How State Dinners Work

Pre-Event Planning

State Seal on an Invitation to the Executive Mansion
State Seal on an Invitation to the Executive Mansion

The process for planning a state dinner can get complicated. From setting a date to sending invitations and coordinating seating arrangements, the mansion staff is very efficient. "Communication is key here at the mansion," said Cilley. "We must work as one well-oiled machine." A common date and time must be pulled from the governor's calendar, the mansion calendar, and the first lady's calendar. These calendars are filled in six weeks in advance and reviewed in detail each week.


Once a common date is set, Janice Shearin -- who served as Executive Assistant to Mrs. Hunt -- facilitates the invitation process. The mansion prides itself on providing fine Southern hospitality to all who visit, and North Carolina's first ladies have the pleasure of directing entertainment and events associated with the Governor's office. Guests are asked to RSVP through a dedicated, automated phone line at the executive mansion.

At a state dinner, the governor and first lady typically sit at separate tables so they can better entertain their special guests. Every effort is made to include at least one member of the Governor's staff at each table. Guests are seated eight to a table, alternating gender for variety. Once a guest list is finalized, the list is presented to the governor. Shearin said that it is not unusual for a guest to cancel at the last minute, or to change their mind and call that they will be coming. For this reason, place cards are created at the last minute.