Elsewhere on the site, you may have noticed that we’ve mentioned Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer’s The Creative Jewish Wedding Book. When we started Ketuv, this book was so helpful to us in understanding the ketubah in its various incarnations. We highly recommend this book to couples looking to deepen their understanding of the Jewish traditions in their marriage, and to make informed decisions about which ones to include and how. For this post, we’ve invited Gabrielle to offer some tips on choosing the right ketubah.
For many contemporary couples, choosing a ketubah can be a very important part of not only wedding planning, but also of their marriage preparation. The process of choosing a ketubah creates an important dialogue for couples on a number of topics—whether they prefer traditional or contemporary language, or what their favorite styles of art are. Choosing a ketubah is also an opportunity for couples to reflect on the commitments that they are making to one another in their marriage, as these commitments will be expressed and reflected in the ketubah that they choose.
If you and your partner are in the process of selecting a ketubah, there are a number of different factors for you to consider as you begin to search for the ketubah that is just right for you:
One of the most important choices for you to make is how the text of your ketubah will read. For Orthodox couples, the traditional text that has been used for hundreds of years will be the same text that appears on their ketubah. However, most non-Orthodox couples prefer an updated text for their ketubah that presents both the man and woman’s voices or focuses on the personal commitments that the couple is making to one another. Some types of ketubah texts, besides the traditional Orthodox text include:
*Egalitarian: These texts represent the voice of both the male and female partners. Some are written in the style of a traditional ketubah text and others are written in contemporary language.
*Write your own: Some couples prefer to write their own ketubah text. This process is like writing your own vows, although you may want to include the style of text used in a traditional ketubah as a framework. In my book, “The Creative Jewish Wedding Book,” I take couples through the process of writing their own ketubah text.
*Marriage Blessings: Rather than being written in the traditional legal style of what the couples promises to one another, these texts are written more as blessings for your marriage. They may include a famous quote.
*Interfaith: For interfaith couples, there are wonderful ketubah texts available that reflect the couples’ different backgrounds. Some couples may even choose to include relevant quotes from the texts of both faiths.
*Gender neutral: For same sex couples or couples who prefer not to be labeled as bride and groom, there are beautiful ketubah texts that are written in gender neutral language.
The ketubah is a work of art and for some couples, it is the first piece of art that they are selecting for their home. This is an opportunity to talk about your taste in art and perhaps to figure out a compromise if you each have different preferences. Some design elements include:
*Traditional Jewish imagery: Many ketubot evoke images of Jerusalem or are adorned with other traditional Jewish images.
*Contemporary: Contemporary artists are creating beautiful ketubot with all different kinds of images—from floral designs to abstract works of art. You should be able to find a ketubah that suits your taste.
*Photos: Some artists will use photo images of the couple to incorporate them into the ketubah design.
Another important factor to consider is whether or not you would like an original work of art, or a reproduction. You need to determine how much money you have budgeted for your ketubah to select the type of ketubah that you will purchase. These include:
*Original: An original ketubah is one that you commission an artist to create just for you. It will be a one of a kind work of art.
*Print: This is a reproduction that you will select from an artist’s series of work. Some artists will personalize the text for you.
*Make your own: Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you may want to hire a calligrapher to write your ketubah text and you create the design elements on your own.
Once you have your ketubah selected, it is time to consider how you will use it in your ceremony, including:
*Signing Before: It is traditional to sign the ketubah just before the wedding ceremony.
*Reading: Many couples choose to read or have their wedding officiant read the ketubah text during the ceremony.
*Displaying: Don’t forget to display your beautiful easel at your reception so that everyone can see it!
Best of luck in finding the right ketubah for YOU!
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is the author of The Creative Jewish Wedding Book (Jewish Lights). She consults with couples who need support planning their weddings and also serves as a wedding officiant with Journeys of the Heart. You can reach her at email@example.com.