“Ketuvah” means “writing” and refers to the Ketubah text. This writing, which will be witnessed and signed, describes the sacred foundation upon which your marriage rests.
Choosing a Ketubah text for your wedding can be an overwhelming task. Your rabbi may require a particular Hebrew/Aramaic text, but most will allow you to choose your own English text. If your rabbi is more flexible with the Hebrew/Aramaic, you may want to use a traditional text anyway, perhaps a modern egalitarian option. If you are Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Interfaith, or Secular, your choice may be based on more personal considerations about your vision of marriage and your relationship to Judaism.
Let’s explore these different questions.
Choosing a traditional Ketubah text
Many Jews and rabbis want to sign a Ketubah text that will establish a direct connection to Orthodox Judaism, to eliminate any questions for their marriage or their children in Orthodox circles. We offer the Orthodox text and an Israeli version of the Orthodox text. The Conservative movement has slightly modified the Orthodox text, mostly by adding the Lieberman clause, which addresses Jewish divorce in support of the woman’s rights. A slight modification to the Orthodox and Conservative texts is possible by changing the word used to designate the bride inside the text. For a naturally born Jewish woman on her first marriage, the term used is “betulta”. This literally means “virgin” and holds some old-fashioned connotations. Other choices include using “no designation” or using “itita” or “kallah”. Please speak with your rabbi on this question if you are interested.
Choosing a “traditional egalitarian” Ketubah text
We also offer several “traditional egalitarian” Ketubah texts that draw upon Jewish tradition, remain true to Halacha (Jewish law), and respond to modern desires for a completely egalitarian contract. These are written by scholars and rabbis and used regularly in Conservative and other traditional weddings. Your rabbi may be familiar with these texts or he/she may want to learn about them. We have included descriptions and histories with these texts.
Choosing an English Ketubah text that differs from the Hebrew
Most rabbis of all denominations will allow you to choose your own English text. We do not charge a fee to mix and match texts. If you find an English text you love on another site, or want to write your own, there is only a nominal fee to use these ($35). Please contact the other site for permission, however. (My policy is to share all my texts for free.) Some people prefer that the English matches the Hebrew, so that they know exactly what they are signing. Other people prefer an English text that speaks of marriage in more contemporary and personal terms. While we always place two witness signatures under traditional texts, we place the bride and groom’s signatures under modern English texts that accompany traditional texts. This allows the bride and groom to sign their names to their vows and promises to each other. For this reason, we encourage you to spend time reading and connecting with all the texts on this site.
Choosing an Interfaith Ketubah text
Couples whose families have a strong connection to more than one religious faith or background often want to acknowledge this diversity inside their Ketubah text. For the couple who wants to dedicate their home to Judaism, we offer Interfaith A, which speaks of a “home in which holidays and heritage are celebrated in accordance with Jewish culture and tradition, and respect is fostered for the cultures of both our families. For the couple who wants to celebrate more than one set of traditions, Interfaith B and Interfaith Modern Vows have a space to add the name of the other tradition, “in accordance with Jewish and ____ cultures and traditions”. Many couples ask for a change to these texts that simply reads “in accordance with our cultures and traditions”. Interfaith Wedding Blessing is a text that does not speak of religion or tradition at all. Some couples have used a Messianic text, which we still have in our files but have chosen not to post. Some couples celebrate their diversity by adding a third text in another language. We are happy to fulfill any of these requests.
Choosing a Same Gender Ketubah text
We have posted a few texts under Same Gender Ketubah texts but really, any text can become a same gender text. There are some edits necessary to make the Hebrew grammar correct; we often ask your rabbi to help ensure these are done properly. A few of our texts have a history that particularly connects them to same gender unions. Please check out the Egalitarian Aramaic, Brit Ahuvim/Ahuvot, and Reform A Gender Neutral. Each of these were created by people with same gender marriages included in their intentions. We have worked with same gender couples in every denomination of Judaism and can help you find rabbis to participate in writing a text that supports your marriage and your relationship to Judaism.
Choosing a “denominational” Ketubah text (Reform, Renewal, or Secular)
For those who have a strong relationship with or affiliation to a movement in Judaism, we offer a few texts that fulfill this connection. Reform A and Canadian Reform are the most official Reform texts we have found. The Renewal text was given to us by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. The Secular Humanist I and II were authored by the Association of Humanistic Rabbis & Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews.
Choosing a Yiddish Ketubah text
The Yiddish text is an unusual choice but a wonderful way to connect with a family heritage.
Choosing to write your own Hebrew/English text
We hope you will consider this idea, at least for your English text. Please read Nishima’s blog Writing your Own Ketubah Text.
Many couples choose to write their own Ketubah texts. The process of engaging with the written contract which will be signed at their wedding supports the process of preparing for the challenges of marriage. For some couples, the custom Ketubah text places them in a unique relationship to the Jewish community and history. For others, the text addresses their marital choices concerning finances, children, family celebrations, and other practical matters. Most couples who write their own text explore to some degree their mutual understandings of love and the marital relationship.
At Artketubah, using a custom text on your Ketubah is not expensive: $35 for English only, $125 for Hebrew only, or $135 for both English and Hebrew. We can also help facilitate the translation of your custom English into Hebrew for a translator fee of $1.25 per word.
Is writing your own Ketubah text permitted? The answer depends on your beliefs and those of your Rabbi or Officiant. It also depends on whether you want to rewrite the English while leaving the Hebrew/Aramaic as is, or whether you want the Hebrew/Aramaic to match your custom English. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Perhaps your Rabbi hearkens back to the early days of ketubahs when each document was written with the individual couple in mind. Or perhaps he/she doesn’t mind what the English says. The question will, at the very least, open the door to a meaningful conversation about your Ketubah and your relationship to it.
The traditional Ketubah text today is not the legally binding pre-nup that it was for so much of Jewish history. Few couples actually exchange the required Zuzim and Zekukim (ancient coins) that the Orthodox and Conservative Ketubah texts still lay out as the dowry for first time brides, divorcees, widows and converts. If anything, the one contemporary legally binding aspect of the traditional Ketubah text is the one we hope never to use: The Lieberman Clause, which compels a Jewish man to grant his wife a legal divorce, or get. Yet some Rabbis still suggest using the Ketubah as it was originally meant: as a legally binding prenuptual agreement. Rabbi David Stein has authored an e-book entitled “Ketubah Kit for Rabbis, A Reconstructionist Approach” which guides the process of writing a custom Ketubah text.
Writing your own Ketubah text can be similar to writing your wedding vows, and some couples place their vows inside their custom text. A text that accurately describes your feelings of love and respect for each other, a text that describes the type of life and home you envision creating together– such a Ketubah text can be read out loud every year on your Anniversary (just as your Ketubah is read under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, during your ceremony). Such a Ketubah is more than beautiful artwork, more than a requirement of Jewish law. Such a Ketubah is a testament for all time of the Love which brought you together.