This question is far complicated today than it would have been twenty years ago. Many brides are becoming more focused on individuality and less on tradition. Rather than wanting the same elements in the same order, there is a significant trend (and some might say pressure) to have a unique and personalized wedding. Not to mention, our easy access to all things wedding through the internet and the media makes this goal much more possible.
As far as the internet goes, I think this issue is fairly straightforward. If you do not have some sort of copyright over the particular element of your wedding in question, and especially if you post pictures on the internet, you shouldn’t be angry if someone uses your idea. In fact, one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had while becoming immersed in wedding planning is the great organic community that internet provides for inspiration. Ideas, pictures, and projects are constantly circulating and in turn sparking more ideas, pictures and projects.
Of course it is one of the unspoken rules of blogdom to always give credit where credit is due (admittedly sometimes this only happens to the best of your ability). I’m a firm believer in this, and I try to label and link accordingly. But I don’t think anyone should become so mired down in researching the first person ever to use a candy buffet or a circular ceremony set up that the creativity of the idea itself is lost.
In the real world, things become a little more sticky. I’m definitely not an advocate of copying your best friend’s wedding down to the last minute detail. Not only is it tacky and a little creepy, but it robs you of a chance to create a wedding that reflects your style (as evidenced by the episode of The Office where Phyllis steals Pam’s wedding). However if there are certain elements of a friend’s wedding that you loved, I see no problem in adapting the idea for your own use. Be honest and positive about it: “Your [insert item here] was gorgeous! I’m thinking about doing something similar, do you have any advice?” There is a classy way to handle that situation from both ends, and it takes equal parts tact and honesty.
Personally, I will take it as a compliment if I see pieces of my wedding popping up elsewhere. And not to get all esoteric but it is very difficult if not impossible to have a truly “original” idea. Just focus on the satisfaction you’ll get from planning a day full of things that make you happy.
image credit: Life in the Office