Pro Tips

What you need to know about proposing in Aotearoa

By: Tess Langworthy, The Proposal Planners & Lavinia Popata of Ngāpuhi and Tainui.


Photo credit: Luisa Apanui Photography, Queenstown

Me he rangi pāruhi tōrite me te rearea koe he ngākau mōwai, he hononga tūtahi e whakapapa pounamu ana, i ngā hononga taupuhi mārino ki te kōpuni o rau aroha.

For the beauty within the exchange of love between one to another, is the spiritual connection and sentimental values that are shared in honour of those who have come before us and those present, connected in one moment, to be remembered forever.

As we welcome Australia and the world back onto the shores of Aotearoa after an extended hiatus, we are also embracing the many couples preparing to make their declaration of love during their time with us. If you are thinking about making the trip over the ditch, here are our tips to planning the perfect proposal in Aotearoa – from trending ideas, through to respectfully incorporating tikanga, the principles of Te Ao Māori (The Māori world), into your special moment.


Photo credit: Zanthe Vorsatz Photography, Auckland



Trending proposal ideas in Aotearoa:

Over the years we have enjoyed building lasting connections with our clients, as we work together to design each unique and unforgettable moment. But as well as the creativity we see from our couples, we also see some trends. Here are a few that many of our clients are loving right now:

  • Location based proposals:
    If you are going to be holidaying in arguably one of the most picturesque countries in the world, it makes sense to use the backdrop you have got! Our three most popular experiences and locations right now are:
    1. Exclusive Balinese-style gardens in Kumeu, Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland)
    2. Helicopter Charter over the Remarkables in Queenstown, Ōtākou (Otago)
    3. Pop-up picnic at Sandfly Bay in Dunedin, Ōtākou
  • Capturing the memory:
    We are in an era of using social media to share news with friends and whānau (family), so a photographer or videographer is a must for many clients! Social media aside, we find that couples who have had the occasion filmed are able to relive all the special moments, including those they missed while emotions were flying high.
  • Environmentally conscious proposals:
    Balloons are out whānau! We are seeing more and more of our clients requesting minimised-waste or carbon neutral experiences, styling and catering options. It’s important to us to keep our whenua (land) and moana (water) clean for future generations.
  • Embracing your identity:
    This is our favourite trend! Gone are the days of the requests for a typical dinner for two! Instead, our clients are really embracing what makes them unique; whether that is incorporating their culture and heritage, flying their Pride flag high, or through a mutual love of pop culture or cooking! This moment should be unique to you and your partner.


Photo credit: Acorn Studio, Dunedin


Being considerate of Māori customs

We love when our clients show interest in learning about Māori customs and how to respectfully include them on the day. It is important to us that you celebrate your special moment in a way that honours the unique cultural identity of tangata whenua (the people of the land), so we are excited to have our friend and event stylist, Lavinia Popata from Ngāpuhi and Tainui, share her thoughts:

Through the reclamation and reconnection with our whenua taurikura (homeland), it has reignited the passion of our people to celebrate love in a way that is both inclusive and pays homage to who we are, through tikanga (traditional customs), mātāpono (ancestral heritage and values), and taonga tuku iho (family heirlooms and prized possessions).

You may recognise Te Ao Māori through the All Blacks Haka, Matatini ki te Ao, and the newly released ‘The Lion King Reo Māori’, which boasts the world’s first ever translation of Elton John’s romantic hit, ‘Can you feel the love tonight’, which is of course in Te Reo Māori. We are proud to share our unique holistic customs with visitors from around the globe, and marriage proposals are an especially beautiful way of doing so. Here are some things to consider if you are incorporating Te Ao Māori into your special day.

The proposal location and setting
For Māori, there is a connection between everything in the physical world, so settings within our taiao (nature) or Moana (ocean) is an important way of adding Te Ao Māori into the moment. For example, create a candle lit pathway which weaves through the ngāhere (forest), leading to your proposal point near an awakeri (stream) to the sounds of pūoro māori (traditional musical instruments) and tranquil waiata (traditional songs).

