Extravagant floral arrangements and lights decorate the East Room of the White House for the state dinner given by President Theodore Roosevelt in honor of Prince Henry of Prussia in 1902. In the early 19th century, state dinners were given to honor the Cabinet, Congress and other officials. The first state dinner to honor a foreign monarch was on Dec. 12, 1874, when King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) visited the United States.
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (from left), Indian Ambassador to the United States Vijaya Pandit and President Harry Truman leave National Airport in 1949. Nehru arrived in the president's personal plane and was the first Indian prime minister to be honored with a state dinner.
King Baudouin of Belgium, first lady Mamie Eisenhower and President Dwight Eisenhower walk toward the State Dining Room prior to a state dinner honoring the Belgian monarch in 1959. The State Dining Room seats 120 people. Dinner parties that exceed that limit are usually held in an outdoor tent.
President John F. Kennedy and visiting Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba descend to the Grand Foyer of the White House followed by Moufida Bourguiba and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, in 1961. This was the first state dinner held by the Kennedys.
Ballerina Maria Tallchief rehearses the night before performing during a state dinner held by President Lyndon Johnson for German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard in 1964. State dinners traditionally include entertainment that showcases American artistic pursuits.
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and President Richard Nixon welcome guests prior to the state dinner given in honor of Trudeau's visit in 1969. Visiting dignitaries and guests are traditionally greeted on the North Portico of the White House.
Queen Elizabeth II dances with President Gerald Ford during a state dinner held in her honor in 1976. State dinners are considered to be an expression of goodwill and hospitality in addition to being a demonstration of influence and culture.
President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter greet Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo in 1977 for a state dinner. At one state dinner hosted by the Carters their 9-year-old daughter, Amy, was caught reading after her parents allowed her to bring books to the table.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (left) shakes hands with former baseball player Joe DiMaggio at a state dinner in 1987. Gorbachev wore a business suit instead of a tuxedo. His casual attire provoked one Washington Post reporter to remark, "Poor Mrs. Gorbachev ... is married to the leader of the proletariat and doesn't get a chance to dress up very often."
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (left) and President George H.W. Bush, followed by first lady Barbara Bush and Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, descend the Grand Staircase for a dinner honoring Bhutto in 1989.
President George W. Bush walks down the Grand Foyer of the White House with the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, and first lady Laura Bush during the final state dinner of the Bush administration, on Oct. 13, 2008.