Sometimes the most complicated part of a marriage proposal can be figuring out where, exactly, to do it. Should you go fancy? Simple? Group setting? Intimate? There’s a lot to consider—and that’s on top of the stress of the actual, life-changing question at hand. That’s why the best plan of action is always to stick to what you and your partner love to do together. Like to hike, fish, or simply be outside? There are endless outdoor proposal ideas that will help you plan a moment that feels special, romantic, and entirely unforgettable.
Plus, when planning a proposal in nature, it eliminates the stress of a lot of other questions. You don’t have to worry about planning or paying for the decorations—the beautiful scenery will take part in that!—or stress about how you’ll orchestrate the moment (it’s easy to build it into something you two do already).
Below, 16 expert-approved suggestions for popping the question outside.
Take a Hike
The best part of proposing during a hike is that it’s really simple to make the event a surprise. If you and your partner hike regularly, consider playing the long game and suggesting months before the proposal that you two should alternate choosing the hiking location. Months later, when it's your turn to choose a location, you can make sure you pick the perfect timing, view, and location for the proposal. Plus, you can do the proposal with just you two or have friends and family meet you after the hike.
Make your hike more magical by adding some fairy lights, suggests Kayla Hoey of Not Your Basic Bride. “String lights operated by batteries, which can run from $5 to $10, can be draped through branches along with LED candles and blankets. Dusk is the perfect time to do this because you will get that perfect romantic warm glow!”
Camping is an incredibly romantic experience if a few key elements are in place. Plan a trip during a time of year when the weather is supposed to be ideal, pack delicious food and drinks, comfy blankets, and anything else you might need, and the experience is bound to be unforgettable. Want to make the trip even more romantic? Pick an evening when star-viewing is supposed to be the best and pack along a telescope. Wait for a shooting star and then pop the question.
Set Up a Picnic
Eating outside can be one of the most romantic activities if you plan it right. Consider ordering your partner’s favorite takeout meal (or cooking, if that’s your thing), packing up a basket, and heading out to spend the evening (or morning, or afternoon) together. Whether you disguise the trip as running an errand and make the picnic a surprise or you masquerade it as any old date night, the evening will be perfect. Just make sure you pack some champagne, of course.
Go Christmas Tree Shopping
As Hoey suggests, Christmas tree shopping (or any outdoor activity) may be a wonderful way to surprise your partner with a proposal.
“From sneaking an ornament with a ring or ring box into a Christmas tree at a farm or wherever you get your trees to the stunning backdrop all that evergreen and white/grey skies will make, this is a cute holiday-themed idea that is a super low lift if you are on a budget or just love a moment of spontaneity,” she says.
Fishing, on its face, may not seem as romantic as some other outdoor activities — but that’s what makes it perfect for a surprise proposal. If you and your loved one love to fish, then you can disguise the activity as a fun outing. If it’s more your hobby than your other half’s, that’s OK, too. It’ll make the proposal that much more surprising. And either way, you’ll end up by the water together. Time the trip around sunrise or sunset and it’ll be incredibly memorable.
Plan a Boat Ride
Again, there is simply no going wrong with proposing by the water. Whether you rent an old canoe at a nearby lake, charter a small speedboat to take out on the bay, or rent an entire sailboat for an afternoon on the water, the experience will feel special, memorable, and incredibly romantic.
Just remember—the more out of the ordinary something seems, the more it might tip your partner off. So if an adventurous, exciting horseback riding adventure isn’t something that sounds up your or your partner’s alley, maybe reconsider. As Kimberly Sisti, owner and head designer at Sisti & Co., says, “If you choose the quintessential beach proposal and you never go to the beach, you better believe your partner is going to be tipped off, and think something is afoot!
Go on a Nature-Viewing Drive
This one is particularly great for autumn proposals, but it can be beautiful in any season if you plan it the right way. Look up the most scenic drives near you and take a detour after a date night or trip to the grocery store (the element of surprise always makes things more exciting). Make a playlist that includes you and your partner’s favorite, most nostalgic songs, and enjoy it as you wind through beautiful scenes, ultimately ending somewhere with a great backdrop for asking the big question.
Plan a Photoshoot
Has your partner been bugging you for a couple's photos forever? Have they hinted that you don’t have any “nice” photos together? Then planning an outdoor photoshoot could be an excellent way to propose. Not only will this mean you have professional photos of the proposal, but you can work with a professional photographer to figure out what local, outdoor areas might be the most romantic for the special occasion. Photographers also often know the best times of day to visit these places and how to avoid crowds, as an added bonus.
