This is a bit delayed, but in case it helps anyone!
We decided on the Excellence Riviera Cancun. No it wasn't part of the original list - I was being a snot about the name including Cancun.
Anyway, we're thrilled, it's a beautiful resort and perfect for what we were looking for - great value, enough restaurants/bars, beautiful resort, nice ceremony location but wonderful private reception location.
We did view these properties, my overall thoughts are below but if anyone has questions, ask away.
- Grand Velas - gorgeous, but the entry level rooms were more expensive than the Excellence, and they were a bus ride from the beach. A colleague is getting married here and they've been great for her to work with though - she chose this b/c they allow kids.
- Excellence Playa Mujeres - really nice. We loved it so much, but knew the beach was a bit nicer where the Excellence Riviera is located, and when we looked at that one, we were sold. The PM location's decoration is a bit more modern; the Riviera Cancun is a bit more Mexican inspired.
- La Amada & the Villa - La Amada was nice, but a bit small for what we're looking for. They allow kids. The Villa is somehow associated with both La Amada and the Excellence PM, it was nice but didn't blow us away. If we had 20 people, it might've been perfect though. These are both right by the Excellence Playa Mujeres and there are no other resorts currently on that beach.
- Valentin - this was our #2 - I really loved the private ceremony location on the beach, but the reception locations weren't as private - they were in places our guests would be every day. It's a bit less $$ than the Excellence but we decided from seeing the two that the overall value of the Excellence was solid enough to ask our guests to pay a bit more to join us.
- Playacar Palace - very small. If you have a small wedding, this might be a good fit, but for ours...we would've been on top of everyone, all the time. The pool/beach are right there, there is no escape, unless you walk into Playa or take the ferry to Cozumel. The ferry is RIGHT there.
- The Royal Playa del Carmen - not right for us. It is right in the thick of Playa del Carmen, seemed like it was always a party, and that the wedding would be in the same place you were partying.
- Iberostar Grand - #3 for us. I was very hesitant since it's part of such a large complex, but was impressed by the Grand and how intimate it felt. We decided it wasn't right because we thought people would end up staying at the other resorts also - and our main reason for a destination wedding is to spend time with family & friends who we don't get to see often. We saw the other resorts that are part of the complex as well - some of the less costly ones aren't on the beach but they all looked nice.
- Now Jade - this was our home base for our site visits and they were the worst experience we had; we cancelled seeing the Now Sapphire. The person who I had confirmed the tour with (and reconfirmed 2 days prior) decided to take the day off, their back-up didn't know anything and we had to ask to see the ceremony/reception locations. Every other resort was more than accommodating, pleasant, knowledgable, etc - this place didn't care about hosting our wedding at all. And then we found out they upgraded my best friend and her husband - who booked the same way, arrived the same day, and wasn't planning a wedding. Lack of consistency?!
We also saw Azul Beach - we talked our way in for an impromptu tour (not so easy, I recommend making appointments!) - it was a nice resort and they were very helpful, but they didn't have a covered reception location for more than 40 people. I like being outside but if it rains...I don't want to deal with changing absolutely everything.
If you go on a site visit, I highly recommend taking videos of the ceremony locations and reception locations. We took photos and they are helpful, but a video would be great to really see the space again as we're figuring out details.