Obamas and Singhs at White House (© AP Images)
At the first state dinner they hosted, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, to the White House on November 24, 2009. (© AP Images)

Shortly after Barack and Michelle Obama moved into the White House, they established their own style of entertaining. White House state dinners, a century-long tradition, retained formalities but, hosted by the Obamas, more often featured performances by contemporary musicians — rhythm-and-blues, hip-hop or indie-rock artists — and more inclusive guest lists.

The lavish events allowed the president and first lady to combine diplomacy with glamour. During his two terms, Obama honored 17 foreign leaders, while offering up a parade of VIP guests, a beautiful setting and a fancy menu.

Here are some highlights from state dinners held during the past eight years: