On the menu was dry-aged rib eye beef, American caviar and salad. The full-skirted dress was a liberty blue with a black hand-sewn and beaded embroidery applique top designed by Carolina Herrera. The entertainment was nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige. And the guest of honor, who recently had a very public split from his first lady, sat in a very conspicuous spot without his plus one.
Such was the scene for the first state dinner of Obama’s second term honoring French President Francois Hollande at the White House Tuesday.
This state dinner was the seventh of the Obama administration — and the price adds up. CBS News filed a Freedom of Information Act request and received, after 13 months, the cost of Obama’s first five state dinners:
- Nov. 24, 2009 – State dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. $572,187.36
- May 19, 2010 – State dinner for President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. $563,479.92
- Jan. 19, 2011 – State dinner for President Hu Jintao of China. $412,329.73.
- June 7, 2011 – State dinner for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. $215,883.36
- Oct. 13, 2011 – State dinner for President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea. $203,053.34
To get a sense of how much this costs per guest, the Washington Post noted the dinner for Myung-Bak had about 200 guests, putting the cost at about $1,000 per person — and that’s on the low end as state dinners go by the looks of it.
CBS News reported that it is awaiting a response for the cost of the dinner honoring Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2012.
The total cost of this latest state dinner also has not yet been revealed, but there were 35o people on the guest list. If it cost $1,000 per plate — a conservative estimate — Tuesday’s dinner would have cost $350,000.
There are at least estimates being made on the cost of Michelle Obama’s dress. Joe Zee, creative director for Elle Magazine, told CNN he thinks it cost about $12,000.
Take a look at Tuesday’s extravagant affair and consider how much you think it might cost:
President Obama welcomed his guests Tuesday with a hearty “bonsoir,” then confessed that “I have now officially exhausted my French.” Hollande delivered a good portion of his reciprocal toast in respectable English before switching to French.
“We love Americans, although we don’t always say so,” he told the crowd.
The four-course meal was served in a heated pavilion on the South Lawn because the White House itself doesn’t have any rooms big enough for that many people. Guests arrived by rented trolley.
The Associated Press contribute to this report.