Big Life Decisions – Marriage or Mortgage?

Choosing Between a Wedding or Home
Marriage or Mortgag

Last week, I shared some behind-the-scenes of our wedding day on Instagram Stories. Thank you for the sweet comments! It was a blast walking down memory lane, and I wanted to share a few additional photos here. Additionally, I wanted to dive deeper into the topics of marriage and mortgage.

Keep in mind, Bob and I have been married now for more than a decade. As such, I’ve been able to reflect on the highs, lows, and other key learnings since our “big day.”

Marriage or Mortgage?

Have you seen the Netflix series, Marriage or Mortgage? Basically, each one-hour episode takes you behind-the-scenes as couples decide between a fairytale wedding or a home. Furthermore, the series follows a wedding planner and a real estate agent who compete to win the couple’s hearts (and budgets).

It’s kind of like HGTV’s Love it or List it. Granted, instead of partners picking between renovating existing homes or moving to a new one, Marriage or Mortgage documents an engaged couple’s decision between day-of nuptials or an actual abode.

If you think about it, the show presents a truly relevant conundrum. According to The Knot, the average wedding cost is somewhere between $20-30,000. Given the pandemic, it’s been closer to $20,000 as of late. To compare, the typical value of homes in the United States is $272,446 (via Zillow). Moreover, this NerdWallet article offers details on how the median down payment for first-time home buyers who financed the purchase is roughly 7%. If you do the math, this means a normal first-time home buyer purchasing a typical home would need about the same amount of cash as the average wedding cost!

I truly enjoyed the first season of the series! Plus, it’s a topic that most couples will and/or should consider at one point in their relationship. Should you say “yes to the dress” or “yes to the dwelling?” Big decisions, and no two paths are alike.

Admittedly, I already binged the entire first full season of the show a few weekends ago. Haha! But to be transparent, the show drudged up some old emotions that I wasn’t expecting. I definitely did not expect such complex feelings to emerge over a glossy Netflix show… but it happened.

Fairtales and Falsehoods

Growing up, like many girls, I always dreamed of a fairytale wedding. Every detail was decided by the time I was 21. My mom and I would discuss the subject quite often – especially as I grew older (and when I got into a serious, committed relationship). We had it all planned out – a reception at a local country club, a Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier gown, phenomenal food, and an open bar. Oh, and a live band. A really good band.

Then, everything changed.

We lost my mom to a stroke, I was no longer in my previous relationship, and I was different. With that journey came different priorities… and eventually a new man, of course. 🙂

Style Charade Wedding

New Era, Big Changes

When Bob entered into my life, I was a mess. I was still coping with the collateral damage of my mom’s death, and I was struggling to grow in my career. While you couldn’t tell on the surface, I was angry. Upset. Disjointed. Underneath the lipstick and Louboutins, I often felt like I was on the brink of a boiling point.

Anger is like kryptonite. I was mad that my mom was taken too soon and confused why my previous boyfriend chose a long-distance job at a time when I needed him most. Additionally, I was upset that my family was struggling with coping with my mom’s loss, and I felt like I needed to be strong for everyone else. In many ways, I still feel frustration and shame about certain aspects of that chapter in my life.

Over time, minute-by-minute, Bob attended to my wounds – carefully mending each cut with surgeon-like precision. In most cases, he didn’t force me to heal, but instead showed me a possible path forward to embrace a more positive and happy outlook on life. He walked alongside me as I’ve processed, felt, coped and crawled through the stages of grief. Above all, he taught me how to have a healthy intimate relationship.

B has a Masters degree in counseling. The irony is not lost on me. Lol.

I’m so thankful Bob came into my life. He changed (and continues to change) me for the better. It’s a reason why a wedding day meant so much to us.

Jennifer Lake Wedding Bouquet

Visions of Vera Wang Slipping…

When Bob and I got engaged, we had a choice – a dream wedding or a home. Have you gone through something similar?

Last week on IG stories, I shared some snippets about how we came to envisioning our big day. Was it my dream wedding? No. However, I married my dream partner, and I would pay infinite funds many lifetimes over to make the same decision again.

However, when it came to the actual wedding day, we made sacrifices and scaled the day back a lot.

Without going into too many financial details, the two of us were clear on our budget, and we could either use our savings on a downpayment on a home or for the wedding itself. While engaged, I’d talk to him ad nauseam about the subject. It took over our lives – conversations at dinners, drinks, brunches, lunches and everything in between. As Myers Briggs “P’s,” we both love to explore all options before making a decision. It’s basically our “couple kryptonite,” if you will.

Some days, we thought we could do both. Then, we’d go visit a condo, do some quick math, and realize the idea was an impossible dream. Soon, we had no choice but to pick one or the other. Therefore, we chose to place all of the funds for a downpayment into our first condo.

The moment the money moved from savings to escrow, I saw visions of Vera Wang gowns slipping away. In the distance, I could hear the faint noise of the live band playing notes of La Vie En Rose fading into the background. It was tough, friends. Very tough.

Above all, I felt like I was letting my mom down. As if all the ideas and plans she’d helped envision were slipping through the cracks. While processing the final decision at the time, I reverted back to small surges of my 20-year old self. I’d be awake at night thinking – “how can I let down her legacy” “does Bob deserve better,” and “are we making the right decision?”

