Delicious. Formal. Glitzy. That’s only the surface of a state dinner, like the one that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are putting on tonight for visiting French president Francoise Hollande.

But what really goes on after the VIP’s slip into their tuxes and gowns? And more importantly, what’s the substance behind all the glamorous style? State dinner veteran Roxanne Roberts offers a look at eight things to know about the longstanding tradition:

State dinner connoisseur Roxanne Roberts shares some little-known facts about the grand affair. (Jhaan Elker, JulieAnn McKellogg and Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

More state dinner coverage from menu to Michelle Obama’s style–and everything in between.