Weddings

5 Tips for Pulling Off a Surprise Proposal with Professional Photographer

Local photographer Carly Arnwine shares her tricks of the trade.
Photograph by Carly Arnwine.

A proposal is a fleeting moment–one question, four words–that lasts in the memory of the couple for a lifetime. That’s why many grooms hire photographers to capture all the joy and excitement. Charles Rigoglioso entrusted his surprise proposal to Paige Howe on the National Mall to photographer Carly Arnwine. Here’s her tips for pulling off a perfectly photogenic proposal.

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Timing is critical.

DC is stunning in the spring, the monuments can be perfect and less crowded at night, and Rock Creek Park, for example, is gorgeous with autumn colors. Also, it’s no secret that the best light occurs in the morning or evening.

Have a back up plan.

One future groom and I perused the grounds at Meridian Hill Park. We came up with a Plan A and a Plan B and he simply texted me 30 minutes prior to popping the question. A Plan C is great too in case of a downpour or an unforeseen event.

Make it personal.

Think of a place that holds a special meaning to your relationship. Perhaps you two had a first date at Teddy Roosevelt Island or the Portrait Gallery. Maybe there was a moment where you first knew you were in love with that person. Return to that special place. Include things that will make your fiance exclaim, “You thought of everything!”

Invite friends and family afterwards.

This can be a fantastic way to celebrate with those closest to you and adds a sense of community to an engagement. Consider a rooftop cocktail party or dinner at a favorite restaurant. A potential surprise visit from a faraway family member can make this very special.

Use your friends as a sounding board.

It is quite possible that one of your ideas is cheesy, or that you will get inspiration from a friend. Some couples would love nothing more than to get engaged in their running gear while others may fear that. It’s best to find a trustworthy source to bounce ideas off of.

Related: This Dog-Friendly Happy Hour Was So Believable, She Didn’t Realize It Was a Proposal

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.