Third Ward Rehearsal Dinner Hotspots – Swig and Water Buffalo

Swig - Small Event Space

Located in Milwaukee’s hip Third Ward, Swig is an awesome location for your wedding rehearsal. Photo by m three studio

Rehearsal dinners are sometimes an afterthought when planning your wedding weekend. However, they are a great way to give an extra special thank you to those closest to you.

The Hospitality Democracy group, owners of the unique, and consistently delicious Swig, Water Buffalo, Smoke Shack, and also AJ Bombers restaurants, are a great choice for couples looking to showcase the cool, hip factor Milwaukee has to offer. They are also an excellent choice if you want to show off our great city to out of town guests.

Swig Rehearsal Dinners

Swig Milwaukee - small event venue in downtown Milwaukee

Hip and chic, Swig is the perfect venue for sit down dinners of 40 – 50 people.
Photo by m three studio

Located in the heart of Milwaukee’s Third Ward, Swig‘s private upstairs has many benefits in store for those looking to showcase their guests the chic, hip side of Milwaukee.

The Swig Space

The industrial-chic feel of the space has warm wood flooring, timber exposed ceiling and cream city brick walls. Work from local artists adorns the walls adding to the Milwaukee feel. You have the entire upper floor to yourself eliminating the worry of being early or late to your dinner.

Milwaukee small venue space - Swig Third Ward

Swig Milwaukee provides a private hosted bar for your guests to enjoy.
Right photo by Champagne Studios

A bar exclusive to your party lies in the middle of the space allowing your guests easy access to drinks throughout your event. Cash bar, open bar, or everything in between is always an option.

Want a certain beer served? Be sure to ask. They’ve been known to order seasonal beer a few months in advance to have it available during your event.

Small event space provides private bar - Swig Milwaukee

Swig can order specialty drinks and beers ahead of time so they can be provided at your event. Photos by Champagne Studios

The capacity for Swig is 75 for a sit down dinner, but 50 is the sweet spot for rehearsal dinners in this space.

Swig’s Food

Swig offers food that appeals to any palette, yet has a deliciously unique twist. A little known fact is they do amazing vegetarian options that even meat eaters would love.

As the originator of small plate dining in Milwaukee, Swig’s skills shine when incorporating bite size items into your menu. This may be a bit different than other rehearsal dinners you’ve been to, but what a great way to impress your guests.

small event space in Milwaukee providing appetizers

Consider providing your rehearsal guests small plate options allowing them to try a variety of Swig’s of amazing food. Top photos by Champagne Studios

A huge benefit to Swig is leveraging the menus of Smoke Shack, Water Buffalo and even AJ Bombers to create a menu that can appeal to even the pickiest eater. From some of the best BBQ in Milwaukee using certified humanely raised meats featured at Smoke Shack, to delicious crab cakes or black bean cakes, your menu can be fashioned to your liking.


When meeting with Erin, the event coordinator at Swig, she gave us many tips to share about planning a rehearsal dinner:

  1. Feed Your Guests Early – Rehearsals are generally right around dinner time and after work. Your guests may be starving by the time the ceremony rehearsal wraps up. Erin recommends providing heavy appetizers to start, going with a light entree menu, and providing a few small plate desserts to wrap up the night.
  2. Food is Prepared When People Arrive – Ceremony rehearsals can have unpredictable timing. The experts at Swig only start preparing your food when you get there, eliminating cold food from being served.
  3. 2.5 Drinks Per Person – Based on Erin’s experience with rehearsal dinners, plan for about 2.5 alcoholic beverages per person.
  4. Parking – Parking can sometimes be a challenge in the Third Ward, so try and help your guests out (especially out of town ones) with parking options.

Water Buffalo Rehearsal Dinners

Water Buffalo - small space rental

Water Buffalo provides a unique hip space that showcases the Milwaukee Riverwalk.

Located on Water and Buffalo streets in the Third Ward, this lower-level, semi-private space exists with walk on access to the Riverwalk and is perfect for smaller, more casual rehearsals. The capacity fits 40 people, but their sweet spot is 25-30 people for a sit down dinner.

