There is no secret that the Pfister Hotel is a remarkably iconic historical place to stay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From the classical, castle-like architecture to the entirely regal environmental feel, The Pfister Hotel has much to offer for the luxury traveler. So, when you add an Imperial Ballroom wedding into the mix, you would imagine a genuine fairytale and be shocked by any wedding planning flaws. Nonetheless, here is absolutely everything you need to know — the good, the bad and the ugly — about having a Pfister Hotel Wedding.
Table Of Contents
- A Brief Overview
- An Honest Look At The Pfister Hotel Wedding Cost
- Why Planning A Wedding At The Pfister Hotel Is Harder Than You’d Think
- Rehearsal & Rehearsal Dinner Options
- What The Pfister Hotel Day-Of Wedding Prep Entails
- Your Dream Pfister Wedding Ceremony
- A Cocktail Hour That Your Guests Will Rave About For Years
- Wedding Photo & Portrait Spots At The Pfister Hotel
- Wedding Photo & Portrait Spots Near The Pfister Hotel
- The Hands-Down Best Catering In Milwaukee
- What A Wedding Reception Dance Is Like In The Pfister’s Imperial Ballroom
- Overall Rating From A Recent Pfister Bride
1. A Brief Overview
In case you don’t have the time, here is a very brief, shortened overview of the information I’m about to present. (Or, in case you don’t have the mental capacity… I’ve planned a wedding myself. I’m very familiar with that feeling of overwhelm!)
The Good: Almost everything was perfect about my wedding at the Pfister Hotel. The romantic, royal atmosphere far exceeded my expectations. The Pfister’s catering is fit for kings and the Imperial Ballroom is fit for queens. I was looking for a true black-tie, ball-gown venue, and The Pfister certainly delivered.
The Bad: I was unpleasantly surprised with the lack of professionalism and organization among the Pfister’s event coordinators (and not because I expected them to completely coordinate my wedding). I’ll go into more detail about why I was disappointed later.
The Ugly: A Pfister wedding costs quite a bit in comparison to other Wisconsin wedding locations. After all, it is the most prestigious hotel in the entire state. (Did you know that U.S. presidents stay at the Pfister?) Though, there are ways to work around the cost and to make it more average-budget-friendly.
2. An Honest Look At The Pfister Hotel Wedding Cost
According to The Knot, a reputable wedding website, the price range for a wedding at the Pfister is considered “moderate ($$$).” I would actually agree with this label despite the shocking sticker price.
The cost to have a wedding at the Pfister Hotel is actually free. But, there is a large catering spending minimum. As of this year, the spending minimum for a Saturday night wedding in the Imperial Ballroom starts a little under $20,000, not including the 22% service charges and 6% taxes.
Crazy expensive, right? Not quite. Hear me out:
Fridays and Sundays have a smaller minimum that is lowered several thousand dollars. Plus, you get a 10% discount on all food and beverages. We had a Friday wedding and would highly recommend it.
Additionally, the spending minimum can be met not only through the actual dinner and bar but also a:
- Simple wedding cake (worth upward of $1000).
- Day-of lunch catered for the wedding party.
- Rehearsal dinner catering and room rental.
- Cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres.
- Late night snacks.
- Homemade edible wedding favors.
- Some available decor.
- Day-after brunch and/or gift opening catering and room rental.
- And more.
Furthermore, the spending minimum already also includes:
- Cocktail hour room rental.
- A mic for the officiant or musician.
- A piano if needed.
- Linens, table and chairs.
- A “getting ready” room.
- A complimentary honeymoon suite the night of.
- And more.
Given all of these inclusions plus some, the price is not much more expensive that any other mid-range wedding. Of course, the price could quickly escalate with other optional factors like florals and attire, but that is besides the venue.
3. Why Planning A Wedding At The Pfister Hotel Is Harder Than You’d Think
Apart from the fantastic rental rate inclusions, one category that I thought fell short of the prestige and expense of the Pfister was the event coordination.
