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The Custom Ketubah

posted by Arielle Angel on March 16, 2012

Custom Map ketubah by Rachelle Tolwin

We know that commissioning a custom ketubah can be intimidating. That’s why we recently shared our tips with Jewish wedding experts, The Wedding Yentas. We had so much info on the topic that the post comes in two parts, Part I and Part II. If you’re considering a custom work, definitely follow the links to the post as a whole, but either way, here are some excerpts that will give you a sense of the process. Figure out what your ketubah is about: Talk to your partner about what aspects of your relationship you would like your ketubah to highlight. They should be the things that you feel are truly special about your relationship. You may want to think about the stories that are important to you as a couple: how you met, the moment you “knew,” a trip you took together. Your ketubah can depict, say, the park bench where he proposed, or a map of all the New York City apartments you both lived in before you met one another. Start thinking about color: This could be as basic as wanting the ketubah to echo your wedding colors, or the colors of your home, or it could be more symbolic. Figure out what you like: There is no special formula to finding the right artist, and you don’t have to know about art to have an experience with it. Look around. When you like something, listen to yourself. Collect images of the artwork you and your partner like, and look at all the images together to see if there is a pattern emerging. Communicate: Let your artist in on the details of the conversation you had with your partner, and share your little folder of inspiration images, taking him/her through your vision for your ketubah. In one case, a couple even sent me a crude version of what they wanted, which they sketched out themselves in crayon!

The client’s sketch to the artist’s rendering

As we told The Wedding Yentas, this may sound like a lot of work, but we believe that you and your partner can figure out the basics of what you’re interested in over the span of a dedicated afternoon. It might also be fun, an opportunity to literally “visualize” your relationship. Don’t forget that your artist will also bring something to the table. You don’t have to have everything figured out in order to start the conversation! Again, for the full post, including more information about ketubah text on a custom work, as well as the details of the agreement between artist and client, please visit The Wedding Yentas, and Ketuv’s posts, Part I and Part II!

Why the Ketubah is NOT Just Another Thing to Cross Off the List

posted by Arielle Angel on January 18, 2012

Your ketubah signing, not the ceremony, is what precedes your first married moments.

I was in a Judaica store the other day, visiting my ex Jewish studies teacher who works at the counter. A couple came in looking for a ketubah. After a cursory glance through the pile of ketubot in a corner of the store, they brought one up to the register. My teacher tried to explain to them what they were buying– the text, who the artist was. The couple listened impatiently, until the groom-to-be finally said, “Listen, our rabbi said we needed either an Orthodox or a Conservative text. We’re just trying to cross this off the list.” I happened to be nearby, so I asked them if they planned to hang up the ketubah. “Well, yeah,” said the groom. Then he turned to his bride and said, “So is this the one you want?” She shrugged. “Yeah, sure.” The challenge for those of us in the ketubah business can be summed up in the above interaction. We want to help you, the couples, to recognize the importance of your ketubah at the time that you’re buying it– that is, before your wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, no explanation will be necessary. You will have witnessed the significant role it played in your wedding–the signing of the witnesses, your dearest friends, in the intimate moments before your marriage. You will have felt this electrifying truth– that with or without the ceremony that follows, as soon as you sign the ketubah, YOU. ARE. MARRIED. Suddenly, this piece of paper will take on paramount importance– it will symbolize the newest moments of your married life, the small room where those closest to you joined in the joy of your union. (And this is just the emotional significance, to say nothing con the actual words in the contract– the husband’s promises to his wife, or the husband and wife’s promises to one another, as a married couple.) This document, with significance on a symbolic, sentimental, spiritual and legal level will also serve an aesthetic function– it will likely hang in your bedroom or living room for a long, long time. I’ll present you with two examples from my own inner circle. My father, who remarried before I got into this business, often comments how he loves his ketubah for what it represents, but not so much for how it looks. It was, for him and his wife before their marriage, “just another thing to cross off the list.” They have hung their ketubah in the hallway leading to their bedroom. They want to remember and feel that connection to their wedding day, and to their commitment to one another– they just don’t want to look at the thing all the time. Contrast that with my dearest friends Jordan and Lindsey. You’ve seen this bride before. She’s become our poster bride, because of the way that this couple really connected to their ketubah. Let me take you through the moments after their ketubah signing, pictorially. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even the groom was struggling not to lose it (sorry, dude).

