How to plan a cinema-worthy surprise engagement proposal for your girlfriend

Our customers love coming in to recount their proposal stories. Some proposal tales have been worthy of Ryan Gosling's The Notebook performance. Others were closer to Seth Rogan in Knocked Up. While it is very much the thought that counts, a dreamy proposal with some effort can really mean a lot to a girl. 


You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need to make it special.

Here’s our complete guide to proposing to your girlfriend - from romantic dinner ideas to exotic locales travel precautions. 

Dinner time 

Proposing at dinner is traditional and quite spectacular. Everything you need is at your finger tips. The champagne (make sure you have it come after you propose so the surprise isn’t ruined); the intimacy of a cozy table (ask the restaurant for a corner booth); the excitement of having everyone around you toast and congratulate you afterwards. The best way to execute this is to call the restaurant in advance. You may want to propose right after the appetizers come, which is a natural lull in service and good time for to prearrange for the wait-staff to let you be for a while so you can execute your proposal. 

Great locations for such a proposal are your favorite restaurant where everyone knows you guys or the site of your first date. We’ve even heard of fantastic proposals where all of their family and friends joined the couple for dessert and drinks at the restaurant after the proposal.  

If you choose to go the fancy restaurant route instead, then try to conceal your intentions. For example, you can try to throw her off by telling her that you want to go to dinner there because it’s with an important potential client or an out of town friend. This will ensure that a proposal won’t be on her mind. Then set your phone alarm and pretend that your client or friend is calling you. Step outside to take the call and say they canceled on you and it’ll just be the two of you. She won’t be disappointed and it will guarantee a surprise.



In front of the jewelry store

Almost every girl vividly remembers Breakfast at Tiffany’s and that episode of Sex and the City when Charlotte picks our her ring from the jewelry store window. Imagine her giddiness if you grab brunch with her and then take a stroll down Union. You stop in front of La Bijouterie and say something like: “Should we get you a beautiful engagement ring today?” She might laugh but right then you can tell her everything you feel and walk right in to choose the ring of her dreams. (Of course you'll want to give us a call in advance so that we’re prepared for you to come in and choose among a variety of diamonds and rings in your budget range.) 



 Doing a mundane task

If you really want to guarantee a surprised reaction - give her the ring while you’re doing the dishes or walking the dog. Having a proposal come out of nowhere is very exciting. You can have her family on standby later, or take her to dinner afterwards. 

This is a particularly great proposal plan if she thinks romantic comedies are cheesy or if she isn’t the type to like frilly dresses and random strangers congratulating her. Just be sure that what you say isn’t mundane. Make it very heartfelt and romantic, and she'll have the most unique story of all of her friends.


On a beach or mountain top

Proposing at the beach or on a cliff can be very dreamy for many couples. If you hike or visit the beach often, then treat it like an everyday activity so that she doesn’t suspect anything. If you don’t often visit the beach, and you insist on having a beach day out of nowhere, then she might be suspicious, especially if you’ve discussed engagement in the months prior. So just make sure that the beach is a common activity for you and that you have a way to maintain the element of surprise. 



Abroad on vacation together

This is a very romantic way to propose. Especially if you do it when she least expects it. 

If you haven't let her in on your engagement plans, you have the freedom to propose in just about any famously romantic locale - whether that’s the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. Just be sure to pull her away from the tourists so that you don’t get interrupted. 

There’s something very sweet and romantic about proposing somewhere like the Empire State Building or on a Venetian gondola. Like a 1950’s Clark Gable movie, it’s classic and guaranteed romance. 

While guys often think it’s cheesy, girls love tried and true proposal edifices like the Eiffel Tower; you’re almost guaranteed that she’ll cry happy tears. 

On the other hand, if she’s aware of the fact that you might propose soon, then you can still absolutely propose overseas, you just need to be strategic about it. If she suspects that you have a ring in your pocket, then be sure that you don’t visit traditional proposal spots before you propose. She might be anticipating a proposal, and it can be a bit of a let down if you take her somewhere that feels like a proposal destination and you don’t pop the question. 

A few things to keep caution of regarding travel w/your ring. Every airport is different, but all of them do body scans. So if you keep your ring in your pocket, be careful that they don’t make you expose it in front of her. If you want to let it run through screening in your carry on luggage, be sure you place it in a secure nonchalant bag so that it doesn’t get stolen or fall out.

If you are traveling somewhere potentially dangerous, it may be smart to propose using a cubic zirconia - also known as a CZ - so that you don’t risk getting it stolen or lost. Make sure that the diamond is around the same size that you plan to give to her eventually, so that’s it’s similar to the real thing she’ll be wearing.  

