other. Going on a mini vacation or organizing a special dinner can create the right atmosphere for you to propose together.
  • Some people hate surprises. You know your significant other best. If they genuinely cringe at the mere thought of surprise proposal ideas, then forgo an unexpected ask.
  • When in doubt, interrogate. If you’re unsure about what to do, ask them during one of your “we want to be together forever” convos. The fact that you’re already talking about marriage means that they want to be with you. Use the conversation as a springboard to see what would work best.

How to Pull Off the Best Surprise Proposals

1. Be careful who you tell about your epic proposal

Your friends and family could have the best intentions, but some have loose lips. Others get so nervous about keeping a secret that they act awkwardly and arouse suspicion. If you need to rely on others to pull off your surprise proposal, use caution. Remind them that it’s essential to keep their eye on the prize and not let one word—or glance— slip.

2. Ensure that your marriage proposal is well planned.

Chances are your SO will be clued in if you’re acting nervous or distracted. Don’t leave the planning of your surprise proposal to the last minute. Have everything in place, such as a beautiful setup and a proposal photographer. If others are involved, be sure that they are clear on their role and know exactly what to do when. A well-organized plan will help you relax and act naturally until it’s time to pop the question.

3. Guard your devices before you pop the question.

The last thing you want your partner to do is to read a stray text that pops in. Put conversations with everyone involved on mute. Turn off notifications if you have to do so. Your faraway mom may send you a “good luck popping the question” text. Yikes! How do you explain that to your partner? It’s best to keep track of your smartphone, but don’t let that spark suspicion, either. Just make sure there are no accidental slips, so it can remain a total surprise.

4. Distract them to throw them off the trail.

If you’re afraid that they’ll sense something is coming, throw them off course. Have your SO anticipate a marriage proposal at a different time or location than you planned. When they assume that you’ll be popping the question next month, imagine their shock when you propose this week. Distraction can be one of the best ways to divert their attention from what’s going on.

5. Hide the engagement ring and anything that has to do with it.

In the words of Antoine Dodson, “Hide yo ring, hide yo box, hide yo bag.” Oh, wait—that’s not what he said? Well, it’s what he would have said if someone was asking him about the best surprise proposal ideas. That said, don’t leave anything—ring, box, receipt, and for heaven’s sake, the jewelry store bag—where your partner can find it.

6. Stick to the routine.

Unless you’re an ultra-spontaneous couple, changing plans can be a big red flag. Your partner may already know a ring is coming, and senses can heighten at anything out of the norm. When planning surprise wedding proposals, it’s best to develop a plan that includes your everyday routine. Ask while at your favorite restaurant on a Tuesday night. Pop the question at your favorite team’s next home game. Keep it simple and undetectable.

7. Don’t use a joint credit card or account to purchase the ring.

When your charge card bill is double what it typically is, your SO will be looking at line items. Another big surprise-spoiler is a high-dollar charge—or possibly any charge—from XYZ jewelry store. Do your best to pay cash, use store credit, or get a new card to pay.

Ready for some covert operations? No matter what attempts you make, your partner may be alerted if they’re naturally suspicious or a super sleuth. If they figure it out, change course and start with a new plot. No matter the method, doing your best to plan the ultimate surprise proposal will pay off in the long run.

Pros and Cons

While a surprise marriage proposal can be exciting, whether or not you should actually do one comes down to each specific couple. The best way to gauge if this is the best proposal route for you is by simply weighing the pros and cons. Depending on your relationship, any number of these may apply. Take a look at the pros and cons below and consider them in relation to your relationship.


  • Fond memories. When many people look back at getting engaged, the surprise is what's greatly admired and remembered.

  • Creativity and dedication. Your partner may deeply appreciate the creativity, time, and work put into a special surprise proposal.

  • Tradition. Many significant others consider the surprise aspect of a proposal necessary and, thus, part of the whole tradition.


  • Uncertainty. If you're uncertain whether or not your partner is ready to get engaged, don't spring a surprise proposal—especially not in front of other people.

  • Keeping the secret. Proposal planning can be difficult to pull off in secret. If you're worried you'll give it away or that any suspicious behavior will come off badly, skip the secrecy.

  • Not into surprises. Surprise engagements don't excite everybody. If your partner isn't typically a fan of surprises (or you aren't a fan of pulling them), don't try to force it.

