Contracts, Deposits, And The "busy" Or Indecisive

Business By pinkpiggie78 Updated 1 Jul 2011 , 1:38pm by pinkpiggie78

pinkpiggie78 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 7:54pm
post #1 of 19

I am looking for some other options on how I currently book my wedding cakes. Currently I take a $100 deposit to reserve the date. Some brides pay me before a tasting, some pay without a tasting, and others pay sometime after the tasting. Once the $100 deposit is received, we start a contract. With a majority of brides, this occurs shortly after the $100 deposit and without issue. For some, especially those with weddings a year or so in the future, I allow them some time to figure out their details, colors, venue, etc. and then we work out a contract.

However, I have had a few brides recently who drag their feet with the contract... some can't decide on flavors and others have no idea what kind of design they want. Others are "SOOO busy" or just refuse to answer my emails/phone calls. Because of this, I started a "deposit form" which lays out the next steps and timeline of things, have them initial it, and return it with their $100 deposit. I even added a "late contract" fee on this deposit sheet to prevent this type of behavior, but the first bride that used the new form has yet to finalize her contract.

So my question is what is your process and/or what can I do differently... I like the $100 deposit without the finalized contract because it allows folks to reserve without having every detail decided in advance. I also don't want them to rush into a contract that they end up changing 4 times. At the same time, hunting down the indecisive bride is ridiculous.

18 replies
jenmat Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:10pm
post #2 of 19

I guess I just operate a little differently- my contract is different than my design form. The contract gets signed at the deposit time, and is a service agreement. The design portion doesn't take place until 4-6 months out, sometimes even closer than that. But I have some brides that book a year and a half out, and there is no way they would know what they want at that point. So we do the design consult later, and then once all the design details are complete, they sign off on the design part.
To book me, I need the service contract and the deposit, without either, I don't consider it booked.
Maybe if you separate both in your mind and on paper the service contract and the design contract you may have more success?

kearniesue Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:14pm
post #3 of 19

My contract has all of the cake details on it, and I don't consider it an order and that date is fair game until I get a signed contract with a deposit. I get half down for a deposit, and I don't do a cake tasting until we have a signed contract. I think many other people do this too. HTH!


pinkpiggie78 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:16pm
post #4 of 19

Totally didn't think about that Jenmat... so you meet with each couple twice, once for a tasting and once for the design?

Kitagrl Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:19pm
post #5 of 19

I do my contracts exactly like the OP...I've had a few indecisive customers but so far everything has been final at least several weeks before the party, and that doesn't happen often enough to change anything.

The final balance is due 10 days in advance so the contract has be finalized in time to have final price so that they can pay in as long as I have an idea as to what the bride wants (for instance I know the two designs she is going between, or I know the general direction she's heading, and some of the flavors she likes) I'm okay with it finalizing several weeks in advance.

I guess if it happened every time I'd have to be stricter.

jenmat Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:22pm
post #6 of 19

Pink- sometimes I have 2 meetings, a tasting and then a design consult, but in the past year or so my dates book so fast that they are booking me and doing the tasting when they're ready to design. It really helps doing it that way for me, there are only so many days in a week!
Around here people book everything so far ahead that to try and nail a bride down when she hasn't picked her colors or knows her guest count wouldn't work. Its pretty much the norm in my area.

cai0311 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:35pm
post #7 of 19

95% of the wedding I have booked had a tasting first. Most book at the time of the tasting, the rest within the next 2 weeks (trying other bakeries in the mean time/busy...).

The order is not considered booked (or placed on the calendar) until both the signed contract and deposit has been given to me. I make this fact clearly known to the bride. This helps them not drag their feet getting either of those two things back to me.

Deposit is 30% of the order total with remaining balance due 30 days before the wedding. Nothing changes after the 30 day mark (size, flavors/filling, design...).

In a lot of cases the bride/groom do not know what flavor/filling they want. I am fine not having that info at the time of booking because I charge the same price for all my cake flavors and fillings. I email the bride about 2 months before the wedding reminding her that she still needs to get me the info, the sooner the better in case something needs to be ordered.
Same for the design. In some cases the bride/groom have no idea what they want. I encourage them to look at pictures of cakes, get an idea of what they like (or hate), send those pictures to me and I can do up a couple sketches for them or look over to approve or tweek as needed. At this point, I know their budget (most don't want to pay for extras except fondant) so I will give them 1 or 2 sketches at their budget and 1 a little above it; it gives them a chance to see what is possible for just a little more $$.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 8:49pm
post #8 of 19

kerniesue... how do you get a bride to commit without a tasting? I get very few brides willing to do that...

AnotherCaker Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 11:08pm
post #9 of 19
Originally Posted by pinkpiggie78

kerniesue... how do you get a bride to commit without a tasting? I get very few brides willing to do that...

I have plenty that do. I tell them they can wait around for the event I host every few months where they can sample 20+different things, or try one or two from any given weekup on a pickup basis. They usually sign right then and eagerly look forward to trying out a truckload of options all at once. icon_biggrin.gif Pointing out my customer reviews and feedback on taste helps too.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 11:13pm
post #10 of 19

Do you have a shop AnotherCaker? Maybe I need to suggest booking without a tasting... most brides, even if they have tasted my cake elsewhere or at the local bridal show they STILL want a tasting.

