Take the flowers, for instance: NPR's Andrea Seabrook writes:
The first lady said every detail of the decorations has meaning. The flower arrangements of roses, hydrangea and sweet pea blossoms were meant to evoke the classic American garden, while the rich, plum colors paid homage to India's state bird, the Indian peacock.
The dinner was held in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, and the walls were decorated with locally grown magnolia, ivy and nandina, meant to reflect the Obamas' dedication to sustainability.
Even the tent was not just for added space: "As we all know, in India some of life's most treasured moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It's a little like tonight," President Obama said.
As for the protocol, Michelle Obama said: "Protocol is critical. Protocol — how you stand, how you sit, who walks where — all of that is really important." There's a certain way to have a state dinner! For instance: honor guards in full dress uniform from all branches of the United States armed forces will be dispatched for ceremonial duty at the White House. There's a receiving line, win which the president introduces the visiting head of state to all of the guests. There's a five course meal (last night, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had plenty of vegetarian options, although prawns were served; desserts included pumpkin pie tart, pear tatin with whipped cream and caramel sauce).