Jeff Solin is a computer science teacher at Lane Tech College Prep on the North Side of Chicago. He’s also an ordained officiant in a group called the Church of the Latter Day Dude. If you're familiar with the Coen Brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski, you may know that the group is a real thing, at least on the Internet and on paper.
So last week when a friend couldn’t officiate a wedding because he thought he might have the coronavirus, he asked Solln for a favor.
“He said, ‘Here’s the situation we’re in. Do you think you could fill in and cover?’” Solin recounted. “And I thought it sounded awesome.”
So Solln dusted off the ordination certificate he got more than a decade ago (and never used before ) and asked the couple to meet him outside his home in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. There, they stood on one side of the gate while he stood on his porch. Because Solin is a computer scientist and has a 3D printer at home, he offered to make them wedding rings. He describes the entire process in this entertaining Twitter thread.
The couple did not want their names used because they haven’t told all of their friends and family about the ceremony yet. But they did say Solin could share a picture of the ceremony with their faces obscured.
Solin filled out the documents wearing black latex gloves, then made the official proclamation by cobbling it together, he said, based on other weddings he has attended.
“I think I said something along the lines of ‘By the power vested in me by the State of Illinois and the church of Dudeism, I pronounce you husband and wife,” he said.
The couple kissed, thanked Solin and, before they left, gave him a bag of celebratory food and drink.
“They were super sweet.” Solin said. “They gave me a Champagne bottle, two ciders, a pineapple, strawberries and two mangoes. I don’t think it’s official without the two mangoes.”
But Solin said he was in it for more than the fruit.
“This is going to sound cheesy, but I’m a big fan of love and companionship,” he said. “I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for over 20 years, and my wife and kids are the most important thing in the world to me…. And so being able to be a part of someone else going into that journey is exciting… This is just a strange time that is bringing people together.”
Now that he’s overseen one official wedding, Solin said he’s ready for more. His local pizza parlor has even put together a fundraising package that includes dinner for 50 and his officiant services. But he may have to hold off on weddings for a while, because he has got another project in the works: Solin wants to use Lane Tech’s giant Maker Lab to produce face shields for medical professionals and others who need them.
“I’ve got all this equipment sitting there in this big lab doing nothing,” he said. “We may not be as fast as other labs, but if it can help one person it’s a win.”
Solin said he will be working in coming weeks with Chicago Public Schools and the city’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications to get that project up and running in the coming weeks.
Monica Eng is a WBEZ reporter. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org