AnotherCaker Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 11:29pm
post #11 of 19
Originally Posted by pinkpiggie78

Do you have a shop AnotherCaker? Maybe I need to suggest booking without a tasting... most brides, even if they have tasted my cake elsewhere or at the local bridal show they STILL want a tasting.

I have a studio, by appmt only. I offer the option of booking prior to tasting, after I had people ask me if they could just do it that way. No complaints so far. I always tell them it's their choice, and it's how comfortable they feel leaving their date hanging until they decide. They usually just book right then. But I don't ever push them to do it. I always offer to reserve a sample of whatever I may be baking for an actual order sometime, that they can come by and pick up. Very rarely do they bother. I make a big point out the variety they can choose from when they come to the event, versus the typical 3 flavors offered elsewhere.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 30 Jun 2011 , 11:37pm
post #12 of 19

I work out of my home (inspected, insured legal business) so offering a big tasting party or frequent pick ups won't work.

I have definitely had folks book without a tasting for "hot" dates, but my typical bride falls into one of two categories... wants a tasting before booking or everything is done via email.

FromScratchSF Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 12:49am
post #13 of 19

I used to be in real estate so making the sale with contract on hand ready to go is ingrained in my head. I have contract in hand at the tasting so if they want to sign with me, it's ready to go with fill-in-the-blanks. Before the date is reserved I get a non-refundable 30% retainer along with it. I ALWAYS get a signed contract up front otherwise their date is not reserved. I leave the blanks they don't know with TBD or "estimated". Then 60 days prior I get an amendment to the contract with their final flavors/size/design.


costumeczar Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 1:23am
post #14 of 19

I fill out the contract during the tasting appt so that they have a design and a price to walk away with. I don't worry about getting flavors finalized then, but I do want to get a basic idea of the design. They go home with the contract, and if they want to book with me I require the contract back totally signed and the deposit at the same time. If they send me the deposit and the unsigned contract I send the contract back to them for signatures and don't cash the check.

The date isn't booked until I have the deposit and the signed contract. That way if they suddenly decide that they want a cascade of gumpaste orchids instead of a plain white cake with swiss dots, I have the original design on the contract and I can rewrite it from there with a new price if needed. If I let them give me the deposit before signing the contract they could also say that they don't know all of the ins and outs of my refund/payment/deposit policies.

I'd say that once the booking season heats up I have about 20% of brides book before doing a tasting, but they usually want to do one at some point.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 2:13am
post #15 of 19

For me, the price depends on the flavors and fillings, so I need to know those to give them an actual price.

So what do you tell/do with the brides who have no clue what design they want? I feel like I either get the bride who comes in with 1-100 cake pictures and then the bride who can't even decide on her wedding colors, let alone whether she wants a fondant or buttercream cake, and no inspiration for a design. I try to get out as much info as I can, but many times those brides look at me like a deer in headlights...

I have one bride right now who can't make any decisions on anything....

FromScratchSF Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 2:47am
post #16 of 19

I have a base price for my cakes, then charge a per hour decorator's charge for specialty work and a flat fee for gumpaste flowers. If they are still undecided on design/fillings, I base my retainer off the base price of the cake plus delivery (100 ppl, $6/serving + $50 deliver = non-refundable $195). Once they finalize at 60 days I do the contract amendment with changes, add up the additional cost for design and fillings and collect final payments on that.

To me it's a sales tactic - close the deal. Get the contract signed and money in the bank ASAP to set it in the customer's brain that their search is over and to stop looking other places. It's hard to think that way at first, but it becomes 2nd nature once you get used to it. If I were you and got a check with no contract, I'd send it back letting them know you need both before reserving their date.

de_montsoreau Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 8:36am
post #17 of 19

I have a general contract which stipulates that one or more fact sheets are part of said contract. Usually we finalise design during the consultation (which also includes tasting, so one meeting only) and I send them the contract and fact sheet(s) as a signed pdf. The price of the order is also fixed in the fact sheet, so changes to design and price are easy to facilitate. Only the most up-to-date fact sheet is the relevant for me and the customer.

For me, that's the least fuss when changes come along and the contract stays in place untouched. The contract also mentions that the order is only booked once the retainer has been received in my bank account (here in Germany direct transfers from account to account are the norm).

costumeczar Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 12:57pm
post #18 of 19

If I get someone who's totally confused and doesn't have any idea on design, I have them look through some books to fine three or four pictures of cakes that they like. That kind of narrows it down in my mind as to what direction they're going in, and I can price it from that. I make a note of the geneeral idea on the contract and let them know that if they decide on something totally different then the price might change.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 1 Jul 2011 , 1:38pm
post #19 of 19

Thanks everyone. I am not trying to be a pain with the questions... just trying to figure out what works best for me and gather as much expertise as possible (It goes back to my training as a business analyst.... you can never ask too many questions).

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