What Is a Ghost Marriage? The Real Story Behind the Unusual Practice in New Netflix Show ‘The Ghost Bride'

Even though "The Ghost Bride" is a fictional story, author Yangsze Choo said it is based on real stories she heard growing up in Malaysia.

Marriage is seen as a happy milestone in a person’s life, but what if one or both of the betrothed are dead? A new Netflix show called “The Ghost Bride” depicts just that: an unearthly union between a young woman, who is alive, and the ghost of a wealthy family’s son. 

While the show is based on a fictional book of the same title, author Yangsze Choo explained the custom is very real among the Chinese diaspora. In fact, she remembers hearing of real stories from friends and family members growing up in Malaysia.

“As a kid, you'd sometimes hear, ‘So-and-so got married to a ghost or to a dead man.’ And that always really sparked my interest,” she told InsideEdition.com. Yet Choo said when she continued to press the topic, she’d be brushed off and told it wasn't a topic a child should be concerned with.

That’s what led her to do more research and continue to ask around as she got older. As for the kind of marriage depicted in her book, “The Ghost Bride,” in which the very much alive main character is to be wed to a dead man’s ghost, Choo said that’s pretty rare and happens in desperate scenarios.

“It was a matter of starvation,” she said, explaining it may have been the case that an extremely poor family battled with the decision to send a child to live with a family to become a servant and bride to their deceased son, or selling the girl to a brothel.

“In many ways, it is a choice between two evils. Never an easy choice,” Choo said.

But through her research, she eventually discovered a friend's family was involved with a ghost marriage about 20 years ago.

The friend's "grandmother woke up from a dream in which she said her deceased son had visited her and he told her, ‘Mum, I've met this girl in the underworld and I'd like to get married,’” Choo said. When her son appeared in the dream, he also gave her the late woman’s name and family's address.

Sure enough, his grandmother went to the address, found a family by the same name and relayed her dream. “The mother of the family actually said to her that she'd had the same experience, that her daughter had appeared in a dream and said, ‘I want to get married.’" 

The two families organized a wedding for their children as if they were still alive, complete with guests and a Chinese bridal sedan chair. Soul tablets were organized in the place of the deceased son and daughter when it came time to make their vows to each other.

“From then on, that family was considered part of their extended family. And when they had large family gatherings, they'd be like, ‘Well this is uncle so-and-so's family and they're also attending,” she said. “So the ghost marriage is still very much alive.”

The Singaporean Paranormal Investigators did their own research into a separate instance of a ghost marriage, re-telling a similar story of two sets of parents coming together to host an elaborate wedding event for their deceased kids, who came to them in dreams. 

“This is the classic Chinese ghost story, which occurs when ghosts appear always to family members in dreams,” Yangsze explained.