6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Proposal

Go ahead and forward this one along.

She’s sitting at a little table, disguising herself behind a large, open newspaper at the library bar in Manhattan’s Nomad Hotel. She stealthily holds a camera and waits for the perfect moment. Her subject is just about to pull Jane Eyre off the bookshelf. This is no undercover agent or investigative reporter; this is Ash Fox—professional proposal planner and photographer. To date, she has orchestrated close to 1,000 proposals and has been featured in The Knot, the New York Daily News and CBS radio. Ash’s other incognito tactics include (but are not limited to) concealing herself in a crate, hiding in a closet and pretending she’s a waitress. In this particular case, her client wanted to pop the question to his book-loving girlfriend in a library. He knew that if they passed by her favorite book she would undoubtedly pick it up, open it and find the ring inside. And that is exactly what happened. But this seamless execution was no lucky break; nothing was left to chance. “I’m a control freak so I like to have my hands in everything, help as much as I can and take the stress away,” Ash says. “It can be very nerve-racking to ask someone to marry you. I’ve witnessed so many proposals; they’ve probably witnessed none.” Ash’s foray into proposal planning came somewhat naturally. As a nightlife, rock ‘n’ roll photographer, she became jaded by the exhausting hours. She decided to shoot more daytime events for families. Her first proposal photography request came from Julie Sahni, a famous Indian chef, who was looking for a recommendation for her son. Touched by how perfectly Ash captured the moment, it was Julie who pushed her to specialize in photographing proposals. “She was crying and said to me, ‘This is what you have to do.’ She was like my proposal fairy godmother. She said, ‘You should pursue this.’” 6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Proposal After shooting hundreds of proposals, Ash began to learn the ins and outs of the act itself. To get everything right, there was no way to photograph without helping with the planning. Just “winging it” would not produce the beautiful, intimate photos she wanted to capture. Her surprise photography business soon expanded into a full-scope, all-inclusive planning service—from coaching and venue selection to booking and decor. Ash has planned hundreds of proposals for heterosexual and same-sex couples alike. For those looking for an iconic moment surrounded by cheering well-wishers, she has arranged a magical Rockefeller Center ice skating rink proposal and an over-the-top “Will You Marry Me?” billboard in Times Square. For more private question-popping, she's organized equally special proposals at a small, romantic castle, on a romantic rooftop and in a hotel room for an Australian client, where his fiancée-to-be's favorite band played music for her—that one brought Ash to tears. She recently designed an extravagant yet intimate affair for an NFL player, where she decked out a Mad Men-style hotel suite with candles and had a chef from world-renowned Daniel cook the couple a meal. Her busiest time of year is between fall and winter, from October to early January. Her favorite time of year, however is spring during cherry blossom season for outdoor photos. No matter the proposal, one thing’s for certain—everyone wants to remember the moment forever. “A lot of girls nowadays tell their boyfriends, ‘When the moment comes, all I want is for it to be photographed.’ So many guys tell me, ‘She told me I have to get pictures.’” And if anyone would understand that crucial request, it would be Ash. Below, she gives us her tried-and-true tips for planning the perfect surprise. If you’re not the one proposing and you gather your loved one is just about to ask you to spend their life with them, slip over the rest of these subtle hints and get ready for one totally epic champagne toast.

1. Know your partner

The best proposals are where the guy really knows his girlfriend and it's an outpouring of love, not a display of ego. When a guy contacts me, I first want to get to know him and his girlfriend. It’s important to know whether or not she’s somebody who would want something very public or if she’s someone a little more private. I get a sense of the couple's likes and dislikes and then the ideas come out of that.

2. Avoid getting family members involved (no matter how much your future mother-in-law insists)

One of the biggest mistakes people make is including family. Even if you are very close with them and it’s important for them to be there, it’s better to hire professionals. I’ve had many instances where the guy has everything planned and he asks the girl’s sister to help out, and the next thing you know, the sister says, "go get a manicure tomorrow.”

3. Think: quality over quantity

Even in your own apartment, it can still be really special with the right romantic details—you can never estimate how far candles or personal photographs can go. Sometimes, if you add too many bells and whistles, it can tip her off and take away from the moment.

4. Wait for your moment

Do it when she's least prepared and totally not expecting it. It may not be the traditional "perfect moment," but it will be your perfect moment.

5. Find your inner zen (and arrive on an
empty stomach!)

Relax and play it cool; this makes for the best photographs—and gives you the best chance at a surprise. A planner will ensure your proposal goes off without a hitch; all you have to do is show up. Plan to eat after. I guarantee you won't have an appetite in advance!



Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo.