I am looking into the Occidental and the Marriott Stellaris for my wedding. I am not sure which one to go with.
I would like to give my guests the all inclusive option. A couple of things we are looking for are:
Beach View wedding ceremony
Top shelf liquor
Waiter service at pool/beach
Nice resort---no old rooms/decor
I want to be able to get married on the beach and have an outside reception but not in the sand--do not want to be dancing in my wedding dress in the sand. I will have about 100 guests.
I think Marriott will give you an awesome wedding and reception! They may have an all-inclusive option but I think its expensive. We did the wedding on the beach followed by a sunset cocktail hour on the beach and then moved to a poolside reception. We had dinner under a white canopy on the lawn and then the bar and dancing poolside. We even had a nice 'lounge space' set up that our guests really appreciated. I also wanted my feet back on solid ground so I could put my Jimmy Choos back on. =) We ended up having an awesome reception with a premium bar and the food was among the best I've ever had but it was pricey.
Rooms and bar / lounge are gorgeous. We loved our huge balcony, wood floors and awesome bathrooms! Pool is nice though they do tend to put too many chairs around it. Many more than they need and I think it makes the pool area feel a little crowded. It would feel so much better if they took away 20% of the chairs, adding more only as needed. The rooms all have a mini-refrigerator in them though, so the first thing a few of my friends did was a booze run to the supermarket. (They thought it was so great to be able to buy liquor we can't get in the states like Cuban rum.)
We also had our welcome party at Marriott's La Visa restaurant and they went above and beyond for us. And though the La Vista is a buffet style restaurant many of our guests ate there and loved it. They were totally surprised. Thumbs down on Mandara spa though. If I were to do it again I would probably contact Knipoog which I heard of after my wedding.
When we decided on a destination wedding we really wanted an all-inclusive but pretty quickly ruled it out. We couldn't find rave reviews about the wedding or the food. And we found the all-inclusive plans to be too expensive for those that weren't going to 'party'. I found some that said the Occidental was 'nice' but don't recall anything saying 'spectacular'. We did walk through the Occidental when we were there and were unimpressed. We did really like the pool area, but remember a 'greasy food' smell outside one of the restaurants and walking through the lobby could tell it wasn't somewhere we would have wanted to hang out. We didn't see people around having fun. Riu seemed to be a much more lively rockin' place. Of course we were there in October - off season.
Though I was hoping to do all-inclusive we did 1) got a room rate with breakfast for 2 included each day (many would have a large, later breakfast from the really impressive breakfast spread and then just something small and light for lunch), 2) paid for a cocktail welcome party, 3) paid for a sailing snorkeling excursion the day before the wedding with an open bar and snacks and 4) of course cocktails and dinner at the reception.
Is there any chance you can swing down for a site visit? If you can do it, I'm sure it will be worth your while. We visited several locations and knew quickly what was the right place for us. We just had trouble getting used to the expense of the Marriott. Its high-end but has a high-end price tag. I don't want to add more photos here, but if you're on facebook and want to send me a PM, I'll give you my full name if you want to look me up on there. I have a lot posted there.
Also - if you haven't already, check out TripAdvisor.com. I found it to be really helpful, though keep in mind that Marriott was going through renovation so reviews from several months ago were shaky.