Jennifer Lake Bob Zigmund

Picking Marriage AND Mortgage

I wish I could tell you the decision to pick condo over wedding ceremony was easy. Moreover, I’d love to admit to you that I’m not crazy materialistic. Like, “sure, it’s just a gown.” Who cares? “Bye five-course meal with a sorbet course? Woof! No thank you!” But I can’t say that to you…

Friends, while visions of church bells dance in my head, I am still SO thankful we chose a home vs. an over-the-top, ultra luxe wedding day. When you’re doing marriage right, you choose it every single day. Mortgages are monthly, marriage is forever, and weddings are just one day.

Ultimately, I’d like to think Bob and I chose mortgage AND marriage.

To make the wedding day work to our advantage, we decided for a mid-day ceremony, followed by an afternoon reception. Instead of a lengthy, sit-down dinner, we chose rounds and rounds of passed appetizers. As opposed to a giant hotel banquet hall, we had an al fresco, courtyard gathering at lovely historic landmark in Chicago. Invitations for 600+ people? Nope! We had a perfectly sized party with just our nearest and dearest. Overall, we brainstormed as many ways as possible to stay within our budget while keeping it memorable and special. From DIY décor to wedding programs designed by one of my bridesmaids, we cut costs as smartly as possible. Although I splurged on an off-the-runway Oscar de la Renta gown, I was able to sell it for nearly full price just a few months after our nuptials. All these years later, I don’t have a single regret!

Selecting a home has helped us invest in our future. It’s the main reason why we were able to buy a bigger home a few years back, too. Plus, I love actually owning our place. If we rented, I wouldn’t able to wallpaper every corner of the space. 🙂

Jennifer Lake Wedding

In Closing

Listen, I’m not advising you to pick a home over a wedding day. Plus, I’m cognizant of the fact there are plenty of other factors involved, like where you live/geography, religious and cultural considerations, etc. In the end, I wanted to share our choice, and to encourage you to really take the time to think through all options.

Have you experienced something similar? What was your path and journey? What factors did you keep in mind and did anyone give you great advice? I’d love to hear about your experience and decision. In closing, thanks for taking the time to read through our journey.

All photography by Studio This Is

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View All 6 Comments

  1. A
    Annaliese wrote:

    I love this!! I haven’t watched the show yet but it is on my to-watch list. Your wedding day still looked SO beautiful and special- I never would’ve known from the photos that it was a scaled down version of your original wedding dreams!

    I feel like I will do something similar someday. It is crazy how expensive the wedding industry is. Love will matter above having an expensive Big Day!

    xoxo A

    Published 4.5.21 · Leave a Reply
  2. K
    Kit wrote:

    Love this post and your honesty. The other thing about investing in a home, is that with a little luck you can get the money you put into it back. You are setting yourself up for the future because that home can be sold and then you can put money from the sale into a new home. That money can help you long term!

    Yet… this is coming from someone who chose the wedding. For that reason we lived in a small bachelor pad for several years.

    Published 4.5.21 · Leave a Reply
  3. M
    Marina lamb wrote:

    Thank you for posting this
    I am a mother of five girls and two boys
    We have privately educated them all and sent them to the USA uni for a different experience
    Then they would have got in the uk
    They learnt to live in another country and all that comes with it
    I never had any formal education so it was important that my girls became independent
    And had there own money & Career

    With that all said I maintain have a home there is nothing like having your own front door key and being a couple
    The rest can wait
    And by that time in your life you are more carful with your own hard earned money
    I got married at 19 my father pregnant self into date for that wedding wedding I didn’t want but he did and he took him years to pay that off I would never put anybody in that position I was never to know the head going to tap for it and it was only a small fat 30 people
    I love a party don’t get me wrong but I know you don’t get into debt for it
    I been married for 36 years now and 7 kids later and 2 grand babies and other one on the way
    None of them are married but 3 are home owner !
    And have there own front door and life

    Published 4.5.21 · Leave a Reply
  4. V
    Vanessa wrote:

    For me, personally, I would one hundred choose a mortgage over marriage. I realize this decision is different for everyone and may be harder to make and come to terms with for others, but for me it’s pretty simple and straightforward. I come from a traditional Italian family and our culture is known for big, extravagant weddings. I’ve known people in my family to spend $100,000+ on their weddings and, to me, that’s just insane. I’d rather spend that money on a home and a honeymoon – not a 1-day event.

    Published 4.6.21 · Leave a Reply
  5. T
    Tiffany wrote:

    Just because you don’t spurge on a wedding, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be magical and romantic. I think that’s important to remember! I had a simple wedding, catered food from Pita Inn (now we get it every year on our anniversary), chocolate cake from Portillo’s (yum!), and a public park venue which was beautiful! I’m so happy we did it on a budget! (We didn’t have much of an option though since we were both in grad school and 0 income or savings!)

    Published 4.8.21 · Leave a Reply
  6. M
    Meg wrote:

    I absolutely loved this article. You shared such smart ways to save money. I was on a very tight wedding budget, so we got married on a Sunday morning, served a buffet brunch, and the only alcohol we served was a champagne toast. Still happily married almost nine years later!

    Published 4.10.21 · Leave a Reply


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