Ijeoma Kola sitting on grass in a white dress in front of a house

Marriage or Mortgage: What I’d Recommend

I’ve watched way more TV in the past year than I ever did, and with weddings and house hunting already being some of my favorite TV content anyway (Four Weddings, Say Yes to the Dress, House Hunters, and Love It or List It being some of my OG faves), there was no way I was going to pass up watching Marriage or Mortgage on Netflix. In summary, Marriage or Mortgage is a show where couples decide whether to invest the ~$30,000 they have on the wedding of their dreams or the down payment on a house. Every time Jonathan and I watch it together, he thinks the couple should do the wedding and I think they should buy a house. So I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what I’d recommend in case you have $30k lying around and are thinking about having a wedding or buying a home!

Jonathan and I decided to get married in New Jersey, where I was raised and where the bulk of my family and friends live. While the average cost of a wedding in the North Jersey/NYC metropolitan area is about $38,000 and the average number of guests at a wedding is 130, we had 220 people at our wedding and had a wedding budget of $80,000. We paid for about half ourselves and the rest was supported by family contributions, which is typical in both our Nigerian and Kenyan cultures. Our biggest expenses were the venue and catering, photography & videography, and attire.

Right now, a 20% down payment of $40,000 on a house would qualify you for a $200,000 home (or about 20 million Kenyan shillings), and the median cost of a home in the US is $220,000. Most loans don’t require a full 20% deposit especially with first-time homebuyer programs. But for the sake of comparison, let’s say that our $40k portion of our wedding would have been equivalent to a down payment of a moderate-sized home.

So if I were to get married again today, would I rather have the wedding or a house of our own?

As much as I LOVED our wedding — really truly — if I were to go back in time and do it again, I would opt for a much smaller, more intimate wedding, and saved much of that money to afford a house. Although guest lists of 200+ are very common for Nigerian weddings and parental/cultural pressure somewhat impacted our inflated guest list, it bothers me to this day that there are people who were at my wedding who I don’t talk to anymore and who were invited because I was kinda tight with them in college, had grown up with them as a kid, or had been to their wedding. So we definitely could have done a 100 person guest list and still had a fantastic wedding, which would have saved us a good chunk of money on catering and the venue.

Jonathan on the other hand firmly believes that the magic of a wedding is more important than the stability and financial investment of a home. He’s the kind of guy who wants to be the last person on the dancefloor at weddings (ya’ll, I promise he’s the extrovert while I’m the introvert. I’m just more talkative on camera!), and we once got into a huge argument when I made us leave a wedding at 2 am because I was sleepy and my feet hurt LOL.

Obviously, it’s a personal decision for everyone, but especially in the current US housing market where interest rates are super low, if you’re thinking about getting married or buying a house, I’d say buy the house now, go to the courthouse and have a small dinner with your loved ones. Then have the lavish, luxury, everybody flewed out wedding celebration when you’re 10 years into your marriage and have real money to splurge on the party of your dreams.

What do you think? Should people invest in a marriage or mortgage? If you chose one over the other, would you make the same decision again?

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  1. Having the down payment for a house doesn’t mean you can afford the monthly payments and upkeep that goes into running a house. How about the tax due on the property every year?
    I don’t think it’s a black or white decision. I was able to do both (wedding of my dreams, house of my dreams) but if I had to pick, my nomad African self will pick a wedding. Houses in America aren’t worth it for me, it’s still debt and sometimes a costlier expense than renting for the life of a 15 year mortgage.

  2. I say mortgage – I agree that most people have huge weddings (read as parties) because of societal/ cultural pressure.
    I had a court-house wedding with 30 close friends and family in Kenya two years ago. The bulk of the costs went into paying for the ceremony to officiated in my parents’ house instead of a government office. Once the officials left, we ordered food and danced well into the night. This did not cost me more than 700 USD.
    Have the wedding that you can afford and you’ll enjoy looking back on the day.

