I keep getting emails from customers wanting me to price wedding cakes that aren't until 2017... telling me they want to find the cheapest around. It's getting very annoying. No one around here seems to want to spend anything on a cake, not even their own wedding cake. They are all wanting these wedding cakes for $200 or less.
How far in advance do you like to accept wedding cake orders? How far in advance do you price wedding cakes?
Do you have a minimum price per serving? If so, just tell them, "I start at $XX per serving, so you have to figure at least that amount at a minimum. I can't give a solid price until we agree on a design, etc. " Just make sure to let them know that no prices are solid until/unless you have a signed contract and deposit.
The ones who are not in your price range will not bother going ahead with the design process anyway.
I don't book more than a year in advance. I'd say that if people are calling that far ahead I'd also add on some to cover any price increases you might run into in the meantime.
@Jinkies is right, too, that the issue of pricing ahead is different than the issue of cheap customers. If someone calls and tells you that they're looking for the cheapest around, send them to get one of those Sam's Club cakes that were posted in the other thread on here, good lord. If they're shopping by price they're probably not going to be a custom bakery's customer.
I have taken bookings 18 months ahead but I won't do any more than that and I add on a bit for increases in costs. The budget is a whole other thing though...good luck.
A minimum price per serving would definitely help. If someone comes at you with price as their first priority tell them upfront you are most likely not the baker for them because your first priority is quality. One of my daughter's friends came over last night. She works for a preschool and said something about how she wished she had ordered something from me to take to her kids. My daughter chimed in, "Oh you don't want to order from her! She's learned to be a harsh business woman." Ha ha!