Before they were ever engaged, Chelsea Main and Jesse McNew committed themselves to the idea of a "Big Lebowski" wedding.
It helped that neither of them were much in the way of religious. Also, they had watched the Coen brothers cult classic on the night of their first date, after an evening of drinks in downtown Lincoln and a failed attempt at spotting Lady Gaga.
Chelsea revealed she’d never seen “The Big Lebowski,” and Jesse, privy to this new information, called for an immediate viewing. He was a big “Lebowski” fan, quite possibly the biggest “Lebowski” fan in all of Nebraska, and he would not let stand another moment in which Chelsea went without.
So they watched. And as early as that night, Chelsea felt that wonderful feeling of knowing the man she’d someday wed.
Which is not to say she would have predicted a Lebowski-themed wedding with costumes, characters and coffee cans as table decor.
“I didn’t really get it,” she’d say many months later, on the eve of their big day, about that first viewing.
The story was ludicrous.
They married last Saturday at Chops Bowling near 13th and Vinton Streets. With friends and family as their witnesses, Chelsea and Jesse declared “I abide” to each other. They exchanged ring(er)s and made a unity White Russian — or “Caucasian,” in the parlance of the movie.
If none of that makes sense, obviously you’re not a golfer.
If it does, you might well appreciate the efforts that went into a ceremony styled after the ninth highest-grossing film in the Coen brothers oeuvre.
It was good. And thorough.
The groom wore a purple V-neck T-shirt, Pendleton cardigan and lounge pants — a head-to-toe recreation of Jeff Bridges' style when the Dude pays a visit to known pornographer Jackie Treehorn (and suffers a subsequent interrogation by the sheriff of Malibu, a real reactionary).
The bride wore a green dress, nodding to the velvet green robe worn by Julianne Moore’s character, Maude Lebowski.
The five groomsmen and man-of-honor all wore yellow and brown bowling shirts, another casual outfit pulled from the fictional closet of El Duderino. The four bridesmaids wore matching brown dresses and carried yellow flowers.
The officiant, Luke Cross, a Kearney resident and longtime buddy of Jesse’s, was ordained by the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (an actual online thing) and held papers from the State of Nebraska allowing him to run the show.
“It’s easy to marry people in Nebraska,” he said.
Cross was a natural fit, if for no other reason than he looked exactly like John Goodman’s explosive character, Walter Sobchak, and dressed the part.
Neon signs lined the walls, mimicking the space-age star-bursts in the movie’s Los Angeles-area bowling alley. Cans of Folgers Coffee served as table decorations, a touching tribute to the late Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos, played in the film by Steve Buscemi.
Attendees arrived as their own favorite characters, or something like it. There were at least four Walters and one rogue Dude, but fortunately zero Nihilists. Garry McNew, Jesse’s father, had the whole cowboy thing going, a tip of the cap to Sam Elliott’s nameless narrator, The Stranger.
One man wore a Huskers polo, saying it was the closest thing he had to a bowling shirt.
Beers and Caucasians flowed readily from the bar, right up until the moment, shortly after 4:15 p.m., when the ceremony began on lanes four through six, upon a collection of Persian rugs that really tied the theme together. The wedding party danced in to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Jesse and Chelsea’s Big Lebowski wedding,” Cross announced to cheers, in a voice sounding so much like Goodman’s as to be improbable.
Feedback from the microphone brought a sudden halt to the ceremony. A hush fell over the crowd, made more awkward when the Chops Bowling telephone rang out.
Guy in the back, without missing a beat: “Phone’s ringing, Dude.”
It was one of those days. Mostly strikes, and the blessed few gutters were taken in stride. It’s a lesson the young couple picked up from “The Big Lebowski.”
“There are so many little philosophical details you can read into it,” Jesse said a day earlier, “which I do.”
Some things you can control, some things you’ve got to let be. That might be the yin and yang of Chelsea and Jesse. She’s a planner. He’s, well, he’s kind of the Dude.
She wrote out her vows. He chose to recite his vows from his head.
“Thanks for doing a ‘Big Lebowski’ themed wedding,” he said at the end. “That’s awesome.”
Truth be told, Jesse never imagined he’d see a wedding ring on his finger. Never figured he’d find a special lady friend who would make him want to pop the question and rent out a matrimonial bowling alley.
Chelsea, on the other hand, knew all along. From that first night in her apartment, she looked past the confusing ins and outs of “The Big Lebowski” plotline and saw in Jesse something pretty darned interesting.
It wasn’t that he was a hero — because what’s a hero? — but sometimes a girl knows when the right guy tumbles along.
Sometimes you just know.
Sometimes, you just know.