SAN FRANCISCO – The champagne corks are no longer popping, bouquets are nowhere in sight and the steady stream of "I dos" has given way to silence.
The party is over — at least for now — for gay couples waiting to get hitched in San Francisco.
About 4,000 gay weddings (search) were performed at a festive City Hall over the past four weeks, but more than 2,700 other same-sex couples who had appointments to marry were left at the altar Thursday by a ruling from the state Supreme Court.
Many couples had spent large amounts of money on travel, hotel, flowers and other wedding plans, only to be turned away by city officials.
"It's a tremendous disappointment," said Margaret Barnett, 60, who was rejected Friday after flying from San Diego County (search) to marry her partner of 22 years, Jane Venghaus. "Our friends want to marry us in a mock ceremony and try to cheer us up."
San Francisco became the epicenter of the gay marriage debate when Mayor Gavin Newsom (search) gave the go-ahead for the ceremonies on Feb. 12, prompting other cities to follow suit and angering conservatives around the country.
The wedding march began shortly after Massachusetts' high court cleared the way for the nation's first legally sanctioned gay marriages, starting May 17. Lawmakers there are trying to put a gay marriage ban on the ballot.
In California, the nonstop nuptials slammed to a halt Thursday minutes after the seven justices reached their unanimous decision across the street from City Hall.
Some couples were caught in limbo — they had gotten licenses and exchanged their vows, only to discover that they would not be allowed to officially record their marriages. Others learned the bad news when they showed up to apply for their licenses.
Relatives in tow, Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper arrived in lace just as a clerk posted this sign: "March 11, 2004 — 2:33 p.m. Effective immediately, by order of the California Supreme Court, the San Francisco County Clerk has been ordered to discontinue issuance of same-sex marriage licenses."
"The clerk was as sad as we were," said a teary-eyed Rizzo, who has been with Cooper for 15 years.
On Friday, Rizzo and Cooper were among six gay couples joining in a constitutional challenge filed by civil rights groups.
That lawsuit, and another filed Thursday night by the city, will work their way up through the courts separately as the state's Supreme Court considers the more narrow question of whether city officials had the power to contravene state laws in allowing the ceremonies. The justices are expected to make that decision in May or June.
County Clerk Nancy Alfaro's staff had the unhappy task of e-mailing and calling same-sex couples to tell them the news.
The mayor urged the gay and lesbian couples to take heart that the city has not dropped its fight.
"I look forward to those 2,600-plus people coming back to San Francisco after we make our strong case before the Supreme Court," said Newsom, speaking above the grand staircase that had been the noisy backdrop for the weddings and now stood empty and quiet for the first time in weeks.
Jennifer Bolton, 34, and Vivian Right, 37, drove up from Las Vegas along with friends and family for their planned Friday morning wedding. They heard the bad news on television just before setting out, but made the trip anyway.
They also decided to wear their diamond wedding bands. "We are still going to open the bottle of Dom Perignon," Right said as their teenager sobbed.
"Wherever in the country they will say `yes,' we are going to go," Bolton added. "It's important for us, it's important for the kids, their generation is going to change the world."
Newsom said Thursday that the city had married 4,161 same-sex couples. But the city assessor's office said Friday that this number reflected confusion over some names that could be construed as either male or female. The office said the actual number was somewhere between 3,940 and 4,008.
In other developments Friday in the gay marriage debate:
— Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he may ask the state's high court to postpone the start of gay marriages this spring now that lawmakers are moving ahead on a constitutional amendment barring the practice. Lawmakers have given the proposal preliminary approval, but the amendment must weather several more votes before reaching the ballot.
— In Oregon, Attorney General Hardy Myers issued an opinion that said banning same-sex marriage probably violates the state constitution. He also said Oregon law forbids counties from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Hundreds of gay couples have been granted wedding licenses in Portland.
— In New York, the mayor of Nyack, his partner and nine other same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the state and the town clerk who denied them marriage licenses. The couples argued that New York's marriage laws are gender-neutral and therefore allow for same-sex marriage.