WASHINGTON — The first White House state dinner in President Joe Biden’s administration Thursday drew prominent figures from fashion, entertainment, politics and business to help celebrate French President Emmanuel Macron ) and the return of big social events post-pandemic.
There were kisses all around as the Bidens took to the north porch to welcome the Macrons — Jill Biden in an off-the-shoulder navy gown by Oscar de la Renta, Brigitte Macron in a Louis Vuitton high Collared ivory gown.
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Other guests trickled in through the side door, and seemed eager to do so. First to arrive: the governor of Louisiana. John Bel Edwards, followed by the governor. John Carney, representing Biden’s home state of Delaware.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus whizzed by the media, pausing only to say, yes, she’s been to state dinners before and it’s all been “very exciting.” Entering late-night TV host Stephen Colbert, guests walked through the holiday-decorated White House before boarding trolleys and driving along the South Lawn to a heated party tent.
Shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who wore a crystal polo tie — when asked how many people might wear his shoes in the evening, declined to venture a guess, said: “I don’t know. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was also among the 338 names on the official guest list.
Family members were also inducted: Biden’s adult children Hunter and Ashley were on the guest list, along with his sister Valerie Biden.
Others in attendance: “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, actors Jennifer Garner and Ariana DeBose, and singer John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen. Garner is among those who wear velvet, a popular choice on nights when temperatures drop into the mid-30s.
Also present were outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican hopeful to succeed Pelosi.
McCarthy was asked how he felt about having dinner with Hunter Biden, whom Republicans were keen to investigate when they took control of the House of Representatives in January. “I’m having dinner with my mom and I’m going to have a good time,” he said.
Other lawmakers excitedly introduced the family members who accompanied them. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Dallas Democrat in a royal blue one-shouldered gown and elbow-length black gloves, brought her niece Hannah Carter, she told her aunt The thing “feels like Bridgerton,” referring to Netflix’s romance series.
Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stopped by for a chat ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff election in Georgia, the Democratic senator. Raphael Warnock, who is seeking re-election, declared, “I think Tuesday is going to be a good night for Georgia … just to make sure people keep voting.”
The tent was set and the table for the feast was set, and earlier in the day hostess Jill Biden took her French counterparts and teacher colleagues to a language museum to highlight their shared interest in learning and their growing friendship.
“We are friends,” Brigitte Macron and Biden said as they shook hands at Planet Word, a museum dedicated to words and languages.
“We’re friends,” Biden repeated.
The declaration of friendship came at the right time. A state dinner is a lofty diplomatic honor that the United States only bestows on its closest allies — such as France, one of America’s oldest nations.
The wives toured the museum while the husbands held talks at the White House. Brigitte Macron taught French literature and drama; Jill Biden went on to teach English and composition at Virginia Community College.
As the sun went down, guests began to trickle into the White House, dressed to impress and expecting to say they played a small role in history — the first state dinner the Bidens hosted.
A host of business luminaries were also in attendance, including French luxury magnate Bernard Arnault, film mogul and investor Jeffrey Katzenberg, private equity legend Henry Kravis and IBM CEO Arvin De Krishna.
The guest list also featured a slew of Democratic donors who helped the party perform better than expected in the midterms. Among them are Katzenberg, a Hollywood donor; Avram Glazer, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic causes in recent years; Alexander Soros, the son of George Soros and a Vice-Chairman of Soros Open Society.
The red, white and blue themed dinner menu features butter poached Maine lobster, beef with scallion jam and American cheese. Dessert was orange chiffon cake with baked pear and whipped cream ice cream. American sparkling wine will be used in the toast.
Guests dined on rented cutlery, as cutlery from the White House china collection was not permitted to be removed from the executive mansion. They were seated at a mix of square and rectangular tables covered with dark blue silk, with red candles and red, white and blue flowers, including white irises, the national flower of France.
Jon Batiste, Grammy Award-winning New Orleans native and former bandleader and musical director of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” provides after-dinner entertainment .
“It’s going to be a fire,” Baptiste promised before his performance.
The White House has not held a state dinner since September 2019, largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dampened gatherings of large crowds.
But entertainment is back at the White House.
Thursday’s dinner followed the South Lawn wedding of Biden’s granddaughter last month and was attended by 250 guests. Tens of thousands of people will flock to the White House this month, including tourists and others invited to a nearly month-long holiday reception.