This article is sponsored by Better but was created independently by our editorial team. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.
Alex and Whitney Morgan had $25,000 and a big decision to make. Would they spend the money on their dream wedding — or a down payment on their first home?
They chose the wedding, and they don’t regret it. For them, it was an “investment in our relationship versus an investment in our financial future,” Whitney says.
The Netflix show “Marriage or Mortgage” highlights this familiar conflict by featuring a couple’s decision process to use their savings either for a wedding or for a down payment. Today’s low mortgage rates are enticing to first-time homebuyers, but rapidly rising home values are pricing some of them out of the market. Meanwhile, with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying many couples’ wedding plans, the pent-up demand is expected to increase the cost of getting married.
It’s been nearly 18 months since the show’s debut, and NextAdvisor caught up with two featured couples: Denise and Nick Boehmke (“Adopting New Traditions”) and Alex and Whitney Morgan (“Nurses in Love”) to see how they feel about their decisions, which were made prior to the pandemic.
Even though the choices these couples made were for a television show, they had to use their own money. Now, they have some real-world advice for anyone navigating a similar situation.
Denise and Nick Boehmke’s Story
The Boehmkes had $25,000 in savings to either invest in a home or to pay for the wedding of their dreams. The wedding planner, Miller, did her best to sway the Boehmkes to spend their savings on a high-budget Elvis-themed wedding with peanut butter signature cocktails and decor that made Denise swoon.
The couple chose to use the money for a down payment on a home in Nashville, Tennessee.
They don’t have any regrets with their decision, either. “I always tell everybody, to really just do what’s best for you,” Denise says. “For us, and our experience and our journey, a house was the next step and was the priority.” Prioritizing a home for their family has turned out to be a better decision then they could have ever predicted.
A few months after moving into their home, the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. and mortgage rates bottomed out, helping to fuel the hottest housing market in over a decade. While the Boehmkes aren’t exactly sure how much their home has increased in value, a similar property in their neighborhood received an offer for over $100,000 more than what they paid just two years prior, they said. By purchasing a home when they did, the Boehmkes avoided a situation where they could have been priced out of the area where they wanted to live.
If you’re debating between investing in a home or the wedding of your dreams, here’s what Nick and Denise want you to know.
Don’t stretch your budget
What a bank is willing to lend to you and what you can comfortably afford won’t always line up. So when you’re shopping for a home and a mortgage lender, you’ll want a good idea of what your homebuying budget is.
“One of those homes they showed us was a little outside of our budget,” Denise says. “We really liked that home … we thought about pushing the budget and pushing the limits.” The Boehmkes ended up purchasing a home that more comfortably fit into their budget, which ended up being a great decision.
When the pandemic hit, Denise was furloughed from her job. With a streamlined budget and a little help from stimulus checks, they were able to get by until she returned to work. “We made a lot of sacrifices,” Denise says. But by not buying a home at the top end of what they could afford, it made a scary situation more manageable.
Know what you and what your partner want
One challenge the Boehmkes faced behind the scenes was how quickly they had to make such a huge decision. With how fast homes are selling in today’s market, many homebuyers find themselves in a similar situation. What helped Nick and Denise make a good decision for their situation was knowing what they wanted so they could move quickly..
If you’re purchasing a home on your own, create a list of what you must have in a home and of the things that would be nice to have. If you’re buying a house with a partner, then that‘s something you’ll need to work on together. “We had a lot of extensive conversations beforehand about what we wanted, about what we’re looking for,” Nick says. This made the final decision easier.
You can still have a low-cost wedding
It’s easier to have a low-budget wedding than to purchase a low-budget house. Even though the Boehmkes chose mortgage over marriage, they ended up eloping in a small ceremony in front of a waterfall. “We still got to have our cake and eat it too,” Nick says. “But at a fraction of what it could have been had we gone with the large ceremony and big party.”
They recommend being realistic and practical, while fighting the urge to go over the top with a wedding. “You can get outside [instead] of going to the courthouse and do something that feels more, you know, significant and creative,” Denise says. You don’t need to spend all that money these days, says Nick. Pinterest is a great place to start researching DIY (do-it-yourself) projects to help you do just about any part of a wedding yourself.
Alex and Whitney Morgan’s Story
The Morgans’ budget for either a down payment or a wedding was also $25,000. Rather than settling into one location for the long haul, they chose their dream wedding over a house. The timing for their wedding couldn’t have been better. They got married in late February of 2019 and got back from their honeymoon in Thailand only a few days before the initial wave of COVID-19 travel restrictions were put in place. There are positives and negatives to everything you do, but things just happen to work out in their favor so far, says Whitney.
There’s flexibility in not owning a home
The Morgans ended up choosing marriage over mortgage largely because they were excited to start their lives together and didn’t want to delay their marriage. Even though they really loved the third house in Nashville they saw on the show, they felt “we could always find a house that we loved,” Alex says.
Alex’s father had recently purchased a home in Utah that was sitting vacant during the pandemic. He offered it to the Morgans rent free, and now they can save for a future home while they finish their education. “Who gets presented that offer, you know, in their life? Very few people,” Whitney says.
Because they weren’t tied down to a mortgage on a Nashville home, the Morgans were able to pick up and leave. “If we had bought the house, then we would still be in Nashville,” Alex says. Once they graduate, they’ll be free to move wherever they want or where they can find the best employment opportunity.
If you’re not 100% committed to a specific area, not being tied down to a home can give you the flexibility to take advantage of unexpected opportunities or to pursue a more lucrative job offer.
Invest in the memories
For anyone who’s in the midst of planning a wedding, or will be soon, the Morgans suggest prioritizing the aspects of the wedding that create and capture memorable moments. Looking back, they were glad they invested in a good photographer and band. Although the band wasn’t featured much on the show, it set the tone for a great reception.
The couple had custom-made labels put on wine bottles from the winery where they had the wedding reception. These keepsakes had the wedding date and their initials. “Every year we have our anniversary and we open up a bottle of wine, and it’s something so special,” Whitney says.
As you’re prioritizing wedding expenses, consider what could help you remember that day for years to come.
Keep it simple and focus on what matters to you
It’s not hard to blow out your wedding budget, especially if you’re trying to do it all. The Morgans kept it simple and skipped a lot of the traditional “to-dos” for a wedding. “We didn’t do wedding favors. We did very simplistic invitations,” Alex says. And they saved on food by having a reception with appetizers in lieu of going all out with a full meal.
They thought about what’s worth spending a lot of money on, Whitney says. The Morgans opted for a smaller wedding ceremony and larger reception to celebrate. That allowed them to focus their budget on exactly what they wanted – a giant party.