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Celebs and dignitaries meet at the White House for Biden's state dinner

President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron toast during a state dinner on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Andrew Harnik
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AP
President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron toast during a state dinner on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Orchestrated in part by the first lady, President Biden hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and several hundred other guests at the White House Thursday evening for his first state dinner as commander in chief.

State dinners honoring foreign leaders are a White House tradition dating back to the 1800s, the first of which welcomed King Kalakaua of Hawaii, hosted by President Ulysses S. Grant on Dec. 22, 1874. The occasion is a show of hospitality to some of the most powerful people and a sign of friendship, attended by U.S. and foreign officials, as well as actors, musicians and other stars.

Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley and others attend a state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday in Washington, DC.
Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley and others attend a state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday in Washington, DC.

Biden's dinner extends an olive branch to Macron after the United States torpedoed a nuclear submarine deal between France — America's oldest ally — and Australia last summer. The two leaders have spent the past few days discussing shared interests, culminating in a glamorous black tie event Thursday evening.

U.S. President Biden (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron stand for their national anthems during an official arrival ceremony at the White House Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Doug Mills/Pool / Getty Images
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Getty Images
U.S. President Biden (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron stand for their national anthems during an official arrival ceremony at the White House Thursday in Washington, D.C.

A look at the guest list

More than 300 additional guests made their way to the White House for Biden's party. Among them were members of the French and American elite, including business magnates, movie stars, TV personalities, musical artists, dozens of state and federal officials, military leaders, a Medal of Honor recipient, and Kurt Russell, the 2022 teacher of the year.

Some notable star attendees included actress Jennifer Garner, R&B singer John Legend — who played at Biden's 2021 inauguration, comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert.

From the government, attendees included Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, along with senators, representatives, governors, mayors and other officials.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and his mother joined Biden and the Democrats for dinner.

And representing America's military were Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Medal of Honor recipient Army Cpt. Florent Groberg.

Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Jon Batiste performed for Biden, Macron and guests after dinner concluded.

"We're thrilled to have him perform at the White House for the first state dinner of the Biden-Harris administration," said Vanessa Valdivia, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden.

Jon Batiste performs during Thursday's State Dinner with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik / AP
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AP
Jon Batiste performs during Thursday's State Dinner with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Dinner with a red, white and blue theme

The first lady said her red, white and blue design for Thursday's dinner was inspired by shared colors and values between France and the U.S.: liberty, democracy, equality and fellowship.

Tables set on the South Lawn of the White House displayed red roses, blue delphiniums and white irises, "...Which are the symbols of our nation's capital and of France — their intricate petals reflecting the interwoven history of our nations," the first lady said in a statement Wednesday.

A table is set during Wednesday's media preview for the State Dinner on Thursday with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik / AP
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AP
A table is set during Wednesday's media preview for the State Dinner on Thursday with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

As for the meal itself, the White House spared no expense. Lobsters were brought in from Maine and there was beef with shallot marmalade, prepared by White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford.

And for dessert, White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison presented the guests with orange chiffon cake, roasted pears topped off with crème fraiche ice cream, The Associated Press reported.

White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, holds a dish during Wednesday's media preview for the State Dinner on Thursday with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik / AP
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AP
White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, holds a dish during Wednesday's media preview for the State Dinner on Thursday with President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

What the world leaders wore

Both presidents Biden and Macron sported classic black tuxedos for the evening, while their wives seized the opportunity to sport something more in tune with the event's color scheme. According to Vogue, Jill Biden wore a navy gown by Oscar de la Renta hanging off her shoulder neckline. It had long sleeves and a botanical lace pattern.

As for Brigitte Macron, she donned a white turtleneck dress with silver detailing at the waist and neckline.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron in the Grand Foyer of the White House before Thursday's State Dinner in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik / AP
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AP
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron in the Grand Foyer of the White House before Thursday's State Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Corrected: December 1, 2022 at 9:00 PM PST
A previous version of this story misidentified one of the guests at the dinner. He was Kurt Russell, the 2022 teacher of the year, not the actor with the same name. Also, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attended the dinner with his mother, not his wife.
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.