Now, before I explain, I’d like to acknowledge that a venue’s event coordinator does not inherently have the same responsibilities as an outside wedding planner or day-of coordinator. The venue event coordinator works for the venue; whereas, the wedding planner or day-of coordinator works for you. Luckily, I knew this ahead of time and planned accordingly.
But, I thought the communication on their end was still not up to par.
The Communication Issues In Question
For example, they accidentally double booked our ballroom. Clearly, this created quite a panic for us, as we were only a couple months out from our wedding date. Thankfully, though, they were contractually bound to the original agreement, so it was more of their problem to unscramble than ours. The panic persisted until the other booking ironically changed their event date. (I should also mention that we got a free late night snack as an apology, which was nice.)
Another example would be the fact that we were not told until four hours before our ceremony that we could not have candles on the floor. I specifically asked about floor candles, and I was only ever told that we could not have real flower petals on the floor. Nothing was ever said about the candles. We had over 70 candles all set out and ready to light before they decided to tell us that morning. I owe a thank you to the catering staff (separate from the event coordination) for finding us crates to set the candles on (shown below).
Obviously, these both major and minor details are not something you would expect to be neglected by the Pfister. It would be a lie to say that I wasn’t a little disappointed.
If you plan to book with the Pfister, I would also plan to hire a wedding planner, or at least a month-of coordinator. While I definitely do not regret booking at this hotel, it was a full-time job trying to coordinate and re-coordinate.
4. Rehearsal & Rehearsal Dinner Options
While we’re on the topic of wedding planning hassles, let’s quickly cover the pros and cons of hosting your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at the Pfister.
Rehearsal Issues You’ll Probably Run Into
We’ll start with the cons. First, it is imperative that you know that you are not guaranteed your ceremony ballroom for your rehearsal space. In fact, you won’t even know if you can rehearse in the ceremony ballroom until the week of your wedding.
The Unknown Perk Of Having Your Rehearsal Dinner Catered At The Pfister
However, if you wait out the uncertainty and get lucky with the rehearsal space, the rehearsal rental is free of charge. Moreover, if you choose to also host your rehearsal dinner at the Pfister, the dinner catering costs can be included in your spending minimum.
So, if the groom’s parents are not paying for the rehearsal dinner as tradition suggests, this is definitely a cost-effective alternative, as you will not have to pay for an extra dinner on top of the wedding day catering.
5. What The Pfister Hotel Day-Of Wedding Prep Entails
As many of you probably already know, weddings take a lot of preparation — not only in the months (or years) prior to the wedding, but also on the wedding day! The timeline for morning wedding prep includes but is not limited to: hair, makeup, nails, lots of ironing/steaming, getting into bulky formal attire, taking pre-ceremony photos, etc. (And don’t forget to eat somewhere in there.)
Here are a few elements of the Pfister that I found particularly helpful the morning of our wedding.
Staying At The Pfister The Night Before
We chose to stay on-site at the Pfister the night before the wedding for a couple of reasons. One, it was super convenient. I don’t know how we could have fit everything into the itinerary from another hotel. And, two, we received a special event rate (and an even better bride/groom/parent rate) for the hotel block. The cost of sleeping at the Pfister Hotel actually came out to be cheaper than staying at other hotels in downtown Milwaukee — even though a night at the Pfister typically costs several hundred dollars.
Plus, it was so much fun making whole weekend out of the wedding!
The Getting Ready Room
Included in the spending minimum is also a “getting ready room,” as they call it. Essentially, it’s a conference room booked under your name in which you can use to get ready with your bridal party. We chose to get ready in our hotel rooms; however, we still put the conference room to use. We catered lunch for the wedding party in the conference room, and the ceremony musicians used the room as a changing room.
WELL Spa & Salon
WELL Spa & Salon is the spa and salon that is located inside the Pfister Hotel. The services here include massages, hair cuts/coloring, hair styling, bridal hair, nails, makeup, waxes and more. You can find a more complete list of their services here.
