Present Day "Beyond The Grave" Nuptial Practices From Around The World

True love conquering all is a concept that appeals to romantics worldwide. From Tim Burton's Corpse Bride to the Bride of Frankenstein, weddings and other rituals for those who've passed have always been a staple of art and lore.

Some strange shenanigans, from spirit polygamy to weddings with decomposing bodies do go on in real life... and in the 21st century, no less. Below are some memorably ornate ceremonies that are probably commencing somewhere as we speak.

Photo: Tom Hilton /

  • Japanese Bride-Doll Nuptials

    According to Ellen Schattschneider, a sociocultural anthropologist and professor at Brandeis University, “bride-doll” nuptials are still practiced in some parts of Japan. Basically, bride-doll nuptials came about during WWII when a young man fell in battle before he had a chance to marry. To make up for this, the soul of the young man was married to a consecrated stand-in figure - a doll representing his spouse. 

    In a 2001 study published by Emory University, Schattschneider recalled an incident in which a mother hired a medium to speak with her deceased son. The soldier, speaking through the psychic, apparently lamented “his bitter loneliness in the voids between the worlds,” and he urged his mother to procure him a spirit spouse.

    The ceremony took place at a nearby Buddhist temple and involved a bride doll, which was encased in a box with a photograph of the son. 

  • Sati, Or “Bride Burning”

    Sati, Or “Bride Burning”
    Photo: Lee Haywood / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Sati, the Hindu practice of “bride-burning,” is a ceremony in which a bride willingly immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre. As of 1987 and the Indian Sati Prevention Act, the rite is “officially” illegal, but it's been unofficially banned since 1829, and it's rarely been practiced since.

    However, there are some modern-day instances of it. According to a report in the Times of India, a 60-year-old widow tried to burn herself on her husband's funeral pyre in 2009 but was stopped just in time. That last reported sati was in 1987, but the act is still glorified in some areas.

    The Rani Sati Temple Complex has received criticism for allegedly hosting “discreet congregations” that glorify sati. The temple's official website even claims that the house of worship, which is named after a 13th-century “heroine” who sacrificed herself, is inspired by "feminine bravery and spirit."

  • China's Ghost Marriage Tradition

    China's Ghost Marriage Tradition
    Photo: New China TV / YouTube

    In 2013, a court in China sent four grave robbers to prison for black market corpse dealing; the "buyers" were the families of recently deceased people who were in need of similarly recently deceased “spouses.” According to The Guardian, the tradition of ritual ghost marriage is rare in this day and age, but it's not unheard of. The idea is to furnish a deceased groom with a deceased bride so that they will be “lonely” in the afterlife.

    Apparently, these corpses go for high prices... and really wealthy buyers can even “purchase their corpse brides straight from hospitals.” Lower-income families, however, have two options: they can either use a corpse stand-in like “a doughy human-shaped biscuit with black beans for eyes” or “buy an old, rotten corpse at a discounted price, dress it in clothing, and reinforce its skeleton with steel wire.” 

  • Corpse Weddings In France

    Corpse Weddings In France
    Video: YouTube

    Thanks to one old law that was never overturned, it's apparently possible to wed the deceased in present-day France. In fact, the law isn't even all that old; it was first established in 1959, when the Malpasset Dam broke and Charles de Gaulle, the French President at the time, visited the town in the wake of the disaster. A young woman apparently begged him to allow her to legally marry her fiancé... even though he had perished in the flood.

    The president consented, parliament drafted the law, and the woman wed her departed beloved. Since then, apparently, various others have applied for the same nuptial permissions, and, after complicated petitioning procedures, been granted them; one notable occasion took place in 2004, when a woman married her late betrothed and, in the process, became both widow and bride in the course of one ceremony.

  • Levirate Marriage: The Ceremony That Can Be Called Off With A Shoe

    Levirate Marriage: The Ceremony That Can Be Called Off With A Shoe
    Photo: Guillaume Rouille / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Levirate Marriage, known as Yibbum in Hebrew, is a Jewish tradition that states that a man must "marry the childless widow of his brother to produce a child who will carry the deceased brother's name, so that the deceased brother will not be forgotten." The tradition, which was first mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy, can get somewhat complicated.

    Should the brother of the deceased refuse to marry his sister-in-law, a ceremony called Halitza, AKA "the Removed Sandal," takes place. The widow "loosens or removes the brother-in-law's shoe, spits in front of his face, and says, 'So shall be done to a man who refuses to build up his brother's house.'" This ceremony is only performed by the Orthodox today, but after it's done, the widow is free to marry whomever she wants. 

  • Corpse Weddings In Nigeria

    Corpse Weddings In Nigeria
    Photo: Nick M / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Some present-day cultural practices in Ebonyi State, southeastern Nigeria, apparently stipulate that marriage must come before burial. And in early 2016, Adejo Emmanuel found himself on the receiving end of such a decree. After his fiancé died in childbirth, her family reportedly refused to let her burial ceremonies commence without a wedding. For financial reasons, however, this request left Emmanuel in a bind. He said:

    I have no money to pay for the mortuary; I also have no money to feed the children; and my in-laws are demanding... for me to come over and do a compulsory marriage with her before she could be buried. They say some rituals must be performed and 350,000 naira must be paid to her family as part of her bride-price, before talking about the burial at all. Where do I get the money from?