(photos by Robby Campbell)

Lindsey told me just what she wanted in her ketubah and I executed it, with a few surprises. They have hung the ketubah opposite their bed, where it is the first thing they see in the morning, and the last thing they see before they go to sleep (aside from one another, of course). Jordan said, “Bride and groom become husband and wife once the ketubah is signed, and on our wedding day, the significance of the signing was palpable due in large part to the beauty of our ketubah. It is a moment we will never forget, one of the happiest of our lives. We look at our ketubah, and it reminds us of our perfect day.” After the flowers wilt, the delicacies are eaten, the white dress is in plastic, the ketubah will be there: it will hang in your bedroom as long as you’re married. Your photos and your wedding video may grace your shelf until someone– probably your children, and probably only a few times, max– will want to look at them but, again, your ketubah will be there, on your wall, out in the open, a constant reminder. Still think the ketubah is just another thing to cross off the list?  

You Asked!

posted by Arielle Angel on November 10, 2011

We recently checked up on our Google Analytics, trying to figure out what keywords have brought you all to Ketuv.com. We realized that many of you found us by asking ketubah-related questions that we actually haven’t yet answered on our site. So we decided to cull the questions from our Analytics “search words” and answer them. Hope this helps! Please keep in mind that, as with many issues in Judaism, the answer depends on the religious observance of the asker, but we will try to answer from many different perspectives as best we can. Q: What happens if you lose your ketubah? A: According to Jewish law, if you lose your ketubah, a new ketubah must be written immediately, as it is forbidden for a couple to live together without their ketubah. The couple will appear before the rabbi and ask for a new ketubah, which will feature the date that the new ketubah was written, and not the date of the marriage. Of course, if your ketubah serves more of a cultural function than a legal/religious function in your lives, you may simply choose to buy another one, or wait until your anniversary to get an anniversary ketubah, like the ones featured on this site. Q: What happens if your ketubah has the wrong date? A: According to Jewish law, any major error in filling out the ketubah means that you must obtain a new ketubah in the manner described above. However, if your rabbi catches the mistake, s/he may choose simply to cross out or edit directly on top of the text. If you’re more concerned with the document’s accuracy than with a blemish on your ketubah text, then this may be the best option. Either way, it’s important to make sure you provide the ketubah company with the correct information, as verified with your rabbi, or that your rabbi has the correct information before he fills out your ketubah. Q: Who can fill out the ketubah? Does it have to be a rabbi? A: It is best for a rabbi familiar with Jewish law to fill out your ketubah, especially if you are religiously observant, although many ketubah companies (including this one) can personalize the text for you beforehand, which is also an acceptable option. If you choose to personalize your ketubah text beforehand, you should always ask for a proof of the final text and have it confirmed with your rabbi. If your ketubah is more of a memento or a cultural document, who you’d like to fill it out is up to you. Of course, if you choose a ketubah with Hebrew text, make sure there is someone on hand who can read and write Hebrew. Q: Who can sign the ketubah? Can more than two witnesses sign? Do the witnesses have to be Jewish? A: According to Jewish law, the witnesses must be two religiously observant Jewish men who are not related by blood to the bride and groom. However, if you’re not observant, it’s your choice who you would like to honor as a witness. We featured an interfaith ketubah on this blog that was signed by every wedding guest. Q: What are the husbandly duties outlined in the traditional ketubah text? A: The Orthodox and Conservative texts state that the husband is obligated to provide his wife with food, clothing and sex. The husband is also promising to pay his wife an agreed upon sum in the event of divorce or death. Many couples who are not religiously observant may choose to have a mutual agreement—one where the wife also takes on obligations towards her husband. Couples often write their own texts that reflect more expansive and personal ideas about the obligations of marriage. Q: What is the relationship between the ketubah and the get? A: A “get” is the document required to divorce by Jewish law. Your ketubah will have laid out some of the financial terms in the event of divorce, and may be referred to during the writing of the get. Otherwise, you do not need a ketubah to get a get. As long as one of the people in the couple is Jewish by birth, you can ask a rabbi for a get in the event of divorce. Q: How do you fill out a ketubah? A: Orthodox and Conservative Rabbis have handbooks and other resources for filling out ketubot. If you are using a text besides the accepted Orthodox or Conservative texts, you should receive fill-in instructions from your ketubah company. Ketuv provides fill-in directions with all of our ketubot. Q: Can you have a ketubah if one of the partners isn’t Jewish? A: Orthodox people do not believe in interfaith ketubahs, but then again they are unlikely to be in an interfaith marriage. For many Jews in interfaith relationships, interfaith ketubahs are a wonderful way to celebrate one’s roots, and are commonly available at most ketubah stores. Bonus question about chuppahs! Q: Can the chuppah be made out of any fabric or does it have to be a tallit? A: The chuppah can be made out of any fabric, and does NOT have to be a tallit. What’s more important is that it is made of four poles and is open on all sides.