Over the years Jackson Hole has grown in popularity for a number of reasons. It’s become a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking their next adventure! It has long been a beautiful destination for travelers and tourists alike to come see the Grand Tetons and the world famous Yellowstone National Park right next door. Did we mention the amazing wildlife that call this area home? As wedding and portrait photographers, one the things we’ve noticed that continues to grow in popularity are the amount of couples deciding to pop the question in the Jackson Hole. With the abundance of beautiful backdrops in the area, we can’t blame them one bit. For those of you who have been following us for a while, you already know surprise proposals are by far one of our favorite things to capture! Getting to be a part of the anticipation, the planning, the emotion, and the excitement that follows afterwards is just hard to beat! Over the years we’ve been blessed to be a part of hundreds of proposals and during that time we’ve noticed some common themes and questions that seem to always pop up. Our purpose with this blog is to help guide you in planning your proposal in Jackson Hole by breaking it down into 4 easy steps, as well as providing you with some of our best tips so you can knock it out of the park!
Decide when to visit
Figuring out the time of year you want to propose in Jackson Hole is definitely an important consideration. Are you planning on visiting during summer peak season so you can gain access to just about anywhere in the area without the worry of closures due to leftover snow? Or are you trying to avoid the crowds completely and propose during the middle of winter? Does your soon to be fiancé absolutely love the fall colors? We experience a full range of seasons here in Wyoming and it’s important to plan accordingly, not only for the weather but travel, costs, and activities while you’re here. In short, summer is going to have many more options in terms of things to do while you’re here, but it can definitely be a lot busier in and out of the park and most of the places you’ll likely want to propose. It will likely be more expensive as well. If you’re looking to budget a bit more, winter might be a great option as long as you’re okay with the cold.
Pro-tip(s): If you’re planning on proposing during a winter trip, give yourself an extra day or two of flex time on the front and back end. It is not uncommon for a heavy snow storm to divert/delay flights and it’s not uncommon for certain roads to close if you’re planning on driving. If you’re planning on proposing during the summer, be sure to give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes on top of your estimated travel time especially if you’re route involves going through Teton Village, downtown Jackson, or coming out of Yellowstone midafternoon. Traffic will likely be heavy.
Book your photographer early
Booking the right photographer early in the process can save you a a lot of time, effort, and stress when it comes to planning your proposal. They are going to be able to help provide feedback to answer a lot of the common questions you’re undoubtedly going to have like “How do I get her to dress up without giving it away?” “What spot has the best views of the Grand Tetons?” or “What time of day should we plan for?” It’s a rarity that we have someone reach out with all of these questions already answered so if you’re planning on hiring a photographer to capture the big moment for you two, definitely do it earlier in the process vs towards the end. I can’t tell you how many folks we’ve had reach out with a tentative plan already in mind only to find out after booking that they needed some major adjustments to bring their vision to life. Take out the guess work, and hire an pro from the get go!
Deciding on a location
One of the most common things we see is people trying to plan for the perfect location. Some people are going to value a bit more privacy. Some people want it to be near the water. Some just want a great view of the Tetons. An important consideration is also knowing what goes into accessing a location, so if you’re not already working with a photographer, do you research. We’ve had people reach out about proposals at certain lakes, not knowing it was an 8 hour round trip hike. You can’t just go off of the visuals on social media. Some locations are going to require a lot of planning and effort. Others require minimal and are arguably just as beautiful. It’s also important to know which locations may or may not be accessible during certain times of the year. Which all ties back to figuring our when to visit, and having someone like a local Jackson Hole photographer that can help with navigating the perfect location for your vision.
Pro tip: If you value a bit more privacy for your proposal, try avoiding the more popular destinations in the area like Mormon Row, especially during peak travel times. It’s not uncommon for spots like this to have dozens to hundreds of tourists walking around at any given time, especially if wildlife is present or a tour bus shows up at the exact same time as you.
Decide if you’re going to be dressed up or casual
One of the common themes we see are people trying to figure out if they want to dress up or keep it more casual for their proposal. Dressing down, especially if you’re going on a hike to access your chosen location might be more of a functional option. It also helps to not set off any alarms like “Hmmm….we’re going to the park, why is he having me dress up?” But some of you may already know that your girlfriend wants to be dressed dressed up, to the extent that we’ve heard guys tell us that she has already told them, she wants to be dressed up when it happens. The most helpful diversion we’ve seen for this is making dinner reservations for a nice night out. Then you can propose and head to dinner afterwards to celebrate. There’s no right or wrong on this, just what’s right for you. We personally recommend always erring on the side of going slightly more dressy if given the option. Odds are you’re going to like your images more if your dressed up, and if you’re already dressed up, depending on the duration of the session you’ve booked, now you’re able to go right into an engagement session!
Pro tip: (This tip won’t apply to everybody) Fellas, if she gets her nails down regularly, make sure she has them done around the time you’re going to propose. She’s going to want to show off the ring on her hand and in our experience, if her nails are not done, it’s usually one of the first things she mentions like “Ahhh, I wish you would’ve told me, I would’ve done my nails!” If you’re trying to keep it a secret, reach out to one of her friends you can trust or even her mom, and have them help you arrange a mani/pedi day for her without knowing you have anything to do with it. She will thank you later :)
If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back, you have all of the puzzle pieces in place to rock your proposal! However, we do want to provide you with a few more simple tips to help ensure everything goes as smooth as possible and you look you’re best!
Other helpful tips and considerations
Clear your pockets. (cell phone, lanyards, park maps, etc.) it feels like we’ve seen it all. Be sure to keep your pockets clear before you get down on one knee.
Keep an eye on the weather and don’t make any drastic changes too far out. The weather can change in an instant here in the Jackson Hole area, so don’t look at the forecast 2 weeks out and start panicking. You likely won’t have an accurate prediction until the night before or morning of. If you’ve hired a photographer, they will likely keep an eye on this for you.
Be mindful of sunglasses and hats. If you don’t want one or either of you to be wearing a hat or sunglasses during the proposal, then take them off before the proposal.
If your proposal location requires you to enter the Grand Teton National Park by going through the ranger’s pay station where the cars all wait in line, there is currently a $35 admission to enter this area of the park. If you have a national park pass this will get you in as well.
If you have hired a photographer, confirm that you have the right date, time, and location. Most reputable pros will have already covered this information with you beforehand via email or in their contract. It probably sounds crazy but we’ve had multiple occasions where someone has booked us for a specific date and time, and then realized 1 week out that they gave us the wrong date.
A lot of people want to shoot around sunset for the beautiful light, (we love to as well)! If you’re proposing during the summer time, and plan to do a proposal in the park around then, just know that there won’t be many available restaurant options after your proposal. A lot of times during the summer, our guys will do a nice dinner earlier in the evening and then head to the park to “watch the sunset” and propose then. Just something to keep in mind.
If you’re proposing at a location that is a business or a resort like Amagani (just an example) you will likely need to gain permissions of where and when they will allow you to do your proposal and this will also likely need to be arranged with your photographer as some establishments require them to provide insurance.
Don’t overthink it! Once you have the above 4 steps completed, you’re set. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Lastly, if you're needing some help in planning and capturing the perfect proposal, just hit us up on here through our contact page, give us a shout, or drop a line via social media, we're always happy to help!