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A Private Proposal | Reasons Why You Should Leave Family and Friends at Home

Here’s why you shouldn’t bring your loved ones to your proposal. More isn’t always merrier!

Couple in front of a romantic fireplace with glowing candles kissing after their private proposal
Golden Hours Photography

I know what you’re thinking–proposals are a celebration! Why keep your proposal private? And why wouldn’t you want to share this monumental moment, your proposal, with your closest family and friends?

Yes, this big step is one to be celebrated. We’re not suggesting excluding your family entirely.

However, there are far better ways to include all of your loved ones without subjecting your girlfriend to a room full of people staring at her during one of the most intimate moments of her life.

As Chicago’s Proposal Planners™, we’ll bring you up to speed on all the reasons your private proposal shouldn’t be a family affair. 

Your proposal is not a performance, it doesn’t need an audience. 

As we mentioned before, your proposal IS a reason to celebrate! But, by bringing the party in too soon, it takes away from the magic of the initial proposal moment. A private proposal is able to be much more intimate.

You’ve put so much time and effort into creating a proposal that is perfect. You’ve scouted out the perfect on-bended-knee location. Created a romantic backdrop with her favorite flowers and candles. Hired a photographer to capture the moment, and curated a playlist with the most meaningful songs.

All of this effort will be upstaged by the shock, surprise, and confusion of seeing all of her family and friends in the same place.

Put yourself in your girlfriend’s shoes.

Ideally, she has no idea that she’s walking into a proposal. She thinks she’s meeting a friend for drinks or going out to a new restaurant for dinner.

As she turns the corner, instead of noticing her favorite flowers or the song in the background, she’ll be flustered and distracted by seeing her grandma! Not to mention, you’ll be the last person she notices in all of the overwhelm. 

The shock will take over, and it will take her a while to even realize she’s being proposed to!

The last thing you want her to feel in this once-in-a-lifetime moment is confusion. 

In the 12 years of planning proposals, we’ve seen this time and time again. Not only will she be confused, but her reaction will not be as authentic as if it were just the two of you for this intimate moment.

Now she’s thinking about the audience of people watching her instead of soaking in the moment and listening to you pour your heart out. 

Having a room full of family and friends there for the entire proposal will also take away from the time the two of you have to celebrate in the moment.

Finally, she said yes! You share a quick kiss, and WOOSH, in swarms the crowd of parents, aunts, grandparents, and friends. Everyone wants to see the ring, give a hug, and take a photo. 

Not to mention, the way she’s going to feel comfortable showing you any kind of physical affection in this moment is going to be reduced to a grandparent-approved level of PDA.

The romantic kiss, the sweeping dip of a hug won’t be the big movie climax moment you’d hoped, but rather a quick and shy blur as she tries not to feel uncomfortable with the crowd of people surrounding you. 

The two of you haven’t even had more than a second to process what just happened. In every proposal, there is what we call the Proposal Fog.

With emotions heightened, it’s easy to look back at the day and remember it as a blur. This is made even worse by facing a whirlwind of family and friends immediately.

In a more private proposal, the moment will be just about the two of you.

She’ll be able to experience the intimacy and notice the little personalizations like her favorite flowers or the stunning view. She’ll be comfortable having a 100% authentic reaction and soaking up this moment with her future husband. 

And, she’ll be able to kiss you like nobody is watching–because nobody will be!

After she’s said yes, the two of you will be able to take a beat and relax! Both of your emotions will be at an all-time high, and it’s nice to be able to have a private moment just for the two of you to celebrate and live in this moment that will soon be one of your favorite memories. 

Proposal Secrets are NOT for Everyone  

One of the most important elements of planning a successful proposal is the element of surprise! Yes, you and your girlfriend should be on the same page about wanting to take that next step before you buy a ring.

But trust me, no woman dreams of knowing exactly when her proposal is going to happen. 

Women want a romantic surprise! They want to be swept off their feet. Feeling like their boyfriend put time and effort into planning something so special for her.

She wants her main character moment. Keeping the proposal a surprise is so important for building the romance and creating that magic-like feeling in the moment. This is much easier to do in a private proposal.

While the surprise factor is one of the most important parts of a proposal, it’s also one of the hardest to pull off. True, your girlfriend wants this to be a surprise, but that doesn’t mean she won’t make you work for it!

The second you bring up wanting to take that next step, her proposal radar will be on high alert. She’ll be questioning any behavior or decision you make that seems out of the ordinary. 

