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25 romantic marriage proposal ideas, according to wedding planners

From photo shoots to recreating your first date, let the experts help you pop the question in an unexpected way.

Thinking of popping the question sometime soon? Sure, you could just buy a ring, pose those four magic words, and call it a day. But it’s probably best to make this milestone event one for the books — and wedding pros agree it will be well worth the effort.

“Asking your partner to marry you is an expression of your importance to the relationship, and a vow to commit to growing together," says Alicia Mae, founder and principal planner, ILE Events based in Summit, New Jersey. "You are choosing for this person to be a part of your life, and you are beginning that journey with a core memory. Showing that you took the time to present the question in a meaningful way is a beautiful start.”

A wedding proposal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it symbolizes your devotion to that person. “A proposal is not only one of the romantic moments of your life, but it’s a spoken agreement to spend the rest of your life with someone who complements your spirit. When you decide to ask for someone’s hand in marriage, it’s an important step to tap into the vision you have of your life — the long term vision,” Carin Hunt, a former wedding planner turned wedding business coach and host of the “Celebration Pro Podcast, tells TODAY.

“If the answer is yes to having this person by your side for your entire life, then popping the question must be just as intentional. To ensure a ‘yes,’ create an experience or a moment that reflects the values of your combined lives. This is a moment for you both after all!”

Ahead, read on for 25 of the most romantic marriage proposal ideas, as recommended by wedding planners themselves.

1. Plan a photo shoot.

How sweet is this story from Ashley Thompson, owner of Ashley Creative Events? “My brother-in-law proposed to my sister by telling her they were taking photos for their Christmas cards. She picked out her favorite dress, curled her hair, and had her nails done, and she felt her personal best,” the Las Vegas, Nevada-based wedding planner shares. “Halfway through the photo session, he got down on one knee to propose. The photographer was in the loop so that she could create the perfect backdrop for the moment and capture the entire thing.”

2. Commission a mural.

This one is definitely swoon-worthy: “One of my previous couples hired a local graffiti artist to create a mural in downtown Las Vegas. The mural read, ‘Shannon, you are my best friend, and I love you. Everything I’ve done has led me to this moment here with you...and everything remaining, I want to do it with you. Will you marry me?’” shares Thompson. “As they walked down the street to go to dinner, they stopped in front of the mural, and Ryan got down on one knee. Ryan had left paint on the side so Shannon could check the box that said ‘Yes!’”

3. Make a custom love song.

Hunt calls this idea the perfect way to propose marriage without feeling too show-y. “Custom songs are the new trending gift! Why not turn the love song into a marriage proposal?” suggests Hunt, noting that you can create a private and meaningful moment when nerves have gotten to your tongue by writing a love song yourself (or hiring someone to help). “Plan a romantic movie night, order in your favorite meal, light up the room with candles, and then share your work of art.”

4. Pop the question on your birthday. 

Happy wedding proposal day to you! “If you propose to your partner on your birthday, this will throw them off completely. They will be so consumed with celebrating you that they will not expect you to pop the question to them,” says Alicia Mae, founder and principal planner, ILE Events based in Summit, New Jersey.  “It’s also a win-win as your partner will already set the mood with the location and will be well-dressed.”

5. Recreate your first date, down to the very last detail. 

Time to bring back some nostalgia. “Your first date together may have been a night out at a beautiful restaurant, or you may have grabbed hot dogs and taken in a baseball game. No matter how fancy or casual or crazy the first date may have been, you can recreate the momentous occasion for your significant other,” says Mandy Connor, owner and lead planner, Hummingbird Events and Design based in Boston, Massachusetts. “Take them back to where it all began — and spare no detail!”

6. Or recreate a meaningful memory from your relationship. 

“If you have a special memory that you share together, why not recreate it for your proposal?” suggests Nancy Barkley, a certified destination wedding planner and the owner and founder of Honeymoons and Get-A-Ways, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Whether it’s a spot from your first date or a place from a special trip, you can come up with a creative way to recreate the memory and use it as the backdrop for your proposal.”