Although I chose to learn and do my own makeup and get my nails done at a salon more local to me, I did get my hair professionally styled at WELL Spa & Salon. I could not recommend it enough! The staff are so kind, and you feel an overwhelming sense of calm immediately when you walk in the doors of the salon — a perfect way to start your wedding day. I was also offered a complimentary mimosa during my appointment, which was an obvious bonus. My stylist even offered to leave the salon and meet me in the ceremony staging room before the ceremony began to clip in my veil!
Besides the great experience you’ll have at the Pfister’s WELL Spa & Salon, the fact that it is located right inside the hotel next to the lobby makes it all the more convenient and ideal for a wedding day.
The Staging Room
Provided that you do not need extra seating room for your ceremony, there will be a complimentary staging room that is connected to the Imperial Ballroom. It will be closed off by big beautiful doors (shown below) that the hotel staff will open for you for your grand entrance straight onto the aisle.
Our whole wedding party, minus my husband and the officiant, lined up in the staging room before the guests entered the ballroom. It was the perfect way to get set up, do last-minute hair touch-ups and hide from the guests all in one.
6. Your Dream Pfister Wedding Ceremony
I vividly remember thinking to myself during the ceremony, “Wow, this is perfect. Everything is perfect.” Suddenly, none of the planning issues mattered. The giant elegant curtained windows, extravagant chandeliers and marvelous wall designs completely blinded me to the wedding planning stressors that arose just hours earlier.
Oh, and I guess I was marrying the love of my life. He probably contributed to the blissful ignorance, too.
7. A Cocktail Hour That Your Guests Will Rave About For Years
I’m not kidding you when I say that people still rave to me about how incredible the cocktail hour activities and hors d’oeuvres were — which is good because we had a relatively long cocktail hour (two hours). I was a little worried guests would get bored and leave.
For activities, I had classic looking games like wooden Jenga, dominoes, playing cards, checker and chess out as the seated table centerpieces (most of the tables were standing pub tables, but because the cocktail hour was two hours long, we added seated tables too). Additionally, we had my artist sister draw up black and white cartoons of my husband and I, and the venue, for the kids to color.
For hors d’oeuvres, we catered through the Pfister. Our package came with crackers, crudite and four butler served snacks. We chose the mini state fair corndog, chicken tender with gravy, avocado mousse-stuffed cherry tomato and a delicious traditional spanakopita. My extended family still won’t stop talking about how amazing these choices were!
8. Wedding Photo & Portrait Spots At The Pfister Hotel
Even though you’re guests will be raving to you about the cocktail hour, it’s likely that you’ll be out and about taking photos during that time and unable to attend for yourself. Here are the best photo and portrait spots inside the Pfister Hotel to make the photos worth it!
Inside The Imperial Ballroom Of The Pfister Hotel
This location is kind of a “duh.” If you’re hosting your wedding at the Pfister, you’ll definitely want pictures in the Imperial Ballroom. Just make sure that your photographer knows to bring lots of artificial lighting. The room can get pretty dark, and you don’t want the yellow tinted chandeliers being your main source of portrait lighting.
I mentioned this to my photographers (Sarah Glick and her associate) well in advance, and I’m glad I did! They did a fantastic job. Better than I ever could have imagined.
Balcony Of The Imperial Ballroom
Iconic! That is simply all I have to say about the Imperial Ballroom balcony.
The bride, groom and photographers are the only people who will have access to the balcony. I highly recommend going up during the dinner so you can see all of the people who attended to celebrate you. It was a very humbling and heartwarming moment for us.
The Lobby Of The Pfister Hotel
The lobby of the Pfister Hotel is totally majestic. When you walk through the revolving glass doors, it seems as though you have been transported back to the wealthy 1920s. The painted ceiling, marble stairs, and shining finished railings cohesively provide a very Downton Abbey feel.
(Pro tip: If you walk up the lobby stairs to the second floor and past the paintings toward the elevators, you get a near perfect photo opp of the painted ceiling.)
