Contributed by Marie Ingegneri, Marketing Coordinator of Morris Arboretum

Within the wedding industry, the time period between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is known as Proposal Season. Approximately 40% of all engagements occur at this time as reported by At Morris Arboretum where proposal activity is busy all year round, staff relay that there is a definite increase in engagements during the winter months.

In fact, Visitor Experience staff state that there are two or three marriage proposals every Saturday and Sunday and personnel now receive five times as many proposal questions as they did two years ago.  According to many couples who got engaged in the garden, the Arboretum’s popularity as an engagement destination is its natural beauty in all four seasons and its many romantic, private spaces.

To plan and execute their magical moment, proposers need only pay regular admission, abide by garden etiquette, and follow the garden map to explore the 92-acre garden to search for that unique, perfect spot.  They often find it at the Orange Balustrade, the “Kissing Bridge” (recently renamed because of the many proposals that take place there), or the Rose Garden.

The Summer House, at the edge of the Rose Garden, is where Gian recently proposed to his girlfriend Jessica “because of how scenic it is and how memorable it would be.” Local photographer Rebecca Barger suggests the Arboretum to those looking for a proposal setting because of the ever-changing landscape that is lovely and always looks great in photos.  “It’s also easy to trail the unsuspecting soon-to-be fiancée by posing as any other visitor photographing the vista.” 

Many people now hire photographers to document this significant occasion. “They want to preserve the moment… the guy down on one knee, her look of surprise, and then, the joyous part,” Barger relayed. Barger has also experienced an uptick of calls during the last few years asking her to photograph a proposal at Morris Arboretum.

Social media has played a part in this proposal documentation and the proposal “event.”  Much like promposals (an elaborately staged request to be someone's date to a prom), the “ask” has become the occasion.  Women see friends’ Facebook posts and watch strangers’ YouTube videos of detailed, passionate proposals. They are thrilled when their intended plans something exciting too.  Many proposers are taking advantage of this opportunity to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For instance, Anton Shoetan researched and coordinated an elaborate proposal weekend of mini-events beginning with, will you marry me? in the romantic, picturesque Rose Garden.  He wanted his proposal at this spot to be everything his bride-to-be, Nicole Wallace, “ever dreamed of.”  Nicole enthusiastically agreed, “my heart was full… it felt like a movie, only I was the star.”

Another proposer rented Out on a Limb, the canopy walk that is 50 feet above the ground for his surprise “ask” that included both sets of parents, a photographer, and 12 family members and friends, all waiting nearby to toast the newly engaged couple.

Still, the most common proposal at the Arboretum is two people at a hidden spot with a selfie shot taken after the “Yes!”  This exact moment unfolded in front of Morris Arboretum Guide Deitra Arena as she was leading a tour of the garden’s secret gems.  As the group approached the Kissing Bridge, a young couple looked up from their selfies, the woman held up her hand, and announced “we just got engaged!”

Next comes the wedding itself, and many couples who became affianced in the garden consider the Arboretum for their venue to complete their love story, including Gian and Jessica “because it is now a very special place” for them.