How to do an unforgettable surprise marriage proposal in Myrtle Beach

I photograph a number of surprise marriage proposals each year in the Myrtle Beach area, and so far everyone has said yes to the proposal! From taking pictures in the pouring rain to having the couple’s kids run out after to congratulate them, I’ve captured some unforgettable memories in 2020. I get a lot of emails asking for help in setting this up, so I thought I would make a blog post with my usual recommendations, and how I photograph the proposal and engagement pictures after. At the end of the post are about 50 pictures from a recent beautiful sunset proposal you will want to check out.

Proposing during a sunset walk down the beach

Proposing during a romantic walk down the beach is the most popular way to do it in the Myrtle Beach area. It might seem a little cliche, but it’s very romantic. It’s easy to make an excuse that you just want to walk down the beach before dinner. You can even use dinner as an excuse to get dressed up nice for the evening. My first recommendation, is to plan the proposal close to sunset time, usually about an hour before sunset is best. The sun is still going to be a little harsh in front of the ocean when you propose, but it gives us plenty of time for engagement pictures after.

I usually head down to the beach about 10 minutes before the time I tell the couple to arrive to make sure I’m ready. If you get there a little early it’s not a big deal. For example, at my usual location of the Huntington Beach State Park, you can just walk around the castle a bit before coming down on the beach. If possible, I always like a quick text message when you arrive, just to give me a heads up when you are coming. For example, the couple who’s pictures I’m highlighting below, they got there about 10 min early. He texted me and I let him know I was just heading down to the beach and would be ready. It’s also nice if you can send me a picture or let me know what you are wearing so I know who to look for.

Where to propose on the beach

My recommendation is to propose at one of the State Parks. This allows you to get away from the crowds and hotels in Myrtle Beach. Of course, if you really don’t want a beach proposal, there are other beautiful spots such as the Conway Riverwalk. I like to be very specific about where to meet on the beach. Guys get nervous and don’t always remember what I tell them. I had one couple go to the wrong beach access and I saw them walking from far down the beach towards me. I like to send a Google Map with the exact walk down to the beach highlighted, even showing a satellite view of the correct beach access. For example, here is my map I send for a proposal at the Huntington Beach State Park.

How to hide the ring and other suggestions

One problem with proposing, during a walk down the beach, is how to hide the ring box. They make special thin ring boxes that are easier to hide and won’t be poking out of your pants pocket and so easy to spot. I had a recent proposal where the guy hid the ring box in his sock, he knelt down and pulled out the box without her ever spotting it.

I also recommend, when you get down on one knee, have one side of your bodies towards me and your other side towards the ocean. If you are perpendicular to me, I can get a good shot of you putting on the ring, with the ocean in the background and no other people in the picture. I’ve had guys propose too quickly or with their back facing towards me, so I have to run to get in a good position. If you forget or get nervous and need a little extra walking down the beach I will spot you and keep up!

After she says yes, if you give her a big kiss and even lift her off the ground, that makes for a great picture. This last suggestions, I don’t actually expect guys to remember. If you can possibly choose a side to propose on so that her hair will be blowing back in the wind, that will help me see and capture the emotions on her face.

Photographing the proposal and pictures after

When I’m shooting the proposal on the beach, I typically have on a long 70-210mm lens on my Nikon D850 so I can zoom in close even if I’m still physically far away. It helps to make me a little bit less noticeable so I don’t ruin the surprise. Near the beach at the state parks, there are a lot of pretty old trees and palms, and even a castle at Huntington. So if we are doing the proposal at one of these parks, I usually walk have the couple walk away from the beach, to get in some shade, for pictures after the proposal. On the way I switch to my 85mm f1.4 lens and grab my Godox SB300 off camera flash with a small beauty dish mounted on the front.

With the couple featured below, we started in front of the Atalaya Castle and got some great sunlight filtering through the palms. I always love portraits against the ivy covered wall as well. As the sun began to set behind the dunes, I got a beautiful picture where I deliberately kept the harsh sun flare in the corner of the lens. That tends to wash out the image, but I also used my Godox SB300 to add some fill light and counteract the harsh backlighting. I do notice, even my small 16″ beauty dish on the flash, helps control shiny specular highlights on the faces, and it doesn’t blow over in the wind like a full softbox.

This couple was a lot of fun and she had some ideas she had seen on Instagram for poses. I’m always happy to try out any suggestions. I loved the piggyback ride she suggested where she is showing off her ring to the camera. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. If you are planning a surprise marriage proposal in Myrtle Beach please let me know. I’m always happy to help with the planning and to capture memories that you won’t forget.

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