Take In the View
Being outside for your proposal doesn’t have to mean wearing athletic gear. Try researching the most romantic rooftop bars near you (or in a town/city nearby), reserving the space for a bit of time (even just 30 minutes, if you can) to propose with a stunning, sparkling backdrop. Afterward, you both can go to a fancy cocktail bar or pop a bottle of champagne together at home.
If you want to make things extra special, you can even rent out famous rooftops, too. “We recently planned a proposal for an out-of-town couple, and we rented the observatory area of the Empire State Building,” says JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. “We hired a video team and someone acted as a local reporter interviewing the couple about why they were in New York, at that moment the groom got down on one knee to propose, our team, of course, had it recorded. We had set up a table for two with champagne and strawberries as they watched the sunset over New York City.
Visit a Vineyard or Farm
Choosing a vineyard or farm as a location to propose is great for love the great outdoors and beautiful views, but maybe aren’t up for a full camping trip or an ultra-fancy rooftop deck moment. Setting up a private wine tasting at a vineyard or spending the day on a picturesque farm may be the ideal location for a gorgeous, but still a low-key outdoor proposal.
Watch the Sunrise/Sunset
If you and/or your partner are somewhere in between a scenic drive and camping when it comes to loving the outdoors, consider planning a romantic trip to watch the sunrise or sunset to ask the big question. Since “let’s go watch the sunset” might be a dead giveaway as to what’s coming, do your best to weave it into everyday activities in order to make it a surprise. Bring along your loved one’s favorite breakfast foods for a morning proposal or some bottles of wine in the evening to make the proposal even better.
Some sunset engagement tips from Kirsten Gosselin, owner and creative director of KG Events & Design? Do some research before a sunset proposal so you know exactly what time the sun is setting. “Be sure to even look [which way] the direction of the wind is blowing so that you can either choose a location that will be protected from the wind or at least dress appropriately,” she adds.
Go Horseback Riding
For many people, horseback riding is a new experience. It's challenging, a little exciting, and fun. For those who are into trying new things as a couple (or for those who love horses already), setting up a horseback ride through a gorgeous setting (the beach, woods, or desert, for example) would be the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation. Afterward, share a bottle of wine together before popping the question.
Plan an Afternoon of Winter Sports
For those who are into a more fast-paced adventure, consider timing your proposal with a snow-themed outdoor activity. Timing the proposal to happen after a few hours of snowmobiling, skiing, or snowboarding is great for a few reasons. Snow is, first of all, always pretty romantic. And the high-paced, exciting activities will only add to the excitement of the proposal. Spending the afternoon skiing and proposing after the final run down the mountain? Pretty unforgettable.
Visit a Drive-In Movie Theater
Drive-in movie theaters are having a bit of a resurgence these days, so why not incorporate your proposal into a trip to one? As photographer Manda Weaver suggests, setting up your own private outdoor, drive-in movie theater could actually be pretty darn romantic, especially if you feature a movie of your own love story.
“Create a collection of images, quotes, and video clips of your love story as it unfolded to be the feature film… and allow the climax to be an image of you holding the engagement ring or a simple 'Will You Marry Me’ question," Weaver suggests. “Pull out all the stops by renting a classic convertible car to pick up your soon-to-be fiancé. Add lanterns, candles, and florals and even custom signage to your private drive-in movie theatre to create that romantic mood.”
Go Off-Roading Together
Juls Sharpley, founder of event planning firm Bubbles & Bowties Aspen, shares that one of her favorite proposals to help coordinate is an off-roading tour at the top of Aspen Mountain. “Couples hop in a souped-up Jeep Rubicon specifically built for off-roading, and are driven by a tour guide to the backside of Aspen Mountain,” she says. “There are so many great variations of what we can have waiting for you there: a picnic, a bottle of champagne and crystal flutes, or simply rose petals scattered in ‘the spot.’”
Book a Helicopter Ride
This one combines the comfort and relaxation of a long, scenic drive with a little more adventures. A helicopter ride is a way to experience nature (or city skyscapes) in a way that you never have before. While something this extravagant may mean that your partner knows something is up, the adrenaline of the experience will make the proposal that much more exciting.
No matter what type of outdoor proposal you end up choosing, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning the big event. As Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group shares, recruiting assistance and having a backup plan are always going to be key.
“As with any and all outdoor plans, having a backup plan is vital. In the case of inclement weather, it’s important to have a second location where you can carry out the proposal,” Avey suggests.