At eight hours to midnight, the florists began arranging the first wedding flowers in Minneapolis City Hall.

Forty-two couples will be marrying here, starting at the stroke of midnight, the moment same-sex marriage is legal in Minnesota.

As the hall filled with the scent of white roses, lillies, stocks and orchids, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak sat on the marble staircase, pouring over the biographies of the 84 people he was about to marry.

"I think it's incredibly important that they don't feel it's a conveyor belt of love," said Rybak, who will likely be officiating from midnight to 6 a.m.. "So I want to take extra care to make sure we recognize the personal parts of all of them. I know some of these people. Some of them are total strangers, but I'm doing my best to get to know them even better."

Rybak's matrimonial marathon began the day the Legislature legalized gay marriage. As the crowds cheered, a jubilant Rybak shouted out to everyone in the rotunda: "If this thing passes, come on down to City Hall and we'll marry you!"

Hr didn't realize how many people would take him up on that offer.

"We could have done hundreds of weddings tonight," he said. "We cut it off at 42. Three members of my staff have been working around the clock, along with the rest of their work, to pull this off. But it is literally a labor of love. We just are pretty moved to be in a position to help with all of this."

Rybak put careful thought into the wording of the marriage vows.

"We're going to be using some more traditional language -- dearly beloved -- a few other words like that that hearken back to what this is, which is just one more wedding in a state that has seen million of them over the years," he said. "It's a lot of history, but it should also be incredibly normal. My hope is that it will be someday."

This is a moment Rybak has been thinking about since 2003, when the mayor of San Francisco began performing weddings in his city hall. He said he approached the gay rights advocacy community in Minnesota about doing the same thing, but was asked to hold off by the advocates, who feared a backlash.

"I thought maybe someday in this building, long after I'm mayor, maybe if I'm still alive, somehow there would be weddings for everybody in City Hall," he said. "The fact that it's happening now is really almost mindboggling and exciting for me."

In the meantime, Rybak plans to work in a nap before the overnight wedding shift.

"I'm used to doing 40 things in a day, but I'm not used to having them all be weddings," he said.