As proposal planners, we’ve perfected the art of creating a foolproof cover story.

This will convince your girlfriend that the plans she has for her proposal day are anything but a proposal. Making this as natural as possible sometimes does require the help of a close friend or even their boss in some cases.

But we try to keep the number of people who know about the proposal and cover story to a minimum. 

If you choose to have your entire family and friends present at the time of the proposal, think about how many more chances there will be to ruin the surprise!

The more people that know and can talk about it openly, the higher the chances of someone slipping up and accidentally spilling the beans to your girlfriend. 

All of your hard work in planning could be ruined in one sentence.

All it takes is a text to the wrong group chat. A not-so-subtle comment at dinner. A social media post before she arrives.

These all could alert her that you’re proposing. Not to mention, tracking locations!

With Find My Friends there’s an ease in seeing people’s locations these days. Ensuring she doesn’t notice that either A) everyone she knows is in the same place or B) everyone she knows has location settings turned off is a huge obstacle and red flag that is out of your hands and almost impossible to avoid. 

The only thing worse than knowing well in advance that you’re being proposed to is figuring it out hours or even moments before.

Keep the plans to a smaller group of only the people that HAVE to know. The chances of the surprise being ruined are drastically smaller. 

You’ll save yourself so much time, stress, and disappointment by choosing to include family and friends after the proposal. Keep the cover story details on a need-to-know basis. 

Post-proposal photos or new family portraits 

As the thoughtful boyfriend that you are, we know you’ve already hired a photographer to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment. Every girl wants that iconic photo of her surprised face, tears in her eyes, and you on bended knee.

She wants to remember all of the details of this perfect day. 

When she imagines the kinds of photos, she’s picturing the two of you embracing. A close-up of her hand on your chest, a kiss, the two of you toasting champagne. All things that happen naturally in a private proposal.

What she’s not imagining is a new set of family portraits.

The chaotic energy of having family present at the proposal will carry over into your photo session.

You’ll have people crowding the area and in your photographer’s way. They’ll be shouting out poses and rushing along the moment so they can make sure everyone gets a photo.

This moment quickly becomes all about the family and not about the two of you at all.

Sure, you’ll be in the center of the photos. But the entire time you’ll have the photographer booked will be taken up with switching out parents, adding in friends, and taking another because someone blinked. 

Having photos with your loved ones is special, and is truly something I understand wanting at your proposal. However, save the professional photographer for just the two of you. Keep the proposal photos private.

An iPhone camera is more than capable of taking a quality photo of you and your families to celebrate. You’ll regret it when you look back and realize you only got a handful of photos of the actual proposal and of the two of you celebrating together in the moment. 

This way, you’ll have way more options to include in announcements or save the dates. Plus, if you do your proposal photography right, you won’t have to worry about scheduling a separate engagement session later. 

The story she loves to tell–until she realizes everyone already knows. 

After the proposal is done, the big romantic moment has passed, and the excitement isn’t over.

Your girlfriend will be SO excited to have this amazing story to share with her family and friends. In fact, she’ll spend the next several days confirming little white lies she was told during the cover story. 

“You mean my boss DIDN’T need me for an event?”

“There IS no rooftop bar?”

“You created a FAKE trip so I’d think you were out of town?”

Piecing together all of the things you did to go out of your way to make the proposal a surprise will be one of her new favorite pastimes.

Not only that, but it will be some of her favorite details to add to the story of “How did he propose?” (which is the #1 question you’ll be asked following your proposal). 

Imagine her dismay when she realizes everyone she would have loved to share this story with knew all of these details BEFORE she did.

Having all of your family and friends there for the on-bended knee takes away the opportunity for your girlfriend to continue feeling like the most special person in the world as she recounts the effort and lengths you went to by sharing it with her loved ones.

Now all she has to be excited about is telling her coworkers or writing a lengthy social media post because everyone else already knows. 

photo of couple's hands after getting engaged, graphics talking about planning a proposal after party
Photo By: Golden Hours

I know it’s important to celebrate with family and friends.

And there is no reason you can’t still do that on the day of your proposal. Keep reading to see just how we would recommend you structure your private proposal to best include family and friends.

However, when choosing to include loved ones in this special occasion, try not to do all of the sharing before your girlfriend has a chance to be part of it.

We know, you’re excited. So much of the wedding planning process is centered around the bride. So this is really your big moment to shine.

We know you love her and you want everyone else to be just as excited as you are. But slow down and remember why you’re putting in all of this effort.

You’re doing it for HER.

