Victor Van Dort, the son of nouveau riche fish merchants, and Victoria Everglot, the neglected daughter of hateful aristocrats who have lost their money, are preparing for their arranged marriage, which will raise the social class of Victor’s parents and restore the wealth of Victoria’s.
Both have concerns about marrying someone they do not know, but they fall in love when they first meet. After the shy, clumsy Victor ruins the wedding rehearsal and is scolded at by pastor Galswells, he flees and practices his wedding vows in the nearby forest, placing the wedding ring on a nearby upturned tree root.
The root turns out to be the finger of a dead young woman clad in a tattered bridal gown, who rises from the grave claiming that she is now Victor’s wife. Spirited away to the surprisingly festive Land of the Dead, the bewildered Victor learns the story of Emily, his new “bride,” murdered years ago on the night of her secret elopement. Meanwhile, Victoria’s parents hear that Victor has been seen in another woman’s arms, and become suspicious.
Wanting to reunite with Victoria, Victor tricks Emily into taking him back to the Land of the Living by pretending he wants her to meet his parents. She agrees to this and takes him to see Elder Gutknecht, the kindly ruler of the underworld, to send him and Emily temporarily to the Land of the Living. Once back home, Victor asks Emily to wait in the forest while he rushes off to see Victoria and confess his wish to marry her as soon as possible, to which she gladly returns his feelings. Emily soon arrives and sees the two of them together and, feeling betrayed and hurt, drags Victor back to the Land of the Dead. Victoria tells her parents that Victor has been forcibly wed to a dead woman, but they believe she has lost her mind and lock her up in her bedroom. With Victor gone, Victoria’s parents decide to marry her off to a presumably wealthy newcomer in town named Lord Barkis Bittern, who appeared at the wedding rehearsal, against her will.
Emily is heartbroken by Victor’s deception, thinking he loves Victoria simply because she is alive. Victor, however, apologizes for lying to her, and the two reconcile while playing a piano together. Shortly after, Victor’s family coachman appears in the afterlife (having recently died) and informs Victor of Victoria’s impending marriage to Lord Barkis. At the same time, Emily learns from Elder Gutknecht that because marriage vows are only binding until “death do you part” and death already parts them, her supposed marriage to Victor was never valid. In order for their marriage to become valid, Victor must repeat his vows in the Land Of The Living and drink poison- thus joining her in death. Overhearing this, and fretting about having lost his chance with Victoria, Victor agrees to die for Emily. All of the dead go “upstairs” to the Land of the Living to perform the wedding ceremony for Victor and Emily. Upon their arrival, the town erupts into a temporary panic until every living recognizes each other’s loved ones from the dead and they have a joyous reunion under the bizarre circumstances.
After a quarrel with Lord Barkis -and realizing he was only after her supposed money- Victoria follows the procession of dead to the church. As Victor prepares to drink the cup of poison to kill himself, Emily notices Victoria and has second thoughts, realizing that she is denying Victoria her chance at happiness the same way it was stolen from her. Lord Barkis interrupts them, and Emily recognizes him as her former fiance – who is revealed to be the one who murdered her for her dowry. Lord Barkis tries to kidnap Victoria at sword point, but Victor stops him and the two men duel. Emily intercedes to save Victor, and Lord Barkis mockingly proposes a toast to Emily claiming she’s “always the bridesmaid, never the bride!”, accidentally drinking the cup of poison. The dead (now able to intercede as he’s dead) drag the “new arrival” away to the Land of the Dead.
Emily sets Victor free of his vow to marry her, giving the wedding ring back to Victor and her wedding bouquet to Victoria before exiting the church. As she steps into the moonlight, she transforms into hundreds of butterflies, presumably finding her eternal rest, as Victor and Victoria look on.
The movie trailer on youtube: