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Netflix asks 'Marriage or Mortgage': We say NOPE.

Published Saturday, Mar. 13th, 2021

Cover image via Netflix's Marriage or Mortgage trailer.

by Jessica Levey




Netflix recently released a new reality series: Marriage or Mortgage. The plot of the show? Ten engaged couples living in Nashville must choose between their dream wedding or a new home.



Uhhh…. No thank you



We give this concept a resounding NOPE. 


It’s immediately clear that this show was designed and filmed in a pre-pandemic world for a pre-pandemic audience -- a now-distant alternate reality that grows more surreal by the minute. (And, in fact, it was.)


To work, the show necessarily ignores the past year’s record-breaking unemployment and class divide, the exit of millions of women from the workforce as families struggled to meet their childcare needs, and the staggering housing crisis that’s put millions more on the brink of eviction, foreclosure, and homelessness. 


If the show didn’t ignore these things, how could they possibly call a choice between a wedding party and a home fun


As a pre-pandemic audience, we might have been able to turn off the parts of our brains that recognize economic disparity, trivialness, and unbridled materialism in order to play along. We’ve certainly been doing it for years in the spirit of an hour or two of ‘harmless’ entertainment. 


But now, many of us can’t, or won’t want to. 


The pandemic has changed us. That is, perhaps, its saving grace, if it has one. 


It’s left us with a deeper understanding of who we are, and who, or what, is truly important to us. It has also pointed a glaring spotlight at the limitations of unchecked capitalism and the cracks in our country’s social support structures, showing us just how deep those cracks run, and just how easily the average American can slip through them.  

But truthfully, even before the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine the show would have been all that cute. 


The unfortunate reality is that too many couples were already pressured into making this decision, choosing between a wedding and a future investment, every day, without the fanfare. Pressured by tradition, trends, family obligations, and societal expectations, couples have spent more than they could comfortably afford on weddings for decades. 



It’s frustrating, to say the least, when it’s obvious that small, affordable ceremonies are just as meaningful -- and often more personal and authentic -- than their sprawling counterparts.



In 2019, the average wedding cost a staggering $28,000. During the pandemic, when couples downsized and innovated with smaller weddings, the average cost still hovered near $19,000. In 2020, the average price of a house (adjusted for all states) was a whopping $246,334


Meanwhile, the median household income, a number that doesn’t factor in those families without jobs, was around $70,000. This means that half of all working households made less. 


This doesn’t leave much money for an extravagant wedding or a house for the average couple.


Look, we’re not saying the show won’t be beautiful to look at. 


We know that panning shots of over-the-top wedding venues and sprawling walk-in closets feed our need for escapism and relaxation. And we know we’ll love rooting for each in-love couple, genuinely hoping that all their dreams really do come true. 


But it will be impossible to watch as if we don’t know what’s coming -- even if the lucky couples don’t. 


And from this wiser, one-year-in-the-future vantage point as the pandemic continues on, we just don’t have the same appetite for the wedding industry’s excess, or the housing market’s inequity, that we used to. 



For an in-depth preview of Marriage or Mortgage, with photographs and quotes from the creators, read Ruth Etiesit Samuel’s review for Today, or Time's Netflix’s Marriage or Mortgage Dances Around the Dark Reality of Americans’ Finances



Watch the Netflix trailer for Marriage or Mortgage. 



Considering a small wedding? 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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