In episode three of Netflix's new hit reality series, Marriage or Mortgage, there's a woman named Precious who has $30,000 and she wants a dream wedding that features a ranch fountain—to be clear, that's a fountain, flowing with ranch dressing. Nectar of the mayonnaise gods. The job of Sarah Miller, Nashville wedding planner extraordinaire, is to make that happen. And in the context of this show, the more elaborate request, the better. The job of Nichole Holmes, Nashville real estate agent extraordinaire, is to dissuade them from a wedding entirely. As the title might suggest, she's the mortgage side of the equation, showing couples what their $30,000 can do as a real estate investment.
But the part of the series that is most fun to watch is in the nuance. At six minutes into episode three, if you pause the show, you can see Holmes and Miller have an entire conversation in a glance. A ranch fountain. To dip vegetables in and sliders in and probably some child's five-year-old fingers in. Delicious. The series is refreshing because these two women, accommodating and flexible as they may be, are very clearly businesswomen who don't dilly dally in nonsense. You want a ranch fountain, Precious? Then America's favorite dressing will floweth over.
Social media has eaten the series up, chiding love-stricken couples for the (surprisingly high rate) at which they choose marriage over mortgage. They've also clung to Holmes and Miller, whose chemistry and playful competitiveness take the series from a cog in the Netflix machine to one of the most-watched series on the platform. The two took a day away from Juliet balconies and ice sculpture planning to talk with Esquire about the series' couples, the most bizarre requests they've gotten, and how you, too, can have your favorite condiment free-flowing on your wedding day.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Esquire: Y'all have a series on Netflix that's not just performed really well but was one of the most-watched series when it debuted. How has that felt?
Nichole and Sarah: Tell us how well! Tell us!
Nicole: We can't get solid numbers! It was fantastic that we were in the top 10 last week.
Sarah: It's such a feel-good show for everybody. I think we just have the best time filming it, so it feels good to watch it and hear the support of it.
Nichole: You'll have a few haters here and there, but you know what, they're still watching! You can't please all the people, all the time.
Now, respectfully, Sarah. From the bottom of my heart, I love love, but I do not understand how all these people keep choosing a wedding at the end of this.
Nichole: Justin loves me more!
Sarah: I do get a lot of flak for it. It's like, "How could you ever let someone choose a wedding over a mortgage?" and I'm like, "I love what I do." If they kept choosing mortgage, it wouldn't be a show. Honestly, it's based on every single couple and the journey they've gone through. I'm not knocking home-buying, but I do agree with a solid foundation and weddings and creating your future. It's a commitment before you keep moving on.
Nichole: I kind of get all mama bear protective when I see people bashing her. When people say, "I can't believe they're draining their life savings!" We're not draining their bank accounts, people. This is something that they have. A nest egg. I think that's the common misconception... that these people are going to end up destitute. That is not the case! We are not horrible humans here!
I mean, I sit here on the phone asking how could someone choose a wedding when I have a personal question about the cost of that ranch fountain and whether I can afford one.
Sarah: I think, if you follow Precious on Instagram, she posted some photos of my face in the background [when she asked for the ranch fountain]. Yes, it's very odd. It's one of the most outrageous things I've heard of in my entire life, but again, it was super important to her. So I had to get it.
Nichole: We just do what our clients want us to do.
The ranch dressing fountain is pretty intense. It's out there. What are some of the wildest things that you've come across in wedding planning.
Sarah: I mean, ranch fountain was one of the craziest.
Nichole: Have you ever had a bride who wanted the most salacious dress, and it was just hideous, and you're like, "I can't be a part of this?"
Sarah: I haven't, thank God.
I know there are production elements that keep us guessing, but do you have an idea which way a couple will go?
Sarah: We met the couples just like you saw. We got a tidbit of information beforehand and we got through the entire process and don't know until that day. Some of them switch their minds right before they see us.
Nichole: There were times I was like, "I so have this in the bag. This has to be their decision. They need a house."
My follow up to that is: do you have any idea what the other is bringing in because, Nichole, I imagine that was a big let down to see Sarah bring in a helicopter.
Nichole: It's so fun. If you could see some of our faces, you would know we don't know. The editors on the show are amazing. It could be far more catty, I think, than what it appears to be. But no, we do not know. Some of those subtle glares we gave each other? They're all real.
Every couple has their own decisions, and they're lovely in their own right, but there were a couple times... the people who purchased a home but wouldn't live in it together until they were married? They should have chosen marriage, right?
Sarah: They had such strong convictions. They were so spiritually in it to win it.
Nichole: If you're going to put in your profile that you're abstaining from sex—and they were a hot, hot, hot couple—I chased that rabbit down the rabbit hole, and what you see on TV is a glimpse of how dedicated I was to getting to the nitty gritty. They are huge in their religious group, and they felt like if they were going to talk the talk, they needed to walk the walk. They had previously had sex, but once they were engaged... Listen, I thought they were going to choose wedding. I really did.
There were a couple instances on the show where you showed a couple a house or a facet of the wedding and it's obvious it just didn't hit. How do you deal with that?
Sarah: It happens for sure. This is us taking risks to show them something we think they're going to like and it's not for everybody. Sometimes you want to show somebody something they're not used to because it might spark something.
Nichole: I'm doing the same right now with spouse shopping.
While people online are interested in the couples, the piece of Marriage or Mortgage that seems to be clicking is you two and the banter you all have. Have you seen any of the memes or photos posted?
Sarah: Yeah, we love them.
Nichole: I have seen people that repost TikToks—also, I'm not on TikTok because I'm like 80 years old.
Sarah: Don't say that! They're going to publish your age!
Nichole: I'm not actually 80. By the way, I'm 47 in like, a week. Please get my age right... But I have seen some really hysterical TikToks. There's this comedian in L.A. who is fantastic. She is gorgeous and hysterical and far quicker than I am. There are all these random people posting hysterical TikToks about how we're manipulating the people. Honest to God, I'm just... on the floor.
Sarah: There's a lot of funny ones. You just have to laugh at that stuff. Take it all in because it is what it is. Don't read the negative, but yeah, somebody did a funny one the other day on Instagram and I tagged Nicole in it, and he was so happy.
I was watching on the couch, and Sarah, I saw you show the doves for the bride's late granddaddy. I gasped. Then the next scene, Nicole showed the empty lot and revealed that stone randomly in the field with her granddaddy's quote on it and I just left the room entirely. I said, "These women are unhinged."
Nichole: Justin, do you know how long I had to talk to them and trounce them around that lot until I found that effing rock? Because I didn't remember where I put it. And I'm in high heels and she's in high heels, and I'm like, "Oh, my goodness."
Sarah: The bird thing, too. I hate birds. I do think doves are really pretty, but opening up that box with all those doves in it? That was very scary.
Nichole: You should get a medal for that.
Sarah: I should.
Nichole: My first wedding was a little extravagant. That's part of my history. I don't try to hide that fact, take away from it what you will. I learned my lesson: it was really stupid to spend all that money on that day and he cheated on me and the wedding lasted six years. Not that it's going to be everyone's path, but it's mine and it's where I come from. I didn't have birds, right? I had a trumpeter announce us at the reception. I had a harpist. I had a good friend of mine who is an operatic singer sing the Lord's Prayer. That's where I come from: if you can afford both, I'm a huge proponent of doing that. But these couples have a real decision to make, and I'm here to tell ya. Let's invest in some property.
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