If you’re a senior like me, your uncertainty about the future and your motivation to do schoolwork are probably in an inverse relationship right now. This senioritis is even stronger as we face a news cycle — and job market — dominated by COVID-19. To combat those feelings, I usually turn to ridiculous reality TV, à la Real Housewives, Married at First Sight and even some HGTV. So, when I saw an ad for Marriage or Mortgage, it seemed like the perfect combo of a wedding and a real estate show to distract from reality.
Each episode of Marriage or Mortgage, which premiered earlier this month on Netflix, follows a different couple who have only enough money to either pay for a wedding or for the down payment on a mortgage. To help them decide, they meet with wedding planner Sarah Miller and real estate agent Nichole Holmes, who curate options for both a wedding and a house.
After going through all of the options, the couples sit down with Sarah and Nichole to run through the final budget for the wedding and houses, with the experts throwing in last-minute deals to sway the couples. Then, they make a choice: Will they use the money for a beautifully planned wedding or for a down payment on the home of their dreams?
[The Smithsonian honors women filmmakers in all-virtual festival]
Marriage or Mortgage brought some much-needed new storylines to the marriage-related reality show genre. Two of the season’s episodes, for example, focused on same-sex couples who were unapologetic about their identities and open about the added significance of a wedding for them. One cast member, Karla, even talked about her experiences as an LGBTQ community leader in Nashville over the last 25 years. Such representation is sorely lacking in other marriage-related reality shows, such as The Bachelor, so it’s a welcome change that sets MoM apart.
But the show also juxtaposes the couples’ lack of money with grandiose visuals, showcasing things like a beautiful four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Nashville and a hipster craft brewery masquerading as a wedding venue. And it presents it all in a lighthearted tone.
It seems like the show wanted to be heartwarming, and though it was at times, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted.
I watched the show in two sittings. The first day, I’d worked 12 hours straight — seven at my internship, five at The Diamondback. The second day, I’d had a midterm, seven hours of class, another late-night editing shift and the universe decided to sprinkle in a job rejection for good measure.
I’m not special or anything — we’re all grappling with exams, papers, COVID-related anxiety and more. And my fellow seniors and I have the exciting added layer of frantically applying to jobs or grad school (read: figuring out how on Earth we’re supposed to make enough money to pay rent after graduation).
But that’s why, despite the aesthetically pleasing visuals, watching the show brought on a slight sense of existential dread. I spent my whole binge-watch thinking about how I’ll be insanely lucky to even have the opportunity to get a house before I’m 35, let alone one as perfect as the homes on Marriage or Mortgage.
In one episode, Sarah takes a couple, Precious and Alex, to a floral arrangement shop. After explaining how much the arrangements might cost — $4,500 — Precious looks shocked. “That could pay off my student loans!” she said.
I know I was supposed to be focused on this question of marriage or mortgage like a good Gen Z-millennial cusper. But the main thought running through my head was how expensive everything was. Why pay $1,500 for some drapes that would hang up for a few hours at a wedding reception? I already knew I’d prefer a very small and simple wedding if I get married, but Marriage or Mortgage solidified that — not that I’ll have much of a choice with my journalism salary.
The fact that Marriage or Mortgage was filmed right before the pandemic made me sad for the couples, too. They likely faced even more financial hardship in the months after filming, at a time in their lives that’s supposed to be happy.
[I turned my phone off at night and went analog for a week. Here’s how it went.]
If you’re looking to curl up and watch something visually pleasing while your senioritis sets in, Marriage or Mortgage will do the job, even if it might make you a little sad, too. But what doesn’t these days?