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Ghost Marriages – When ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ Isn’t Enough

Published Thursday, Mar. 10th, 2022

For some cautious souls, the looming commitment of marriage sends shudders down the spine. Staring into the eyes of another person, repeating a promise to love and honor them ‘until death do us part,’ is almost too much responsibility to bear. 


For others, a single lifetime together is but a beginning, a drop in the bucket of eternal love. These passionate souls want more than earthly marriage. They want forever


Then there are those souls who never have the opportunity to say ‘I do’ at all, for one reason or another. Those who are still alive sometimes find comfort in the incorporeal arms of another. And those who have died sometimes decide to haunt the mortal realm until they finally meet their perfect mate. 


Luckily for all of these die-hard romantics, there’s ghost marriage. 


What is ghost marriage? ‘Ghost marriages’ are symbolic weddings held between two deceased people, or between a deceased person and a living partner. These spooky ceremonies can be legally binding, spiritually binding, or both, and are arranged for a number of cultural, religious, and legal reasons.


To give you an idea of how it works, here are 3 modern examples of marrying the dead, from China, to France, to right here in the United States. 


3 Sweet & Spooky Examples of Ghost Marriages 



1. Ghost Marriage in China Practical to Paranormal


Marrying the dead has a long history in China, and the arrangements can vary from practical to paranormal. These ceremonies are similar to those between the living, including gifts, decorations, and a wedding officiant. While ghost marriages are less common in China than they once were, there are a few stories of modern ceremonies (and more than a few corpse thefts). 


In some regions, daughters who remained unmarried for too long were considered an embarrassment to their parents. These aging brides were frequently married off to the spirits of suitable men to spare them the unbearable fate of spinsterhood… This also benefited families who wished to continue their lineage despite the death of a male heir.


In other areas, tradition insisted that an older brother must marry before a younger brother, even if the older brother happened to be dead. Families would often marry these deceased siblings off to a suitable bride so that the younger men could get on with their courtships and nuptials. 


But Chinese ghost marriages aren’t only practical, sometimes they’re sweetly supernatural, too. When the spirit of a dead man contacts a medium (someone connected to the spirit realm) asking to marry, the medium can arrange a symbolic ceremony with a living bride… 


Proving, perhaps, that there’s always more time to find the love of your life… err… death?




2. France’s ‘Postmortem Matrimony’ – Love Cut Short 


Postmortem matrimony, also called posthumous marriage, became legal in France in the 1950s, following a terrible accident that killed the fiance of a would-be bride before the couple could wed. When the distraught woman confronted the local government, asking to marry her deceased lover, they agreed. 


The tradition of posthumous wedlock continued over the years, with hundreds of mourning partners petitioning the French President for the right to marry by proxy. For the wedding to take place, a couple must have been engaged before the death, and the President must forward the request along for approval by local officials and the family of the deceased. 



A graveyard cemetery at night, in moonlight with dark clouds above



3. Mormon Ancestral Sealings – Keys to the Celestial Kingdom  


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, also practices a type of ‘spirit marriage,’ to offer believers a chance to spend eternity in the Celestial Kingdom. Here’s how it works…


The LDS Church views marriage as an eternal bond, meaning that when two people decide to marry in the eyes of the Church, their souls are ‘sealed’ together forever. What’s more, joining with another in marriage is an essential requirement for getting into the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven – if someone isn't sealed to another, they can’t get in, and won’t be able to spend eternity with their family in Heaven. (Mormon sealings are a big deal!)


Unfortunately, not all couples have the opportunity to have their union sealed in their lifetime. That’s where marriage for the dead comes in: As a solution, younger generations perform posthumous sealings for their parents and other ancestors, offering them a ticket to a blissful afterlife.  


These posthumous sealings don’t just unite the couples, they also unite the entire family line. Temple sealings (marriages within the Church) bind generations together, too, connecting ancestral lines throughout the centuries.


Heavy stuff! 


To learn more about Mormon weddings for the dead: 
Weddings for the Dead -- A look at Mormon posthumous sealings and proxy baptisms




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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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