Candidate Trump had plenty of state dinner suggestions. President Trump hasn't taken them.

WASHINGTON — Long before he ran for president, real estate developer Donald Trump had a vision for state dinners that called for construction — specifically, the building of a big, beautiful White House ballroom.

Presidential candidate Trump regularly spotlighted a second, sharply different take on the events: they should feature a menu borrowed from the nearest drive-thru — or canceled altogether.

But on Tuesday night, more than a year after his inauguration, President Donald Trump will attend his administration's very first state dinner, with nary a ballroom nor a burger in sight.

The event, planned by First Lady Melania Trump, honors France's President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. White House officials say President Trump has steered clear of the planning process. But over the years, he's shared plenty of ideas.

Two years ago, then-candidate Trump may not have been measuring the Oval Office drapes — but he was already envisioning what White House dinners held during his presidency might include, and what they might not.

Referring to events honoring visiting leaders from China and other nations, Trump scoffed at the splendor and spending involved. He told a Sioux City, Iowa rally crowd that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the United States, he would get Trump's acceptance — "but I wouldn't give him a state dinner like we do for China and all these other people that rip us off when we give them these big state dinners."

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White House State Dinner with China
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White House State Dinner with China
Ne-Yo performs in the East Room for those who attended the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China exchange toasts during a state dinner at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders will tackle a range of issues including regional tensions in Asia and cyber crimes. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
Ne-Yo performs in the East Room during the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman and CTO, Oracle, walks with Nikita Kahn (center) after arriving for the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: President Barack Obama hosts a state dinner for President Xi Jinping of China at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders will tackle a range of issues including regional tensions in Asia and cyber crimes. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: President Xi Jinping of China speaks at a state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders will tackle a range of issues including regional tensions in Asia and cyber crimes. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama touches his glass in a toast to Chinese President Xi Jinping's spouse Madame Peng Liyuan (R) as Xi (L) joins in, during the State Dinner at the White House, in Washington, September 25, 2015. Obama announced on Friday that he had reached a "common understanding" with Chinese President Xi Jinping on curbing economic cyber espionage, but threatened to impose U.S. sanctions on Chinese hackers who persist with cyber crimes. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Mark Cuban and his wife Tiffany arrive for the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of an honor guard leave after US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Staff grill lamb for the State Dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted by US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China exchange toasts during a state dinner at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders will tackle a range of issues including regional tensions in Asia and cyber crimes. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
Henry Kissinger and his wife Nancy arrive for the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman and CTO, Oracle, and Nikita Kahn arrive for the State Dinner for President Xi of China at the White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - SEPTEMBER 25: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Representative( D-FL) and Steve Schultz arrive at the State Dinner for China's President President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at the White House for an official State Visit September 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - SEPTEMBER 25: Tim Cook, CEO, Apple and Ms Lisa Jackson arrive at the State Dinner for China's President President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at the White House for an official State Visit September 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - SEPTEMBER 25: Dianne Feinstein, U.S.Senator and Richard Blum arrive at the State Dinner for China's President President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at the White House for an official State Visit September 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., right, and his wife Priscilla Chan arrive at a state dinner in honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The U.S. and China announced agreement on broad anti-hacking principles aimed at stopping the theft of corporate trade secrets though President Barack Obama pointedly said he has not ruled out invoking sanctions for violators. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Singer and songwriter Ne-Yo, left, and his mother Harriett Loraine Burts arrive at a state dinner in honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The U.S. and China announced agreement on broad anti-hacking principles aimed at stopping the theft of corporate trade secrets though President Barack Obama pointedly said he has not ruled out invoking sanctions for violators. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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"We give them state dinners like you've never seen," he said. "Forget the state dinners — that cost, by the way, a fortune."

Speaking to an Atlanta crowd ahead of the Republican National Convention that year, he had a more specific cost-saving entertainment concept in mind. "We shouldn't have dinners at all," he said. "We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table."

But he didn't just think the White House was thinking too big. He also thought they weren't thinking big enough.

