Look at this incredible picture of a Chinese Ghost Bride circa 1922. Both teens, she died from a high fever before the wedding. The photo was taken in the early evening, when she was already dead for 6 days. They had to prop her body up with a wooden plank, so as to hold her up. Notice that her feet aren’t touching the ground fully.
Also, notice the 2 rows of Chinese characters. One row was carved outwards, which was said to be meant for the dead. The couple went through the traditional wedding rites for the dead to cement a bond of friendship between two families and to provide a deceased daughter with a patrilineage.
Why? Because the families believed “that should the spirit of the deceased, who, upon finding itself without a spouse in the other world” would cause misfortune for its natal family, as well as the family of its betrothed.
The woman in this 1922 Ghost Wedding is supposedly a nǚ guǐ (女鬼), or a ghost woman. A woman who dies unmarried has no family and can’t become an ancestor, so she returns and haunts. There’s a simple solution to the nǚ guǐ hauntings, though: find a man and pay him to marry her. These “profound weddings” (冥婚) are an important function of the Dàoshi, and a kinder form of exorcism.
There have also been ghost weddings where both parties were dead before the ceremony.
The Chinese culture isn’t the only one to embrace ghost brides and perform ghost weddings. There is a long history of ghost brides and ghost weddings in Sudan and India, and even France.
Many fiction-based novels and TV shows have highlighted the custom of ghost brides as well:
In Yangsze Choo’s novel The Ghost Bride (New York: William Morrow, 2013), set in 19th century colonial Malaya, a young Chinese woman receives a proposal from a wealthy family to marry their dead son.
In Lisa See‘s novel Peony in Love (New York: Random House, 2007), set in 17th century China, the protagonist, Peony, dies at 16 and is later the bride in a ghost marriage to a poet she fell in love with during life.
In episode 22 of the final season of the television series Without a Trace, titled “Devotion,” a young woman was kidnapped and set to be poisoned and ghost married by the traditional Chinese parents of her late ex-fiancé.
In Season 5, episode 13 of the television series Numb3rs, “Trouble in Chinatown,” Chinese women are being murdered and then their bodies are buried atop the coffins of unmarried Chinese males. The “ghost brides” are picked out by the grieving parents. Shortly before the murder, a brief traditional wedding ceremony is held so that the dead sons have company in their afterlife. While the character performing the murders portrays this as long-standing Chinese tradition, the writers used the epilogue to point out that the authentic tradition did not involve murder and that the criminals had perverted the practice to their own ends.
An episode of Urban Legends portrayed this practice, with a twist. A man was forced to undergo this with his fiancée, who had recently killed herself.
In season 2 of The Blacklist, ghost marriages is briefly explored when a blacklister smuggles deceased female bodies and prepare them for afterlife with a marriage ceremony for the sons of grieving clients.
(Source of novels and tv shows cited, wikipedia)