To make her feel special, important, and loved.

Waiting and letting her fill loved ones in on the details will continue that feeling for her, and hearing it from her point of view will make you look like an even better fiance than if you had told people yourself. 

The right way to include family and friends 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, HOW do you have a private proposal AND include family and friends without it distracting from your proposal??

The answer is simple: an after-party. 

I’ll touch on a few of the key elements of an after-party, but if you want to know more about proposal after-parties, check out our previous blog post about the do’s and don’ts of the Proposal After Party.

Wanting to celebrate with family and friends is perfectly normal and helps to make your proposal night even more memorable.

Rather than inviting everyone to be a part of the on-bended-knee, have them be yet another surprise for your new fiance. 

An after-party doesn’t have to be elaborate. If you’re proposing on a rooftop, have family and friends waiting in the bar. 

Plan a celebratory dinner for “the two of you” at a nearby restaurant, and reserve a private room for family and friends to await your arrival. 

Go back to your house or apartment to celebrate and have a traditional surprise party waiting there. 

There are hundreds of ways to make an after-party happen within any budget and any cover story.

Having this second surprise will keep up the buzz of emotions you’ll both be feeling. It will give your loved ones a chance to experience it with you in real time and feel included in this big moment.

It will also allow you to maintain the intimacy of the private proposal, and the surprise.

Now your girlfriend will be in on sharing the story with the closest people in your lives, your family and friends. 

In order to pull off an after-party, yes, your family and friends will know you’re getting engaged. But, you don’t have to divulge every detail about the private proposal to them beforehand.

All you have to do is tell them where to be and when and let them know the time you plan to arrive.

This will ensure that the cover story you’ve worked so hard to create stays intact, the proposal surprise isn’t ruined, you have a romantic and intimate proposal just the two of you, an album of incredible photos to share with your loved ones, and everyone feels included.

It’s a Win, Win, Win. 

Having an after-party will also allow you to get photos with all of your loved ones on the day of your proposal. They will still very much be a part of your big day but in the right ways.

When you look back on your proposal, you’ll remember how in love and romantic you felt in the moment. And how excited and happy you were celebrating after. 

Keep the private proposal for yourselves, not your family and friends.  

Having this memory of your proposal to look back on with your family and friends is something that both you and your loved ones want. It is a huge moment, and it is worth celebrating.

However, celebrating doesn’t have to be at the exact moment that you propose. Taking that time to yourselves will be one of the best things you can do. 

After you propose, you’ll dive head-first into the deep end of wedding planning. With what’s to come, there will be family and friends involved from the beginning.

You’ll be worrying about who to invite to be in the wedding party, where to assign seating so people feel important and comfortable, and who’s giving a speech.

The list goes on and on. There will be toes you’re trying not to step on, and feelings you’re trying not to hurt, and quickly an event that is supposed to be all about the two of you becomes much more about your guests. 

There is no better reason to keep the proposal private and to yourselves.

Be selfish in that moment.

Remember, the reason everyone is celebrating is because of the love the two of you share.

Give that love its own moment, just the two of you. Having that as a foundation for your wedding planning will give you something to look back on and remember why all of the craziness and stress is worth it. 

Your proposal is the start of this next chapter. Allow yourselves privacy and time to celebrate your love and future together alone first.

Take the time to soak it in, because trust me, the planning and your wedding day will be done in the blink of an eye.

After all of the wedding planning and celebrating is done, you’ll be left with just the two of you and the love you have for each other.

Having the memories of your private proposal, a time you chose to intentionally take for the two of you, will be one of your favorite memories for the rest of your life. 

There will always be time to celebrate with family and friends. You don’t get a redo on your proposal.

You’ll only get to do this once, and you don’t want to regret it by having the surprise ruined, having your girlfriend feel overwhelmed or confused, or by realizing that you saw each other the least out of anyone the entire time.

Keep your proposal private. Create that story that you’ll love to share together. And celebrate with your loved ones after. 

couple holding hands walking out of their private proposal, graphics talking about starting the proposal planning process
Photo By: Golden Hours

If you’re ready to start planning the intimate proposal of her dreams, AND the after-party she’ll never suspect, reach out today! Visit our website at to schedule a call with Chicago’s Proposal Planners!

About Jenée Strickland

Visions Event Studio specializes in luxury events, including proposals and couture weddings. Jenée Strickland, owner, and lead visionnaire, has been an integral part of hundreds of weddings and proposals. Her job is a privilege; her work is a passion.

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