Before President Obama's re-election, and for years afterward, Trump recounted a call he said he had had with President Barack Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, when he offered to commission five American architects to build a collapsible ballroom worth $100 million — free of charge — in which the White House could host state dinners.

"I notice they always put tents up on the lawn," he said at a Sioux City event in 2016. "Number one, it's not a good security thing. Number two, the guy that owns the tents is making a fortune."

Trump claimed that Axelrod never responded to the offer.

"If I was at the White House," Trump said, "I'd say 'let's talk a little more common.' In our greatness many years ago — they wouldn't have called, it was before the phone — but they would have had that built. They would have said, 'This sucker wants to give us a free ballroom — let's take it.'"

Axelrod confirmed the exchange in his book, "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics," although the passage does not mention any Trump offer to fund the project.

"'I build ballrooms. Beautiful ballrooms,'" Trump said, according to a passage in Axelrod's book. "Not being much of a dancer, I didn't know where he was headed. 'I see you have these state dinners on the lawn there in these shitty little tents. Let me build you a ballroom you can assemble and take apart. Trust me. It'll look great.'"

Indeed, there will be no tent-based dining for the French delegation Tuesday night. The White House says the first lady preferred a more "intimate" affair in the State Dining Room, limiting the guest list to only 150 people and absent the usual celebrity and bipartisan congressional invitees.

21 PHOTOS
Trumps, Macrons participate in glitzy White House state visit
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Trumps, Macrons participate in glitzy White House state visit
A military honor guard awaits the start of the official arrival ceremony being held by U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) during the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a welcoming ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a welcoming ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump looks at first lady Melania Trump as they host the official arrival ceremony for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he and first lady Melania Trump preside over the official arrival ceremony for French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L) on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump chats with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) during the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron listen to the national anthems during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump salutes as he and French President Emmanuel Macron (L) review a military honor guard during the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron gesture during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
French President Emmanuel Macron waves as he stands on the Truman Balcony with U.S. President Donald Trump during the official arrival ceremony for the Macrons on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome French President Emmanuel Macron during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
First lady Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron attend an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
French President Emmanuel Macron kisses the hand of U.S. first lady Melania Trump as his wife Brigitte Macron looks on during the official arrival ceremony held for the Macrons by U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron walk down the colonnade at the White House following the official arrival ceremony for Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Emmanuel Macron, France's president, center, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks at an arrival ceremony during a state visit on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Washington on Monday for a three-day visit heavy on symbolism and substance as Donald Trump hosts the first official state visit of his presidency. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
French first lady Brigitte Macron and French President Emmanuel Macron walk with US President Donald Trump and US first lady Melania Trump upon arrival at Mount Vernon, the estate of the first US President George Washington, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 23, 2018. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron plant a tree as first lady Melania Trump and Macron's wife Brigitte Macron watch on the South Lawn at the White House on Monday, April 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron ride in a golf cart at Mount Vernon, the estate of the first US President George Washington, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 23, 2018. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R): French first lady Brigitte Macron, French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Donald Trump, and US first lady Melania Trump arrive at Mount Vernon, the estate of the first US President George Washington, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 23, 2018. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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There will be flowers — many, many flowers: 1,200 branches of cherry blossom will adorn the Cross Hall; the dining room will feature more than 2,500 stems of white sweet peas and nearly 1,000 stems of white lilac, while the parlors will feature mixed garden flowers.

The meal will be served, in part, on fine china from the Clinton White House, along some from George W. Bush's. The menu will be a showcase of American cuisines with "nuances of French influences," prepared by White House Executive Chef Christeta Comerford.

And it will be served to a president who pledged, before his first primary, that he would retire the meals entirely. If he were elected, he told the audience at a New Hampshire event, "it's going to be different. We're not going to have state dinners."

But he quickly added an asterisk: if the trade deficit were eliminated, the dinners could be back — and bigger than ever before. "I'll have state dinners. When we break even, I'll have a state dinner. And when we start making money, I'll have a double state dinner."

For the record, France currently runs a surplus on trade in goods with the U.S. But the party Tuesday night is still on.

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