WHERE have all the hen parties gone?

It's a question that may have struck you if you have been into the city centre recently.

Visitor numbers have picked up a lot since coronavirus restrictions were relaxed.

But while there have been a few stag and hen parties to be seen, they are far less noticeable than before lockdown.

There's a simple explanation. Because of coronavirus, fewer people are getting married - or at least, fewer are holding big wedding receptions. And fewer wedding receptions means fewer stag and hen parties...

Some hotels, such as the Best Western Dean Court in the shadow of York Minster, aren't doing wedding receptions at all at the moment. "And I'm not sure when we will be able to," said the hotel's Rebecca Hardcastle.

Others are still doing them - but have far fewer than before lockdown. "We are doing some," said a spokesperson at The Grange In Clifton. "We had one the other day, although it was quite small. But it is much quieter than usual."

Middlethorpe Hall has also resumed doing weddings. "Although micro-weddings only for a maximum of 14 guests," said director and general manager Lionel Chatard.

The problem for wedding venues is that because of coronavirus restrictions, a maximum of only 30 people are allowed to attend an event, said Martin Bradnam, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in St Maurice's Road and chairperson of HAY, the Hospitality Association York.

That 30 people includes staff - which means couples planning their big day could only invite 20 or so guests, said Martin.

With a typical wedding these days costing as much as £20,000, many couples are putting off their big day until they can have it the way they want it - without all the Covid restrictions.

The new 'rule of 6' restrictions won't strictly apply to weddings - but will only make it even harder to apply social distancing, Martin added.

It isn't all doom and gloom, though.

While bookings for wedding, stag and hen parties are down, families are still visiting York.

Overall, Martin said, hotel room bookings in York are about 20 per cent down on a year ago. Not great, but it could have been a lot worse. "We've done OK over the summer."