Monday, August 15, 2011

How Far Out Do You Book?

I’ve heard a lot of discussion about how far ahead of the wedding date bakers like to book clients. Magazines are always giving bad advice about it, and all the wedding planning websites have to put their two cents worth in, too.

The result of all of this timeline advice seems to be that people either panic and think that they have to get everything done right away, or they wait until the timeline tells them to do things, at which point it’s usually too late to get the vendors they want.

I get brides who call me two years in advance for tastings. They don’t have a reception site yet, but they’re in the process of booking everything at the same time.

I also get people calling three months beforehand, which is what the magazines say to do. That’s fine if you intend to hire someone who does 30 cakes a week, but smaller operations like mine have a much lower limit, so we tend to book up faster. Three months is usually too late, unless it’s a really slow time of year.

I tend to start getting inquiries for tastings about 10-12 months ahead of the wedding dates, depending on the time of year. More popular months book up farther out.

I’ll book dates a year or so ahead of time. I have no plans on closing my business anytime soon, so that isn’t a concern for me. I go through my calendar on a yearly basis and close out weekends that I’ll be on vacation, so that I can keep some time open. (The words “I’m sorry, but I’m closed that weekend” are very important to learn if you don’t want to lose your mind.)

I’ve booked cakes more than a year out, especially if it’s a popular month. October is so popular now that I tend to book it up farther out than I book up for June. If you do book this far ahead, remember to factor any price increases that you have planned into your estimates.

The most important thing to emphasize with people who want to book way in advance is your deposit and refund policy. If someone gets buyer’s remorse, or decides that their friend will make their cake, they need to understand what, if any, of the money they paid you up to that point will be refunded.

Also realize that if something comes up in your life that interferes with a cake that you are contracted to make, you’re still under contract regardless. If you’re not comfortable booking way in advance because you don’t know what your plans will be, don’t do it.

Decide what you’re comfortable with and stick to it…you might end up losing a few eager brides who want to book everything way ahead of time, but there will always be late-comers to take their places!



 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

6 comments:

Kristin said...

Great advice Kara! I have had a ton of inquiries for Sept and Oct in the last two months, and most of those weekends are already booked with folks that contacted me in Jan/Feb! In late July, I had one woman start asking me about a wedding cake she and her daughter loved on my website. She asked how far in advance she needed to book, and I assumed she was talking about next year. Turns out she was asking about mid Sept of this year! I really think folks think you can whip out a wedding cake in 2 hours.

zip codes by city said...

its good idea...i really going to try with book too.

Adam

Jamie said...

I feel bad for people who wait so long, and I blame a lot of advice givers for that. Also, I don't care if it's a birthday or wedding, since I price everything the same anyways, there are plenty of popular wedding dates that I don't have a single wedding on.

Jennifer said...

I had a bride email me just today after she signed up at a bridal show a month back to be contacted. She said she wanted to do a tasting with me, but just wasn't ready to make a decision about it, and she would contact me in winter.

I've been booked for May 2012 for 3 weeks.

The bigger bakeries can take a lot more cakes than I can, so if a bride wants an exclusive, cake studio experience, she needs to realize that you not only get what you pay for, but you get what you PREPARE for.

Kimberly Chapman said...

I don't actually sell cakes, but for my classes, volunteer stuff, etc. I generally tell people they'd better book me 3 months ahead of time and I have specified black-out times (ie nobody gets anything from me in February because I'm a core volunteer for the Austin Cake show).

If I opened a cake business tomorrow and everyone who has begged me to do so came ordering, I'd have a year's worth of kid birthdays alone lined up. So for my purposes, you'd still have to be my friend to get on my list!

Jenniffer said...

Great article, Kara! People ask me this question all the time and I tell them "Call me as soon as you have the date and venue picked!" Even then, in crazy months like May and October, I may still already be booked up.