We have planned lots of surprise parties over the years. In fact, they are one of our specialties. From celebrations on an Atlanta rooftop to a historic venue, and even a birthday party for our very own Leigh (which was absolute-leigh delightful), these events enchanted guests and thrilled the guest of honor. 

When we got the call to design and produce a surprise 80th birthday party on a grand scale for one of the city’s most important figures, we huddled up, brought our A game, and scored a winning event. 

Our goal was to tailor the 80th birthday party to the guest of honor, and most importantly, the entire event had to feel like him from start to finish. 

Planning began with the venue selection, which was one of our favorite spaces, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of more than 90,000, but we needed to make it comfortable and intimate for just 300 guests, so we set about transforming the massive venue into numerous intimate zones, each highlighting the guest of honor in multiple ways. For nearly six hours, guests enjoyed cocktails, entertainment, dinner, speeches, a meet-and-greet, and even a special appearance by Steve Martin and Martin Short.  

 WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party

A Grand Entrance 

The celebration got underway when guests, who had walked a red carpet, waited to shout “Surprise!” from a hidden space near the stadium entrance as the guest of honor made his way to the well-known metal Falcon sculpture. A perfectly timed confetti cannon with streamers joined the exclamation from attendees, and the tone was set for a thrilling evening.  

We knew the Falcon statue would be a favorite photo spot, so we stationed a photographer there, and by the time guests were ready to leave, we had their printed and framed photos waiting for them to take home. We also created a step-and-repeat with the honoree’s likeness and core values, paired with the specially designed event logo. 

     WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party

Stadium Crowd Control 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a lot of space to play with, and we took advantage of it by creating multiple environments guests enjoyed as the night progressed. One of our most helpful teammates in accomplishing this was drapery, which we used to define areas and create distinct paths through the spacious venue. We stationed black-tie greeters throughout to direct guests from one area to the next. Additionally, we brought the party to life through all five senses in each space. 

A cocktail reception in the Overlook Lounge celebrated the guest of honor through images projected on the LED walls and stadium roof Jumbotron. We also decorated the mega column with his birthday graphic and used blank spaces to feature a timeline of photos of him, paired with a massive “A” made of red roses. An on-site artist created a mural during the evening. Guests relaxed among lounge groupings in luxe red, black, white and gold while enjoying a live jazz band.    

WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party

Arthur Blank 80th Birthday WM Events  

A One-Night Only Performance 

Next, it was time to head downstairs to “Club 80,” the special name we gave the Delta Club for the night, where dinner was held. Guests collected their seating assignments, which were available as brass escort cards shaped like traditional hotel keys featuring the Atlanta skyline, and walked through a tunnel we created with drapery and uplights. 

We transformed the club into a mid-century lounge that would have made Frank Sinatra himself feel right at home. In fact, the birthday celebrant’s favorite song, “My Way,” was performed in different arrangements throughout the evening. Every aspect of the club, from the branded menus to the centerpieces, was cohesive with the ‘80’ logo branding in earlier stages of this progressive event. In Club 80, musical entertainment continued with a live band and a choir.  


The dinner menu was provided by a who’s who of Atlanta chefs, with each creating one course for the evening, and the chefs were chosen from the guest of honor’s favorite restaurants. As guests dined, the show continued on stage with a special appearance by Steve Martin and Martin Short! At one point, the guest of honor joined the duo on stage for a rousing rendition of the “Three Amigos” dance. Before the celebration ended, Mayor Andre Dickens presented the birthday honoree with a Phoenix Award.  

If attendees were surprised by the guest of honor’s turn in a sombrero, he was the one who had gotten the biggest surprise of all, as he kept repeating that he had no idea a few hundred friends had been waiting at the stadium to celebrate him that night. 

   WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party

WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party WM Events Surprise 80th Birthday Party



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