7. Put a riff on the traditional scavenger hunt.

Many of us have heard of scavenger hunt wedding proposals, but to keep your partner on their toes, you might want to put a spin on the almost cliche solo-participant scavenger hunt day. This suggestion comes from Jacqueline Vizcaino, owner of Tinted Events Design and Planning based in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of I Was the Help. Now, I’m the Wedding Pro: The Book Every Wedding Professional Needs, but No One Wants to Write. “Perhaps pose it as a fun-loving gift from family or best friends,” says Vizcaino. Throughout the course of the day, she adds you can set up fun activities you can do together like getting a couple’s massage or playing your favorite sport. 

8. Take a sunset boat ride.

If you’ll be near the water or live near the water, Thompson is a fan of this simple but beautiful marriage proposal idea. “Pack a bottle of champagne and a picnic while taking a journey together,” says Thompson.

9. Engage your thrill-seeking side.

Pun intended. “Do you and your future fiancée love a thrill? Take to the sky by taking a hot air balloon ride, or even crazier than that, go skydiving,” suggests Thompson. “Then, as you land on the ground and are filled with adrenaline, pop the question. The feeling of absolute joy and thrill will be unbeatable.” 

10. Ask with some paint strokes. 

Vizcaino is a fan of “saying it with paint” for an unexpected marriage proposal. “You’ll need two blank canvases and some paints for this proposal. Invite your partner to paint together, but secretly add a stencil of an engagement ring onto one of the canvases,” she says. “Once both paintings are complete, hang them up side-by-side on the wall and when your partner discovers the ring on one of the canvases, get down on one knee and ask them to marry you.” If you’re doing this at a painting studio, make sure the instructors are in on it so they can help make sure everything goes smoothly.

11. Pull off a 'plot twist' surprise proposal. 

For this kind of proposal, Mae says to have a significant other of your partner’s close friend ask your forever-to-be if they can be part of their proposal to their significant other. (Of course, these two will be in on the plan.) “So this entire time of planning, your partner will believe they are assisting their friend to be proposed to,” says Mae. “But on the day of the proposal, you'll actually be the one proposing instead.”

12. Throw an after party.

“Have a romantic dinner and a private proposal, just the two of you. Then, surprise your partner with a party filled with all of your family and friends to cheer and celebrate the two of you,” says Thompson. This wedding proposal idea can be tacked on to whatever proposal you do, even if it’s not a dinner, FYI. “This could be as simple as inviting a handful of people over for a champagne toast, or as elaborate as renting out an event space filled with decor and florals. And a fun tip: You can add an acoustic guitarist or DJ to play some of your fiancé’s favorite love songs.”

13. Make a video.

If you’re tech-savvy person, Barkley says you may want to make a short film as your marriage proposal. “You can use video-editing software or even just your phone to create a fun and creative video that you can show to your partner,” says Barkley. “You can make it a romantic montage of special memories you’ve shared together, or you can make it a funny video that’ll make them laugh. You can also add in some special effects or create a storyline with you both as the main characters.”

14. Incorporate your child or children.

If you already have a child or children together, Mae recommends having the kid(s) be part of the proposal. “They can be holding the signs or wearing t-shirts that ask your partner to marry you,” she suggests. Whatever you do, make sure any youngsters you ask to get involved know how important it is to keep the wedding proposal a secret.

15. Propose at their dream venue.

“If your partner has been dreaming of walking down the aisle for some time, it’s likely they have a dream venue in mind. If you’re unsure, you can always ask their besties if they are in the know,” suggest Hunt, adding that once you know the location, you can surprise your partner with a marriage proposal that ends right where you’ll say your vows in the months to come. “Even if it’s not the venue you end up choosing for the big day, your partner will swoon over the attention to detail you put into the proposal.” 

16. Head to their favorite place.

If you’re going to marry them, chances are you know their favorite place in the world. (Or not! But now is the time to ask your questions.) “Everyone has their favorite place they like to visit, whether it’s a coffee shop or an attraction like Disney World,” says Mae. “You can either surprise them by popping into the coffee shop during the usual time they visit the location, or plan to visit the location with them and have your proposal ready once you arrive.”

17. Write a love letter.

Vizcaino says that this might be one of the most heartfelt ways to propose. “Start by writing a love letter expressing why you want to spend the rest of your life with your partner. Include special memories, funny moments, and how much they mean to you. Then, after signing it off with ‘Will you marry me?’ attach the ring and present it to them uniquely,” says Vizcaino. Some ideas: On the steps or inside of a beautiful library where other great love missives reside, at a museum, or at the place you first met.