The Water Buffalo Space

Water Buffalo is perfect for standing and mingling with heavy appetizers and a drink in hand. Venturing out onto the Riverwalk is literally a step away and the contemporary decor designed by the renowned Flux Design provides great indoor scenery.

Water Buffalo Rehearsal Dinner

Water Buffalo’s semi-private, lower level event space.

Your guests will be impressed by the large floor-to-ceiling window wall with views of the Milwaukee River. Timber ceilings, brick walls and tile floors add to Water Buffalo’s contemporary casual ambiance. Cabaret height tables and a full-service bar is available for guest seating.

Water Buffalo’s Food

Water Buffalo calls its food “American comfort,” but we just call it delicious!  As an added bonus, Water Buffalo has the same menu flexibility as Swig – meaning you can create a menu from Smoke Shack, Swig and AJ Bombers’s offerings for your rehearsal dinner. This is an awesome benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked!

Water Buffalo has weekend valet parking  available, so make sure to confirm it for your event date and let your guests know. There’s also plenty of street parking and lots in the Third Ward you can direct your guests to.

For more information on Swig, Water Buffalo and Smoke Shack’s catering and event spaces, check out Hospitality Democracy’s website:

Big thanks to m three studio and Champagne Studios for many of the images used in the article.



  1. It would be really helpful to learn how much someone might expect to pay for the average rehearsal dinner at these locations – for folks on a limited rehearsal dinner budget, it would be awesome to be able to read the article and go “Woah! I can afford that place – and I am calling today!” instead of wondering. Great photos, btw! Made me interested in these locations!

    • Angela Quigley says:

      Hi Amy!
      Thanks for the comment. We generally shy away from including $ amounts in articles like this as it can vary significantly for each group depending on what they want. I would reach out to Erin at Swig, give her your budget you are trying to work with, and go from there. She’s really nice; I promise!

  2. Swig is also amazing for a wedding venue 🙂

  3. I love that you can incorporate the food from any of them. That was one of the questions I had about Swig, that was waiting until I hear from Erin.

  4. Thanks for the posting. You’re right, as you get into the thick of all these other parts of planning a wedding, the rehearsal dinner can get lost in the shuffle. Both of these locations look like great ideas for an intimate and fun dinner.

  5. Looks like a beautiful space that is very accommodating to individual needs!

  6. Went to the Swig Infused with Fall – Infusion Tasting in October on the second level and it was a fabulous space for an event. Excellent food and drinks as well!

  7. Christie Green says:

    The possibility of having Smoke Shacks food with Water Buffalo’s views seems like it would be a really nice way to celebrate!

  8. Definitely considering Water Buffalo or Swig for a bridal shower!

  9. My fiance actually took me to Water Buffalo for my birthday this year and some of our engagement pictures were taken on the riverwalk right in front. It is an amazing restaurant that we were already thinking about having our rehearsal dinner at. It’s great to see others getting the word out about it’s atmosphere and versatility!

  10. I have also used Swig and Water Buffalo for corporate events. They are easy to work with and help create the perfect menu. The spaces are great for a causal and hip atmosphere.

  11. I’d love to try the food at these locations while we are deciding where to have our rehearsal dinner. They sound like great places.

  12. Thanks for this post that I found via Pintrest. I have been to the top floor of Swig for an event and I really enjoyed the space. It is good to know that I should consider it for the wedding next year.

  13. Delicious food at all of the places! I will definitely keep Swig and Water Buffalo in mind for future events.

  14. Justin Fermenich says:

    Both of these have been in the running for our rehearsal dinner so this is a very timely article. Thanks!

  15. Greg Quigley says:

    And the winners are…
    – Justin Fermenich – $50 Swig Gift Card
    – Dolores – $50 Smoke Shack Gift Card
    – Sarah Blogert – $50 Water Buffalo Gift Card

    Congrats!! If you won, please contact us with your address and we’ll get your gift cards in the mail.