What is the most important part of a no frills wedding?
Most places you will find are either massive, too expensive, or won’t allow me to bring anything in that isn’t from an approved caterer. (Tip: search for self catered venues. Here is a luxurious one.)
If you are looking for a place under $500, which isn’t too difficult, it can be a stretch to meet the first three criteria. If your budget is more like $1000, but isn’t set because you’ve just got engaged you can make some preliminary you have more time to find something suitable.
Most venues cater to the people who want ridiculously extravagant weddings, this is what makes them money. As a venue you only have 365 opportunities a year. And that is unrealistic. Since most people get married on Friday and Saturday they only have 104. Plus the small Sunday weddings that don’t bring in as much. If you want a place that is indoors you will also have to find one that offers chairs and tables. Or you will have to rent them elsewhere.
This is the no frills version, and when done right it can be a blast.
That said, I find places like restaurants and wine bars that have a back room are also great, especially places that put effort into their ambiance. Some theaters have nice rooms, or arts centers, museums, and the like. I would try that depending on what kind of feel you’re going for.
My suggestion would be to look at your local bridal magazines every city over a hundred thousand has one!
More ideas that will give you a beautiful nifty, and unforgeable backdrop are things publicly funded, University museums. These venues are fantastic, and also really cheap compared to several other venues, especially for brides on a budget. I have seen absolutely breathtaking weddings for a little over $1000 and that was for ceremony, reception, set-up/tear down, centerpieces, decorations, and complete use of the facility for the wedding party for 9 hours. Of course $1000 isn’t pocket change, but comparable venues were charging $3000-5000 for much less.