18. Or a bunch of love letters…

You can also try this clever concept that Connor shares as a great supplement to any marriage proposal. “This takes some planning, but you can write them a secret letter each day, week, or month leading into the engagement telling them how you feel about them, what you are doing to plan this amazing event and what you hope your future together looks like,” says Connor. “After the engagement, give them the letters so that they can enjoy all the moments that you captured leading into the proposal. The sooner you start this project, the better, as it captures the narrative of your love story as you embark on your future together.”

19. Add some friends from the animal kingdom.

Got an animal aficionado for a partner? “Whether you’re dating the cat-lady, or they have an obsession with something more exotic, there is an interactive encounter out there for your animal lover,” says Hunt, noting that some venues and outfitters even offer a unique way to combine the ring with an animal experience. “When you incorporate your partner’s interests into the moment, they will feel loved and in complete alignment with you,” says Hunt. “As a perk, animals are often known to be a symbol of comfort and can decrease stress levels and improve one’s mood.”

20. Hire a flash mob.

If you really want to make your proposal something out of the ordinary, Barkley suggests surprising your partner with a flash mob. If you're unfamiliar, that's basically when a group of people assemble with no warning in a public place for a brief performance — and then disperse, which in this case will then allow you to take center stage and pop the question. “This is a great way to make your proposal extra special, and it’s sure to be something your partner will never forget,” she says. “You can even include your friends and family in the flash mob to make it more meaningful.”

21. Head to the arcade.

If you’re video game buffs, an arcade could be a great location — or you can even play your favorite games at home. “Play your favorite games from childhood, such as Mario Kart, Pac-Man, or any nostalgic game that the two of you enjoy. Whoever wins gets the offer of a lifetime," suggests Vizcaino. "When your partner has been declared the victor, present them with an engagement ring and ask them to level up with you into a life of marriage." P.S. Yes, you do have to let them win the game.

22. Plan an evening out on the town with several stops along the way.

A proposal crawl, of sorts. “Take your partner out for a romantic evening and create an unforgettable proposal experience. Start the night with a nice dinner, then stroll through the park or the city’s most iconic landmarks,” says Vizcaino. By stopping at multiple places in one evening — say, an ice cream store you both love, a path overlooking the water at sunset, a restaurant where you had your first date, a beautiful bridge, etc. — you’ll build up excitement along the way.  

23. Book a surprise vacation.

“Plan a surprise getaway for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Whisk them away to whatever location they’ve been dreaming about — if only just for the weekend,” adds Connor. “Book the travel and surprise them with a packed suitcase ready for a weekend of adventure and celebration! And even better, don’t tell them where you are headed until you arrive.”

Connor shares that one of her current grooms planned a surprise trip to Greece for his marriage proposal — a trip the bride had been dreaming about for years. “He planned a gorgeous and surprising trip complete with a beach proposal and surprise photographer to capture the moment it all happened,” Connor says. “I’ve never seen a bride so happy in all of my years of being a wedding planner.”

24. Create a visually stunning environment at home, a park or a venue of your choice.

A gorgeous hotel rooftop, anyone? Thompson recommends hiring an event planner and/or a florist, and let them work their magic to create a gorgeous space in which you can have your wedding proposal. “Add some candles to the design to give it that romantic glow that will set the tone,” adds Thompson. You might also want to include a few framed photographs of you and your better half wherever you’re getting down on one knee.

25. Infuse some laughs into the moment. 

“If you and your partner have a great sense of humor, you can get a little silly with your proposal,” says Hunt, noting that one idea is to plan a wedding proposal with a decoy ring that you “accidentally” drop into the ocean or snow. “You could pretend to get down on one knee to propose, and then tie your shoe instead. You can even do this multiple times throughout the day until the actual ask,” she suggests.

“If you have a musical talent, you could also write a funny song about your relationship. Or create a slideshow of terrible photos of you both.” Whatever you do, Hunt stresses the importance of ensuring you’re both on the same page. “If you are the goofball of the relationship and your partner is hoping for a lavish ask, make sure to incorporate their vision when you truly ask for their hand,” she adds.