  3. If I could go back in time (4 years ago) I would have a smaller wedding,just because I didn’t recognise half the people at my wedding and when I look at my wedding photos that irritates me🤣. My husband and I are still saving for a home and we will get there because we have a plan, we spent USD 30k on our wedding and even though that amount could have bought a piece of land or made a 10% down-payment on a home, we’d still have to hustle for the remaining 90%. IMO It’s not really an either or. Plus if you HAVE the money to spend on the wedding you probably have more for that house,problem comes in when you borrow to finance the wedding then thats a huge no no. Lastly,small intimate weddings can still be expensive because you tend to go for the finer more luxurious options since you are catering for a small number, the saving might not be that significant anyway.

  4. I keep thinking why choose you can have both within reason. I wouldn’t splurge on a wedding and would rather pay towards a mortgage if I really had to choose one or the other. That said my preference would be a small intimate wedding rather than the big weddings we have and all the savings can go into the house

  5. Why is it either or? I don’t get the logic in assuming that’s the last $30,000 the couple has. You can have the wedding AND the house. The wedding needn’t suffer because of the house. You can always save up towards a house later or at the same time.

  6. Your points raised are very valid and it makes “obvious sense” to choose a mortgage over a lavish wedding. But brides are deaf to this logic until after the fact lol. So I agree “to each her own” in this case. Our decision to have a courthouse wedding with my husband was easy because in my case, i didn’t have any friends as I had just relocated to the states. And the promise was that, we will celebrate BIG on our 10 anniversary. But do I want to now that we clocked it? Absolutely not! I’m using that money for our next big home lol.

  7. Okay so I too binged this show and I completly agree with you. I was in real life shock to see so many people choose the wedding over the house. ESPCIALLY the couple with the small kids in the apartment.

    I’m getting married in 4 months and it will be a small event of 75 people because as much as I want a fairytale wedding, I want to start my marriage off on a good financial foot.

  8. I say go with the wedding.

    If you’re a first time home buyer you can purchase a house with an FHA loan which messes you only need 3.5% down payment. On a $200,000 house that is $7000 and even then there are plenty of grants that will cover this for you, and if you can’t find one, $7k is a much more palatable savings goal than $40k+ for a wedding.

    I know the show is one or the other but I truly believe in creating space for both. Get the FHA loan, and then get yourself the big wedding. I say this coming from someone who bought the house but didn’t have the wedding. It makes me sad that we don’t have that moment (due to covid) but will circle back in a few years.

  9. I had the big wedding & ended up divorce. Now that I’m engaged again and older and wiser, we’re opting for the house with a much smaller intimate wedding of 40/50 people.

  10. Currently engaged and wedding planning. My partner and are are doing… both! We are going to the courthouse this year and having a private ceremony, just me and him, mainly due to COVID. We were initially upset about delaying our big ceremony, but as we started planning the private one, we fell in love with the idea of it more and more and we couldn’t be more excited! Next year (one year to the date), we’ll have our big ceremony. We are both wedding loving people and love to host parties for our friends and families, so this is no different! It’ll be a public union/first anniversary celebration! We’re also saving some things for that ceremony like jumping the broom, unity ceremony, our honeymoon, etc. so it still feels special even though we’ll technically be married already. As for the house, we just don’t want that yet. We plan to move abroad soon and we’re not interested in being exploitative landlords or managing property from afar so it’s not even an immediate goal of ours and that’s okay. Wedding it is! <3

  11. We used the money for a down payment on the house and had a back yard wedding in the new house instead. Small and intimate.

  12. Spending the same amount of money (or more) for my wedding as my college degree is just something my practical side could never go for. However, I LOVE weddings and some of my favorite memories with my hubby are from a huge fancy wedding we went to together. If money is no issue and having a big party is your thing, I say go for it!

  13. I’d for sure choose a home. I feel like that would be a huge step towards securing my family’s future😄