15 Things You Need To Do Before You Propose | Metro Detroit Engagement and Wedding Photographer


Man on one knee proposing near Detroit River in Downtown Detroit Michigan.

If you’re looking to propose to the one you love, make sure you know what you need to do and plan before you pop the question. From my personal experience, the experience of the couples I’ve photographed, and from my expert knowledge in the wedding industry, I’ve created a list of 15 things to do before you propose. This list will help you move forward with confidence, knowing you’ve got all the details accounted for!


My husband thoroughly planned his proposal and I’m so happy that he did! He did everything I could have asked for and more. He asked my parents, picked out a beautiful estate ring, and worked with a jeweler to customize it! He planned to propose at a significant location, in Canada, because that’s where I’m from and planned out all the details of the day. After he popped the question, he planned the entire evening, including visiting our parents and ending the evening celebrating at our favorite upscale restaurant. I’m thankful that he took the time and effort to plan out each detail, and I’m sure your partner will feel the same once you do!


So, once you know your partner is the one, here are the steps to take to plan and pull-off the perfect proposal!


Before You Purchase The Ring


Black and white photo of hands reaching out with wedding ring. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

1. Have that talk.


Make sure that your partner wants to get married and is ready for marriage. If you haven’t had that talk yet, it’s better to do it before you get down on one knee! If you’ve never talked about marriage before, you can always try to bring it up subtly while watching a show or movie that talks about marriage or while talking about friends who are getting married.


2. Have that other talk.


If you're close with your partner’s parents or you know your partner would appreciate it, talk to their parents beforehand. Yes, it’s traditional to ask for their hand in marriage, but it’s also thoughtful if that’s something your partner desires.


3. Pick out the bling.


Determine what type of ring your partner would like and buy the ring (if that’s your thing!) Some couples opt to propose without a ring, but if you’re purchasing a ring beforehand, know what they like. To determine what they like, you can ask a close friend or family member for recommendations, look at their Pinterest board (if it’s public), take a peek at their current jewelry, or if it’s not a secret, just ask them! I was very open with my husband about what type of ring I wanted and we even went to a jewelry store together to look at rings. If you’ve already got an heirloom ring, that’s great! You can give the ring as it or have the jewelry made into something new. It’s also important to not just know what style of ring your partner would like, but also what type of metal and rock they’d enjoy! Does your partner like white gold, yellow gold, or rose gold? Or maybe not even gold at all! Thinking about the stone, some prefer real diamonds, but you can purchase an estate diamond, an ethically sourced diamond, or a lab-created diamond! Diamonds may not even be their thing, you can purchase a ring with a pearl, opal, masonite stone, sapphire, emerald, the list is endless.


As you’re considering all the options if you need a jeweler recommendation, check out my top 5 recommendations!


4. Know that size matters.


Yes, for picking out a ring, size truly matters. I’m not talking about the size or carat of the stone, I’m talking about their ring size! Figuring out the ring size can be a bit tricky. Again, if they’re open just ask them or bring them to the jeweler to be sized if it’s not a surprise. You can use a ring they wear on their ring finger to help determine the size or make your best guess. It’s easier to have rings sized down so keep that in mind!


Minimalist photo of wedding and engagement rings on reflective mirror. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

After The Ring is Secured (and Insured)


5. Plan where you’d like to propose.


Determine where you’d like to propose. Do you want to be alone in an intimate setting or do you want to be surrounded by others? You can propose at home, at a sentimental spot, out in nature, or in public. Whatever you decide, make sure that it suits you and your partner. Consider what they’d like above everything else. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. If your partner doesn’t love public displays of affection, a highly-populated area may not be the best bet! Think of a location that is beautiful or significant, and bonus points if it’s both!


6. Plan when you’d like to propose.


As you’re thinking about where also determine when you’d like to do it! If you know your partner wants a summer wedding, proposing at least a year in advance gives you enough time to plan! Also, make sure the proposal doesn’t correlate with any other holidays or special events on the calendar unless you want it to! After you plan when to propose, talk to friends and family to double-check that the date works!


Black and white proposal photo in a Royal Oak park.Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white photo of couple with puppy in a park. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white photo of couple holding puppy in a park. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

7. Plan what you’d like to say.


Do you want to prepare a speech? Use their full name when proposing? Do you want to tell them what you love about them or why you want to spend the rest of your life with them? Or you can pop the question like my husband did! We were sitting together and he turned to me and said, “I have a question for you. Will you marry me?” as he got down on one knee with the ring. It was simple and I said yes!


8. Plan how you’d like to say it.


Do you want to get down on one knee? Do you want to say it while dancing? Do you want to read a poem or a script off of a piece of paper or do you want your partner to read the words “Will you marry me?” on something of significance. It could be written in a lovely letter, written on a bottle of wine, written in the sand, or spelled out with rose petals. You decide!


