I wasn't charged a $300 fee (ouch!), but my photographer stayed at our resort. At first, Blanca thought that our photographer wasn't staying at the GS so she told me I had to pay the $100 visitor's pass to have him onsite -- fair enough, but $300 is RIDICULOUS. I'd fight that one for sure.
I think you could set up the Italian so it wouldn't seem empty... maybe half the restaurant for your tables and half for the dance floor? We had 40 people throughout the whole room, so half of that (and half the room) would look great, I bet. It IS a smaller space -- I was a bit surprised at how intimate it was.
I've attached a crappy photo below to give you an idea of the size -- you're looking at about half of the restaurant.
For Melaina or Christie G:
I was able to get Claudia Rodriguez to photograph my wedding next month, which is AWESOME because she does really beautiful work and now I'm even more excited! Araceli told me I had to pay $300 usd penalty fee for not using their resort photographer. Since neither of you mentioned this in your experience, did you have to pay it? It seems ridiculous.
Also, since you've both seen the Italian restaurant up close and the palapa, do you think 18 people would make the restaurant seem empty if I choose a private reception? The pictures on the website make it look huge still, but Araceli keeps telling me it's small enough for 18 people but I have the feeling she might be saying that so that I buy the more expensive package.
Any suggestions would be grand! Thanks girls!