The Story Behind Bluegrass Event Planning & Rentals
Hello! We are so happy you are here. Welcome to the official Bluegrass Event Planning Blog! We are so excited for this next step in our journey, and that you’re right here along with us.
If you haven’t met us yet, we are Emily Smith & Brittany Risko, the faces behind Bluegrass Event Planning & Rentals. We specialize in event planning & coordination, event rentals, and floral design. You may see a lot of our work at the Commonwealth Event Center, our home-base, but we love traveling around to other venues too.
Emily Smith is the brains behind this operation. As the lead event planner and owner, Emily has planned countless weddings and events. Meanwhile, I am Brittany Risko, Emily’s fearless assistant. I have been a part of Emily’s team part-time since October 2019, and full-time since June 2021.
A lot of you are already familiar with our business and what we do, but are you familiar with how Bluegrass Event Planning was started?
Emily began college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY with a major in Business Administration, but knew in her heart it was not a good fit. A close family friend encouraged her to switch majors to Hospitality Management and Tourism because she was always the party planner for her friends and family growing up. The new program was definitely one that piqued her interest. She studied everything from hotel management, restaurant management, culinary practices, and special event management. To wrap it all up, she was required to complete an internship in one of the hospitality fields they studied.
Emily found an internship working with one of the best event planning businesses in Lexington. She assisted with several different types of events from fundraisers, to birthday parties, to weddings and more. One of the coolest weddings she has ever been a part of was at the Lexington Castle Post. She got to help with weddings as grand as the one in a real life castle to as rustic as a Kentucky horse farm.
After graduation, Emily got a job at a local Lexington event complex, where she helped manage 3 event venues and a catering company. There she gained first-hand experience working with food and running a bar — something she had never done before. On some weekends there were 2-3 events on the same day — having to flip the same room several times.. She quickly learned the event business was not for the faint of heart. Most weeks, she worked over 80 hours, and would find herself falling asleep while standing (no joke).
Burnt out, exhausted, and tired of being paid cash out of a Kroger sack, she decided maybe event life was not for her after all. Trying to figure out a different career path, and already coming into the game late, Emily searched for any graduate school near her that was still accepting applications. In the fall of 2015, she found herself at Eastern Kentucky University studying for her Masters in Business Administration degree. While EKU would not be her last stop, it was one of the most important.
Emily met her husband Greg at just the right time. A few weeks later, she would transfer to Murray State University to finish her Master’s degree. After graduation from Murray, Emily and Greg got engaged and during her own wedding planning, Emily’s passion for events was reignited. Through her own planning process she met and connected with many local event vendors. However, she noticed a major gap — there was almost no one offering a “one stop shop” in our area.
Armed with her business plan written herself and her collection of decor items from her wedding, Emily and Greg discussed the idea of starting her own event planning business. They both agreed to give it 6 months, and if it didn’t work out, at least she tried. Emily hit the ground running with no back up plan and no idea how to run her own business. 6 months came and went, and she never looked back.
Her first year in business consisted of a few weddings, including one destination wedding in Gulf Shores, a non profit event (Beyond Uganda — who we still work with today), a few corporate events, and a lot of networking. She worked hard to build up her rental inventory and event schedule for the next year.
The first few years definitely weren’t easy. She worked strictly out of her home. All of her rental inventory was stored in every nook and cranny of her house. Each rental item was hand washed, each table cloth hand steamed, and each napkin was ironed with a household iron. It would normally take her a week to get ready for an average sized wedding.
Eventually, her business grew enough to need a bit more help. She created an internship opportunity in exchange for class credit for students wishing to dip their toes in the event industry, something she noticed many others did not offer.
After 7 interns, one finally stuck. Tired of working my 9-5 job, I “literally came in at the best worst time” Emily says. I had absolutely no event experience but desperately wanted to break into the industry. My first event was exhausting, but everything I was looking for and more. I fell in love with the fast-paced environment that is event planning, and never looked back. I was eager to help Emily with her marketing plans because I knew Bluegrass had the potential to grow even bigger than it was.
Here's to Growth
As the business rapidly grew, Emily continued to work out of her home, traveling to different venues each weekend. She began to notice a gap in the venue offerings in the area. Many of them did not have the capacity for large events, and the ones that did, did not allow for much space. Thus the idea of an event center was born, and she knew the perfect plot for it.
The plot of land the Commonwealth Event Center currently sits on used to belong to Emily’s grandmother. After she passed away, her parents bought the beautiful property from the estate, and after a little convincing, they (along with her sister) were on board with her plan. There was definitely a need for a large-scale event center in Paducah, especially on this side of town.
Construction began in 2019, and once the building was complete it served as our new home-base. We finally had a home! We finally moved out of Emily’s house. She truly thought of it all when it came to what Bluegrass Event Planning would need to operate. A large storage room that we could grow into, commercial equipment, including a pressing machine. Where it used to take her 30 minutes per table cloth, it now only takes us 1 minute!
This was especially useful when we decided to turn the business focus on event rentals. In 2021, Bluegrass Event Planning was rebranded to Bluegrass Event Planning & Rentals since we now had the capacity to store and service more rental items. After events, you can find us spot treating, washing and sanitizing each used piece.
They say it takes a village, and we are proof it definitely does. Emily saw a need in Paducah, and met it. Without the support Bluegrass has had along the way we all quite literally would not be here today.
And that friends, is how Bluegrass Event Planning & Rentals was born. If you have read this far thank you! This is such an exciting journey for us, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Tune in for a brand new blog post bi-weekly.
- Emily & Brittany, Bluegrass Event Planning & Rentals