Netflix’s ‘Marriage or Mortgage’ Is Your Next Reality Show Obsession
The streaming service puts a cheery reality TV spin on the grim dilemma many couples face: whether to invest in a home or celebrate their love with a wedding.
It’s a topic sure to grind any millennials’ gears: buying homes. Think pieces and studies regularly analyze why twenty- and thirtysomethings aren’t snapping up properties at the same rate as baby boomers did. Some have even blamed millennials for not achieving the same milestones as quickly because they like to treat themselves to avocado toast or a coffee in the morning.
But data shows that as the cost of living has steadily climbed over the past few decades, wages have not. Combined with the price of college doubling since the 1980s, it makes it harder for young people to save up for a nest egg that can go toward a down payment on a home. With the median price for a new and used home going between $260,000 and $334,000, first-time buyers should have between $12,000 and $17,000 in the bank, plus additional cash for closing costs.
At the same time, the prices of weddings have also risen every year. Luxury venues, live music, grand exits, open bar tabs, catered meals, multi-tiered cakes, photographers, videographers, and expensive bridal dresses all contribute to the average wedding’s price tag of $34,000.
Unfortunately for lots of couples, the numbers put them in a hard spot. They have to decide whether to put their savings toward a down payment on a first house or drop it all on their nuptials.
Netflix puts a cheery spin on the grim situation with its new series Marriage or Mortgage, a hybrid of reality shows such as House Hunters and Say Yes to the Dress that premieres on March 10. Torn on what path to choose, engaged lovebirds come to real estate agent Nicole Holmes and wedding planner Sarah Miller for help on which route they should take.
The lovers rattle off a checklist of what they would want for their forever home, such as a garage big enough to double as a personal gym, or a wow factor front entrance. They also go over what they’ve envisioned for their dream wedding, including a horse-drawn carriage departure or an Elvis Presley’s Graceland-themed day.
Then Holmes and Miller battle it out by taking each couple around Nashville to showcase what they could do with their budget. For some, it’s a plot of land with an architect drawing up a customized home. Others are given a tour of a dreamy wedding venue on a mansion’s manicured grounds.
After narrowing down the home options and getting the wedding details sorted, the couple then has to decide if they will get married or buy a home. No matter what they choose, every decision is toasted with a glass of champagne and everyone leaves happy.
While the premise is a bit dystopian, considering that couples are choosing to stay in their cramped apartments to save up for a home or sacrificing their wedding to pick up a new set of keys, the show itself is heartwarming and becomes a fun guessing game of predicting which way each couple will swing. Holmes and Miller are upbeat, understanding, and pull out all the stops for their prospective clients.
It’s also wonderfully diverse. Older lesbian couple Cynthia and Karla found each other later in life and want a “big fat gay wedding.” Cynthia, who serves as an LBGTQ+ pastor in the Nashville community, wants to host a bash where the guest list stretches past 150 people. But they are also dying to move out of the home Karla shared with her ex-wife and want a turnkey home. “We are not fixers-uppers, we are not ‘those’ lesbians,” they joke. “Unfortunately, neither of us got that gene.”
Church group leaders Hayley and Andrew are choosing to abstain from sex until marriage on religious grounds, although they happen to share an apartment. To avoid any temptation, Andrew spends the night at a nearby friend’s house. “The heat is literally on to get married,” Sarah remarks.
There are also tearjerker episodes, including a misty-eyed moment when firefighter Nicholas and his fiancée Denise weep over the sight of a child’s bedroom decorated for a little boy. Denise had earlier shared with Nicole her desire to adopt a child, citing her late father being an orphan. To help them picture growing their family in a new home, Nicole had the phrase “wanted, chosen, loved, adopted,” written on a chalkboard.
A refreshing element is that everyone has a reasonable budget, ranging between $20,000 and $35,000 for a wedding. Sarah gives all couples price estimates for venues, transportation, decor, booze, photographers, cuisine, wedding favors, and bridal dresses. There’s even one eye-watering quote for a choreographed couple’s dance that costs $3,250 for a waltz and hip-hop routine with 15 lessons.
Nicole shows the potential buyers around various condos, townhomes and single-family homes that aren’t priced higher than $450,000. Luckily, there aren’t any outrageous demands for special amenities, apart for an athlete’s shower and a garage that had 15-foot ceilings.
For couples who decided to put their money toward a wedding, there was one unforeseen hiccup. The show was filmed in the fall of 2019, so many were forced to scrap their original plans due to COVID. As a result, venues were changed and guest lists were dramatically downsized. However, some pressed on with their original plans and for those weddings, the show bypasses all mention of the pandemic. One ceremony in October of 2020 had about 80 maskless guests in attendance.
But the deeper issue of Americans being forced to decide between buying a house or planning a wedding hits home with the episode featuring emergency room trauma nurses Alex and Whitney.
The women are eager to start their own family and were on the hunt for a home to embark on that journey. However, they were adamant about the importance of professing and celebrating their love just like any other couple.
Debating their options, a teary Whitney explained, “I knew from that moment you asked me to marry you, that I wanted to show the world that we are normal, we’re in love just like any other couple, and I looked forward to that moment.” Alex added, “a home is a life with you, a child with you.” While they celebrated the choice they made, they painstakingly admitted they had to give up one of their dreams in the process.
Ultimately, Marriage or Mortgage is a light-hearted watch on the surface, but exposes a huge flaw in U.S. society. Yes, both weddings and homes are expensive, but it seems a bit cruel to casually watch two people excited to embark on a new chapter together debating over making a financial investment or exchanging vows in front of family and friends.
And although each couple seems pleased with their final decision, it’s hard to feel too upbeat when viewers are rooting all along for them to be able to have both.