The Iconic Pfister Hotel Awning Sign
If you have a wedding at the Pfister Hotel, you must drag your photographer outside to snag a portrait or two in front of the awning and hotel sign. It is an unwritten law. Pic or it didn’t happen!
9. Wedding Photo & Portrait Spots Near The Pfister Hotel
If you would like some Milwaukee cityscape wedding photos, here are a couple of perfect spots.
Milwaukee City Streets
The following pictures were taken literally one block away from the Pfister Hotel. What a perfect sunset photo location! We managed to capture this sunset picture before the reception even started, which was fantastic because then we didn’t have to leave the dinner for more photos. We were just able to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is a popular wedding portrait location, and for good reason. It’s modern architecture, perfected trimmed lawn, blue sky and cityscape background make for fabulous wedding party portraits. And, it’s just down the street from the Pfister! There is free street parking next door in front of Discovery World for your convenience.
(Note that there were many strangers passing by and congratulating us as we photographed here. I personally loved all of the attention, though.)
Where Not To Take Photos Near The Pfister Hotel
Regardless of where you choose to take photos outside of the Pfister, do not attempt to take photos on the roof of any nearby parking garage. It’s considered loitering, and you will be asked to leave by security — if not fined.
10. The Hands-Down Best Catering In Milwaukee
You already heard about all of the cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres. I don’t need to tell you twice.
The Pfister’s Five-Star Multi-Course Dinner
As you could imagine, the dinner catered by the Pfister Hotel was phenomenal. Unmatchable, actually.
Normally, people don’t expect much out of plated wedding dinners. The chicken is always dry, and the vegetables are always a little leathery.
But not at the Pfister.
I had at least 10 guests approach me after the dinner was served to say that it was the best reception meal they have ever had in their life. And I agree wholeheartedly.
Our package came with a five course meal: the best tomato bisque I’ve ever tasted (basically like spooning a bowl of delicious pasta sauce), an italian salad, raspberry sorbet amuse bouche, braised beef that fell off the ribs and, of course, cake. It actually makes me sad to think that I’ll never have that meal again.
Cake & Desserts
Like the dinner portion of the meal, all of my guests were dying over our cake. I couldn’t tell you how many, “This is the best cake I’ve ever had,” and, “I don’t even like cake, but that cake was amazing,” comments I’ve heard since the wedding.
The Pfister Hotel’s catering baker has a long list of flavors to choose from, so we decided to go with a fun flavor: lemon cake, strawberry vanilla jam filling and cream cheese frosting. I don’t use all-caps on my blog posts very often, but our cake was DELICIOUS.
And, the strawberry on top (pun intended) was that the cost of the cake counted toward our spending minimum, so we didn’t have to spend an extra grand on a cake from an outside baker.
Later in the night, we also offered an assortment of macarons and shortbread cookies as well. Even though I didn’t personally get a chance to taste the extra desserts (my biggest wedding regret), my husband said they were delicious. These desserts also counted toward the spending minimum.
Late Night Snacks
In addition to the macarons and cookies, we also opted to cater pizzas and burger sliders around 10:00 p.m. The burger sliders were definitely my favorite, and pizza is always a hit.
11. What A Wedding Reception Dance Is Like In The Pfister’s Imperial Ballroom
It is no secret that the Imperial Ballroom is a stunning place for a classy soiree. However, the towering windows, glowing light fixtures and cushioned window benches also make for a ridiculously fun party, too. We hired The Milwaukee Wedding DJ for reception entertainment, and they covered everything from uplighting to keeping the dance floor full to making sure our (the bride and groom’s) every need was met.
12. Overall Rating From A Recent Pfister Bride
As you can see, there are some surprising twists and turns with hosting a wedding at the Pfister. However, I would definitely argue that a wedding at the Pfister Hotel is still nothing short of a dream. Despite the extra stressors that are inevitable in wedding planning to begin with, I would book the Pfister for a wedding again in a heartbeat. There are certainly no regrets, or even wedding blues — just joy and many happy memories.
Do you think you would book the Pfister Hotel as your wedding venue? Let me know in the comments below!