Te Ao Māori Customs
Mana Whenua (Indigenous people of the land) engagement is paramount when including tikanga into your proposal. They will guide and support you as you plan your proposal ceremony and this also gives you an especially in-depth understanding of Māori mātauranga (knowledge). Here are the customs that represent our heritage and can be woven into your special day:

  • Karanga (traditional call)
    It signifies the correct way of beginning a cultural proposal.It is delivered by kuia (grandmother figures) of our whānau, or someone with appropriate experience to pay tribute to the couple.
  • Karakia (traditional prayer)
    Is the essence of what it is to be culturally inclusive, as it binds the love between one to another as well as the important people involved in your journey. This can be described as an address, delivered by kaumātua (grandfather figures), or someone with the experience to conduct the karakia with honour.
  • Waiata/Haka (traditional songs/hymns and a Māori ceremonial war dance)
    Traditional customary performances, that can be performed by loved ones or local mana whenua that can set the tone for your proposal by serenading through waiata (traditional hymns) or by bringing honour through our fierce cultural Haka (war dance).
  • Taonga tuku Iho (traditional treasures passed down)
    The customs we hold dearly to our hearts, as they are prized possessions of sentimental value, handed down from our ancestors. The symbolism can be replicated within your proposal through ethically sourcing and gifting:
  • taonga tuku iho such as korowai (traditional cloak),
  • whakakai (bone and pounamu carved necklaces),
  • mau taringa (bone/pounamu/metal/resin carved Māori earrings), and patu/taiaha/mere/hei toki (traditionally carved ornaments as gifts).
    The gifts you share with one another can be taken through your journey from the proposal through to your wedding day, and represents the cultural, generational, and sentimental values you hold.
  • Tāmoko engagement rings (traditional tattoos)
    Are a modern social and cultural trend which weaves Te Ao Māori into your proposal. Many of our people are sourcing local or global kai tā (Māori tattoo artist) to design or curate a specific significant pattern that represents the couple, and is something they will receive at their proposal ceremony as a keepsake, binding them forever.

Supporting authentic Pākihi Māori (local businesses) is our ultimate tip for those of you planning a proposal that incorporates Te Ao Māori. By supporting local businesses, they will in turn enhance and support you on your special day by channelling the mauri (essence) of their  profession into your unique ceremony. And we promise that you will treasure and remember this moment together as one whānau, which is what it means to be Māori.


Photo credit: Zanthe Vorsatz Photography, Auckland



Finally, if you are considering proposing to your significant other during your time in Aotearoa, here are our top five tips to help you on your planning journey:

  1. Consider how elaborate, or intimate, you would like the moment to be:
    Are you and your partner the type to enjoy a platter at the beach, or is your ideal date a 3-course meal prepared by your own personal chef at a holiday home? Do you like to get out on foot to check out local landmarks, or is a private helicopter charter for two your ideal experience? Typical elements to consider are:

      • formal/informal atmosphere
      • experience/location
      • styling
      • catering
      • personalisation (e.g. signage)
      • photography/videography
  2. Social media and search engines are your best friend:
    Many of our clients have an idea of what they want before reaching out because they Googled it first! Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites are also fantastic ways of seeing what others have done before, and it might give you an idea on how to put your own personal touch on the experience.
  3. Find a confidant:
    You don’t need to keep your impending proposal a secret, in fact you will probably appreciate the extra help when putting the moving parts together! Approach a trusted friend or family member, or even your travel agent or a dedicated event planner – someone to bounce ideas off and even help with the planning will take some of the pressure off you.
  4. Keep the ring close:
    By close we mean in your pocket, or at the very least in your carry on bag. This is because you have a chance of losing the ring if you put it inside your checked luggage, and it goes missing in transit. We also suggest keeping it inside its original box, a loose ring floating around may be found easily by your partner, or lost easily by yourself!
  5. Enjoy the journey:
    The lead up to proposing can be nerve-wracking. But the important thing to remember is that this journey is as much for you as it is for your partner. So don’t forget to stop and take it all in! Plus, it’s great practice for the wedding…


However you decide to propose, we look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy the many wonderful things that the land of the long white cloud has to offer. Nau mai, whakatau mai!


Featured on Polka Dot Wedding (Transparent)

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