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Do you take this corpse…

By greyloch from Washington, DC, area, U.S.A. (The Corpse Bride) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Tim Burton’s film, Corpse Bride, Victor Van Dort finds himself unwittingly married to a woman who has been dead for years. Weird fantasy stuff, eh? Not necessarily. The practice of marrying the dead is quite real and more common than you might think.

Called posthumous marriage, the practice of marrying the deceased is legal in France, with similar customs in India, Sudan and China. In France, the custom dates back to World War I, where a few women were married by proxy to soldiers who had died a few weeks earlier. The living party must be able to demonstrate that there was clear intention for the couple to be married. The Guardian reports a posthumous wedding in France as late as 2009.

It’s not just women. The Daily Mail reports the wedding of Thai TV producer, Chadil Deffy, who married his girlfriend, killed in a car accident.

These stories are touching and heart-wrenching all at once. Such a ceremony could provide closure to someone who has been left behind, completing an important part of life that would otherwise have been left unfinished. Of course, it might go deeper. In my travels I had a fascinating conversation with a widow who told me she was still in regular contact with her husband’s spirit who stayed around her house and continued to participate in her life.

Posthumous marriage is not recognized in the United States, though there are cases where people have tried it anyway. Kirsten Smolensky examines Rights of the Dead in the Hofstra Law Review.

Have you been to a strange wedding? Share it with us.

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