10 Surprise Proposal Ideas

How to Pull Off a Surprise Proposal | Zola Photo Credit // Pixabay

To no one's surprise, planning a proposal can be intimidating. Even more so when the proposal is meant to be a surprise. In case you have no clue where to begin or need some inspiration, we've gathered ten of our favorite surprise marriage proposal ideas. Find them below!

1. Recreate a movie scene

If you and your partner are big film fans—or fans of one film, in particular—base your surprise proposal on a certain scene. This will be easier if the scene itself is a proposal (à la Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, and Crazy Rich Asians), but don't be discouraged if it isn't. Even Star Wars and Lord of the Rings moments can have a proposal built into them. You can take this as far as you'd like, with a special setting, costumes, or the movie playing in the background. Surprise your SO with the set up and performance, followed by asking them to marry you.

2. Take advantage of a holiday

If your partner loves a particular holiday, try to plan your proposal around it. Whether that's doing a Christmas proposal in the middle of gift-giving, planning an Easter egg scavenger hunt that ends with a ring, going into the New Year engaged, or taking advantage of the chocolates and rose petals that come with Valentine's Day, your SO is sure to enjoy the added cause to celebrate.

3. Recreate your first date

If your first date was memorable or extra special, consider recreating it. Café, restaurant, park, or otherwise, plan a day or night out at your first date spot, ring in tow. Once there, settle in and have a good time. When you're ready to propose, start reminiscing about your first date. Not only what happened, but how you felt about your partner. Then, when you feel the time is right, bring out the ring and propose.

4. Hold a game night

For the couple that loves a night in with loved ones, prepare for the perfect surprise. Invite close family and best friends over for a game night, in which you've crafted your proposal into one of the games. Not sure how to do this? We think Scrabble is an easy way to go. Ask someone to distract your partner in another room as you pull the game out and place "Will you marry me?" on the board. Then, bring them back in to play. When they notice the big question, get down on one knee and launch into your proposal speech.

5. Have a photo shoot

If you're a frequent photographer, consider planning a photoshoot. You can ask to take photos of your significant other or suggest a couple's shoot. The latter works especially well if a holiday is coming up, like Valentine's Day or Christmas. Start snapping away, then, at the end of the shoot, get in front of the camera, get down on one knee, and propose! Just make sure you're getting photos as it happens. Bonus: You'll immediately have engagement photos you can share with family and across social media.

6. Gift them flowers

Surprise proposals don't need to be big productions, nor do they need to be very public. For the low-key couple, consider slipping the engagement ring or ring box into a bouquet of flowers. Bring a bouquet home from a local grocery store or florists (or have the flowers delivered), carefully place the ring amidst the blooms, and give them to your partner. They'll be in for not one, but two sweet and intimate surprises.

7. Take a walk along the beach

Whether you're on vacation or live near the coast, a beach proposal is extremely romantic. What's more, it's very easy to pull off. Slip the ring box in your pocket and take a walk along the shoreline with your partner, perhaps during sunrise or sunset. When the time feels right, surprise your SO by getting down on one knee. You can also have friends and family standing by, waiting to jump out and celebrate.

8. Plan a boat ride

If you live near the water and have access to a boat (don't forget rentals!), plan a day or evening out at sea. Gather friends or family to join you for extra fun—and to not tip your partner off to the surprise. Then, when the sun is setting or you feel the time is right, propose to your partner. Tell a friend or family member when you're just about to do it so they can get the whole gorgeous scene on video from nearby.

9. Take a special trip

Not everyone can jet off at a moment's notice, but you can a special trip ahead of time. Jet-setting to a different country, taking a road trip to a nearby destination, and everything in-between can work wonderfully for a surprise proposal. Even stay-cations can be very romantic. Wherever you end up, once you've settled, pick a beautiful location and ask your partner the big question. You'll both love the ability to celebrate after, be it by relaxing or adventuring.

10. Host an engagement party

Nothing says "surprise" like a party. Plan your proposal at a location where you can also host an engagement party afterwards. Consider restaurants, nice bars, hotels, and even your home. You don't have to go all out with your budget, but can definitely splurge on a big celebration if you want to. Simply plan a "date night" with your partner, get them to dress for the occasion, and bring them to the spot. Once there, surprise them with a romantic proposal and the arrival of your loved ones.

Surprise proposals can be tough to pull off. Even the simplest of ideas run the chance of being spilled. That being said, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. So long as the moment is meaningful and your words come from the heart, your partner is sure to love whatever efforts you put in.

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