I completely understand! I am indecisive AND have been navigating the kid conundrum. My fiance has two children, but most of our friends are either childless at this time, or have only infants. If you can't swing a planning trip to see what your options are like in person, then this forum is the next best thing. We visited in July and saw 17 different locations with two different wedding planners in 3.5 days! Half of these locations were in Cancun and the rest in Playa del Carmen. We settled on Hacienda Tres Rios (HTR) for our guests (family friendly, but not overrun by kids), and Playa del Secreto for the ceremony and reception. Our ancillary events will be held at HTR (welcome cocktail, rehearsal dinner, and Sunday brunch) for roughly $1,200 per event (60 guests @ $20 supplement each).
Cost control tips:
- Cancun seemed generally cheaper than Playa del Carmen, but not exclusively. It's about a 25 min. drive south from the airport, but I don't know what the transfer fee is (I can ask our wedding planner and get back to you). I definitely recommend considering Playa. Cancun seems pretty locked down by the "package" approach, which can be convenient, but may not offer you the best value and really limits your choices, and not in a good way. For example, you probably won't be able to bring in any of your own vendors; IF they allow it, it will be with a "vendor fee". In particular, I've heard lots of unfortunate stories about people who used the resort photographer or florist, and really regretted it.
- Since you're so far away, DEFINITELY consider getting a wedding planning/coordinator. According to friends who have done DW's, travel agents are helpful for coordinating all the guests' travel, details, and issues, but they will not know the area like a Mexican planner/coordinator will. We met with Denise Courtney of Euforia events (and American) and Joss Morales of Unique Cancun Weddings (a Mexican). Both were excellent, but ultimately we went with the one that showed us the venue we liked best-- Joss Morales. Euforia works exclusively on commission (to a point), and Unique Cancun Weddings costs $850. A planner/coordinator will be able to offer you lots of vendors in a variety of price ranges for each service.
- All-inclusive (AI) resorts/resort options may help maximize your guests' value-- and yours. Reception aside, AI resorts will often enable you to host ancillary events for a supplement fee for guests staying at the resort-- often around $15 and $20 per person. This will amount to enormous cost savings in the end.
- If you do the reception off the resort, push your planner/coordinator to keep bringing things down. We've gone to Joss several times asking if there was any way to bring costs down, and each time she has managed to whittle out $100 here, $200 there, $80 here... altogether, these are big savings! And she has creative problem-solving ideas like buying the liquor at a store so we don't have to pay the high costs of the vendor's all-inclusive bar.
- Avoid a reception venue that has a venue fee. We made the mistake of falling in love with our venue before we knew there was a $3,500 venue fee, but there was no going back!
I would also recommend looking for a resort that has an adults side and a families side, so that both couples and families can essentially enjoy being in the same place. The Royal Cancun has an adults-only side as well as a family side. We visited it, but it was not for us (I can provide details if you are interested). Another resort with both was the Paradisus La Esmeralda in Playa del Carmen. It is a newer location, and gorgeous! So quiet, serene, comfortable, and luxurious, yet affordable. Unfortunately, if you plan to hold the reception or ceremony at the resort, and you plan to have children attend, then you are limited to options on the family side only. The adults-only side must stay adults-only, even for special events. If you plan to have the ceremony and reception off-resort (like we are), then it doesn't matter.
Another option to consider is a small boutique hotel where you can rent out most or all of the rooms, so you can have as many kids as you want, and do what you please. Two good options are Le Reve (gorgeous!) and Omni Puerto Aventuras (so affordable! so much to do!), both in the Playa del Carmen area. (See my reviews of both here, at the bottom of the page.) Both offer either AI or EP (European Plan, where guests pay on consumption),but not both, i.e., all guests must be on one plan or the other, you can split the group up.
Ultimately, if you only care about convenience and don't mind either sacrificing vision or paying for the convenience, then go with an AI resort and do all your events there. Keep in mind the packages they offer often contain a lot of "fluff" that you ordinarily wouldn't want/wouldn't want to pay for outright (rose petals on the B&G's bed, chocolate-covered strawberries, a commemorative 8x10 photo, etc.) However, if you do a little extra work, you can have your vision and probably save money by going off-resort. Yes, you'll have to hire individual vendors, but a coordinator can help you with that; you will pay only for what you really want, and you may save money in the grand scheme.