Make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you plan because it will be you, with the shaking hands, doing it! If you need inspiration, you can read this blog on the Knot that gives you 66 marriage proposal ideas! My favorite at home idea on their list is, “Fill a favorite room in your home with photo memories from your relationship; you can hang them from balloons or cover the walls with them for a jaw-dropping surprise.” I love the idea of incorporating sentimental photos. Another great idea is gifting your partner a couples photo session to update photographs of you two. You can plan your proposal to happen during the session so the documentation doesn't even need to be a surprise!

9. Plan to have the proposal documented.


Reach out to a local wedding photographer to have that special moment captured. The photographer can help plan details and these photographs can also double as engagement photographs if you’d like! Talk to your photographer about your plans, including a plan B, such as a rain backup plan. I absolutely love documenting proposals and helping plan for the perfect spot at the chosen location, the best time of day, and more. Make sure you reach out to a photographer well enough in advance to get the date secured! I typically book proposals three months in advance, but have booked them the day before!


Detroit RIverwalk proposal on a sunny day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Downtown Detroit engagement at Detroit Riverwalk. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

10. Plan a celebration for after the proposal.


Whether you decide to go out for drinks alone, or celebrate with friends and family, make sure you make plans for after you pop the question! Your fiance will likely be excited to tell others, so if it fits into the plans, have something coordinated with family or close friends. Or if you’re on a tighter timeline and only have a few hours that evening, plan a special celebration for the two of you. It can even be as simple as popping a bottle of champagne after the proposal!


Champagne celebration for engagement near Detroit River. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Champagne toast celebrating couples' engagement. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white photo of couple toasting with champagne flutes. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

Just Before You Propose


11. Tell your partner the plans.


Okay, not all the plans. Not even the real plans. You may want it to be a complete surprise. If you say, it’s a surprise, your partner will likely know something is up. But if you know your soon to be fiance will care about what they look like for their proposal, and photographs (including hair, makeup, nails, outfit, etc.) make sure they know something is planned. Like a romantic date night or photoshoot. Make sure along with the plans you can create a story to ensure that they won’t think it’s a proposal. For example, it can be a romantic double date night, but the friends never show up, or the photoshoot can be to document your new home, new puppy, or photographs for holiday cards. Come up with a reason for the plans that will deter your partner from automatically thinking it’s a proposal.


12. Put the ring in a safe location.


On the day of your proposal, put the ring in a safe and easily accessible location. Many jewelers offer slim boxes meant just for the proposal so they’ll easily tuck into your pockets. If your pocket has a zipper, even better!


13. Determine the spot with the photographer.


Make sure you’ve communicated beforehand or are in contact with your photographer on the day of to determine the spot you’re going to propose. It doesn’t need to be X marks the spot, but you both should agree on a location. It’s likely that due to nerves, you may pop the question a bit sooner than anticipated but be sure you’re in range of the photographer. I always have a long zoom lens with me so that if the couple is further away, I can still document the moment!


Detroit Riverwalk engagement photography. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white Detroit engagement photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Engagement photo with close up of engagement ring in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

14. Just breathe.


Take a deep breath and know that whatever happens, it’s going to be a special and memorable moment. You may fumble over your words, your hands may shake, the wind might be blowing, or the sun may be too hot, but none of those details matter. What matters is that you’re about to ask the love of your life to marry you! Just before my husband asked me, we were holding hands and I asked him why his hands were so sweaty. I’m sure that’s not what he had envisioned, yet it was still such a beautiful moment and I wouldn’t change a thing about it!


Right After You Propose


15. Take it all in.


Seriously, don’t rush it. After you ask the question, let your partner take it in, too. Don’t rush put the ring on their finger. Let them feel all the emotions, respond to your question, and then slide that baby on! And once it’s on, hug it out, give them a big kiss, do a happy dance. Whatever you’d like, just enjoy that moment. Talk to one another. Let them explain their excitement, you can explain your nervousness, whatever you’d like to chat about, just be in present with them. Don’t worry about friends and family on stand by or your photographer documenting the occasion, the most important thing is that you’re there, taking the first step towards marrying the one you love!


BONUS: Don’t jump right into wedding planning after the proposal. Give yourselves time to celebrate, share the news with your friends and family, and let it sink in that you have a fiancé!


Remember, whatever ring you choose and however you plan it, just make sure it fits with both you and your partner’s styles and desires! I hope after reading these 15 items, you feel more prepared and comfortable to propose to the love of your life. And once you've proposed and started planning, make sure you grab my wedding planning checklist!


Until then, you can check out other proposals on my blog for inspiration! I wish you all the best as you plan your proposal and plan to spend the rest of your life with your beloved partner!


All my love,


Detroit Riverwalk engagement at Sunset Point. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Man putting ring on newly engaged brides hand at Detroit engagement session. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

Are you interested in booking a photographer to document your proposal, engagement, or wedding? Check out this blog on how to book a photographer with confidence and ease!


Do you know where you want to propose? If you're unsure, check out these top 10 Detroit locations that would be perfect to pop the question!


Curious about the investment of a photographer for your proposal? I get it! Reach out and let’s talk about your unique proposal and all the moments you want beautifully documented.