Culture Pick | ‘Marriage or Mortgage’ feels fake and poorly timed 

The new Netflix series is a reality TV mess, and not the good kind. 


Courtesy of Netflix

Tara Davenport | @tara_davenport, Staff Reporter

With its new series “Marriage or Mortgage,” Netflix has merged the markets of two of the most popular reality TV subjects: weddings and home buying. Honestly, it was only a matter of time until someone realized how much money could be made with a show that pulls from both audiences. 

In the series, which was released on March 10, real-estate agent Nichole Holmes tries to persuade Nashville couples to put their savings toward a down payment on a house, while wedding planner Sarah Miller urges the couples to use their savings on a wedding instead. 

Each engaged couple has about $20,000 or $30,000 to spend and can only afford one or the other: marriage or mortgage.  

One couple, Precious Styles and Alex Bullard, have $30,000 to spend. They’ve been together for nine years and are excited to get married, but they’re also eager to move into a house and start a family. 

Their current place is lacking in space, with only one small bathroom and a tiny kitchen. They’re also without a washer or dryer, which means they have to visit Bullard’s mom every week to do their laundry.  

On one hand, they wanted a three-bedroom home with a shower that Bullard finally wouldn’t have to stand sideways in, but on the other, they wanted a romantic wedding with a multi-tiered cake and ranch fountain. 

After visiting a florist, cake shop and caterer, Miller is able to offer Bullard and Styles their dream wedding at a price that is just over their budget. 

Meanwhile, after touring three houses, Holmes finds them the perfect fit at a price well within their budget. 

Bullard and Styles go back and forth over which option to choose, but they eventually decide to have a … wedding! 

Then video from their wedding six months later plays, along with the update that the couple still lives in their apartment for now. 

They look outrageously happy, which should have made me outrageously happy, but it didn’t and I’ll tell you why. 

While I was forced to admit long ago that all reality television is highly produced and not exactly “reality,” “Marriage or Mortgage” feels extra fake. 

First of all, it’s clear that unlike other pairs of reality television personalities, Holmes and Miller don’t have any kind of history or relationship. According to PureWow, the pair were individually approached by producers and brought on to the show. 

The lack of history and chemistry between them definitely leaves something to be desired. 

Secondly, as someone who has read about every behind-the-scenes secret of reality TV, it’s hard not to wonder whether each couple actually already decided which option they wanted to choose before filming, or were told which option to choose during filming by the producers. 

Maybe I’m too much of a skeptic, but it seems that if there is really no control over which option each couple chooses, it would be possible for every couple to choose the same option, which wouldn’t make for good TV.   

It’s an open secret that customers on similar shows like “House Hunters” have often already closed on a new home when they are filmed touring their so-called options. 

Lastly, after a couple sees their potential home and wedding venue and is ready to make a decision, Holmes and Miller both come to the table with miraculous incentives, without fail. 

Holmes supposedly convinces the owner of the house to drastically reduce the price or give the couple money to replace all the appliances, while Miller supposedly arranges for all of the wedding vendors to offer generous discounts to the couple.

The show claims to highlight a decision that all ordinary Americans have to make, but these amazing deals aren’t realistic for all ordinary people.

It’s unsurprising that the vendors featured on the show are willing to offer discounts in exchange for the media recognition, but it just adds to the fraud that “Marriage or Mortgage” already oozes. 

But the fraudulence is not my only bone to pick with the series.

Most reality TV shows at least try to hide the ways they manipulate and influence their contestants, but not “Marriage or Mortgage.” 

While the couples are faced with the stress of a huge decision involving their life savings, Holmes and Miller act like it’s all a competition between them, and the couples’ futures are merely part of the game.   

I wanted to feel happy for each couple at the end of each episode, but instead I found myself worrying about them and whether, when the cameras went away, they truly felt like they’d made the right decision.

The poor timing certainly doesn’t help. 

The series was filmed back in late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the couples were choosing between buying houses or having weddings, they didn’t know they would soon be spending over a year quarantined at home. They also couldn’t anticipate the economic impact the pandemic has had on many Americans. 

Knowing that, it’s even harder to watch couples choose to spend all of their savings on weddings. Having the hindsight they didn’t is the audience’s curse. 

I could make you listen to me go on and on about what’s wrong with “Marriage or Mortgage,” but watching the actual show would be just as painful, so hopefully I’ve spared you from both.