Can You Legally Marry A Dead Person?

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If, for whatever reason, you long to wed someone who has already departed for the great beyond, your local government might just be willing to oblige … depending on where you live, and if you meet certain criteria.

France is currently the world’s capital of posthumous matrimony. This practice dates back roughly to the First World War, when the fiancées and girlfriends of slain soldiers would tie the knot with their fallen lovers via proxy. In 1950, the French government legally clarified the ritual. Under this legislation, the living spouse must get the approval of the nation’s President and Justice Minister. A simple ceremony is then held in which the bride or groom stands beside a photo of their significant other. The phrase “till death do us part” is eliminated from the vows and “I do” is replaced with saying “I did.”

To qualify, one must provide compelling evidence that the deceased intended to marry them while alive. For example, Magali Jaskiewicz’ request was granted in 2009 after she pointed out that her fiancé had previously arranged a tentative wedding date at their local town hall just two days before he was killed in a car accident (furthermore, she’d already purchased her gown).

In the U.S., federal law doesn’t recognize posthumous marriage ceremonies, but a few people have tried to conduct one anyway. After Floridian Isaac Woginiak passed away, his surviving fiancée successfully filed for a marriage license in 1988. However, feeling they hadn’t been properly notified, Woginiak’s sons took their case to a higher court, which revoked it.

The South Korean government permitted the pregnant bride-to-be of dead boxer Duk-koo Kim to “console” his spirit by marrying him after a fatal match against Ray Mancini in 1982. And in Germany, Fritz Pfeffer—referred to by the pseudonym “Albert Dussel” in the diary of Anne Frank—was posthumously wed in 1950 to Charlotta Kaletta, whom he’d lived with before going into hiding and his eventual death in a concentration camp.

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December 2, 2013 - 9:30am
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