After you’ve proposed and shared the special moment, ask her: “What kind of an engagement ring would you like?”  The next part is extra fun - she gets to work with you and your jeweler to help design her engagement ring.  


A word to the wise - whether you purchase and design your ring with or without her, be sure to hide the ring receipts somewhere she will never find them. Many proposals been ruined when the check receipts or bank statements arrived at the house. Also be sure to engage her in some element of proposal talk beforehand so that you can figure out what kind of ring she wants. For more proposal tips check out our blog post on how to create the perfect ring for her.


Matt & Kayla's Golden Gate Park Dream Proposal

Matt ♥'s Kayla

Matt was sure of one thing before he proposed to his girlfriend Kayla - he wanted to create a moment that both of them could remember and look back on. “I knew that the woman I love deserved a special proposal,” said Matt.

When it came time to pick the ring, he wanted to consider her taste, but he also wanted to surprise her. “Once I knew we were serious and getting married at some point, I wanted to learn what kind of diamond she liked,” said Matt.

How Matt Figured Out Exactly What Kayla Wanted Without Ruining The Surprise

Matt put on his Sherlock Holmes hat and did a little bit of detective work. He conspired with La Bijouterie’s owner, Set, to help understand what Kayla would like, without letting Kayla figure out that she was actually choosing her ring. Matt casually told Kayla that they should browse some engagement rings.

When Matt and Kayla came into La Bijouterie, Set and Matt pretended that they never met before. During their visit, Set asked Kayla strategic questions to learn exactly what Kayla would like in her engagement ring. 

“She thought it was a fun exercise, Set and I pretended like I’d never seen him before,” he said. “So Set was able to get a lot of information without getting her expectations up and he was able to get her ring size."

PlumberryPhotographyMK54.jpgPhoto Courtesy of Plumberry Photography

Masterminding The Proposal

Matt got the ring a few weeks later; it was a beautiful cushion shaped stone in a delicate halo setting. He didn’t bring up the subject to Kayla again for a month - she was actually getting antsy, thinking, “Hey, what happened to the engagement plans?”

Matt wanted to make sure that Kayla had no clue about how, when and where he might propose. At that point, she wasn’t even sure if he was still going to propose anytime soon. All the while, he was planning an elaborate, heartfelt proposal, with a perfect dream ring. 

“I wanted to capture some things that we could have as a keepsake,” he said. “Something we could touch, see and feel. So I thought, 'how can we walk away with something besides just pictures?’"

PlumberryPhotographyMatt8.jpgPhoto Courtesy of Plumberry Photography

Will You Marry Me?

On a warm Sunday, he suggested that they take walk and browse an outdoor art festival near the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. An artist asked Matt and Kayla to sit and pose for a painting she was working on. Kayla was excited to participate.

When the artist was done, she turned her easel to show them her drawing. It was a caricature of Matt and Kayla, with the words “Will you marry me?” written at the top. That’s right! The artist was in on it too! As was a photographer, who was hiding from Kayla and snapping away each moment.

PlumberryPhotographyMatt11bw.jpgPhoto Courtesy of Plumberry Photography

Speaking From The Heart

At that point, Kayla knew what was happening, and so Matt could take his time with the proposal. “It goes so fast and it can be a blackout moment,” said Matt. “I didn’t want to rush it.” For Matt, having the artist as a prop slowed down the proposal because he wasn’t worried about getting to final “Will you marry me?” sentence. He could enjoy the moment and speak from the heart. 

Her Priceless Reaction

Kayla began crying from joy as the whole park looked on. A random group of picnickers even brought out champagne to toast them (that was a nice serendipitous surprise for Matt as well - he didn’t actually plan that part). “People were obviously thrilled to be witnessing this vulnerable moment,” said Matt. “We got toasted by the whole park!” When Kayla came into La Bijouterie to say hello and tell us the proposal story, she was still beaming. “It’s just so beautiful!” she gushed.

PlumberryPhotographyMK65.jpgPhoto Courtesy of Plumberry Photography

Matt's Simple Tips on Proposing

Matt’s proposal was one of the most romantic and thoughtful stories we’d heard. The elements were so simple, and yet so well crafted. Matt understands that a romantic proposal is every girls' dream. "You have the responsibly to make it what she always wanted it to be,” he said. “Don’t be too cool or too rushed when you’re creating the moment with the woman that you love and want to marry."

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