Choosing a Ketubah

Choosing the right ketubah can be a bit daunting given the many choices available. The “ketubah” typically refers to either, or both, of the overall design or artwork, or just to the text itself. Various artists make different designs and/or texts available.

First, letís see whatís involved with choosing a ketubah text.

Choosing a Ketubah Text

First, some background. Typically, the ketubah text consists of both an Aramaic or Hebrew portion and an English portion. For traditional texts, it is the Aramaic portion that satisfies the strict requirements of a ketubah, and thus it is often paired with a non-translated, egalitarian English portion. More modern texts will typically utilize Hebrew and an English translation that is more egalitarian than the traditional text. You can also choose to have Aramaic/Hebrew only or, in some cases, English only.

Other than the “standard” texts put forth by various movements of Judaism, the ketubah artist typically writes the ketubah text. Thus, when choosing a ketubah text, you should ask the artist to see what texts he or she offers and ask whether they can be customized. Also, some artists only make some texts available with certain designs, so that is a point to ask about as well. See Choosing a Ketubah Design.

There are no hard-and-fast rules in choosing a ketubah text. But letís start you off with some guidelines:

  • Jewish: If both of you are Jewish, then you will want to look at Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Secular Humanistic ketubah texts, depending upon the movement with which you and your officiant are affiliated.

  • Interfaith: If you are having an Interfaith wedding (only one of you is Jewish), you should start by looking at texts denoted to be “Interfaith.” These texts may not technically be “ketubah” texts according to Jewish law, but more “statements of vows” written, typically, by the artist, and they are usually egalitarian and contain fewer Jewish references. The text will typically be in Hebrew and translated English, or you can often choose to have English only.

  • Non-religious: If you are searching for a text that does not make any religious reference, you can look for texts such as “Secular” or “Non-Denominational.” These will likely make no Jewish or other religious references. Again, these are not actually “ketubot” but beautiful statements of vows written for modern times typically by the artist. These texts are usually in English only.

  • Gay or Lesbian: If you are looking for a ketubah for a gay or lesbian commitment ceremony, you will want to use texts, which are referred to as “Commitment” or “ Gay or Lesbian” or “Alternative.” There will typically be two such texts Ė one masculine, one feminine. These are modern texts authored by the artist and, depending on his or her preferences, there may or may not be religious references within them. These texts may be in Hebrew & English, or English only.

  • Anniversary: Finally, if you are looking to celebrate an anniversary, you can look for “ Anniversary” texts. These are not ketubot but are typically one of the above texts, which the artist has rewritten to apply to an anniversary celebration. These texts may be in Hebrew & English, or English only.

Four very important notes or thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. Designs with Two Areas for Text: If the ketubah design you choose has two areas for text -- one for the English portion and one for the Aramaic/Hebrew portion -- you should not choose a Hebrew/Aramaic-only text. Jewish law does not permit the artist to split the Aramaic portion of the text into two parts, and without an English text portion, there would be a blank in your design. Or, you can ask the artist if he or she can “fill in” the blank with a design or phrase that would look appropriate.

  2. Can Your Artist Customize Your Text? You will want to find out if the artist creating your ketubah can easily “customize” the text for you, in case you or your officiant want to make any changes. Again, depending on the type of media used, this may be a simple (i.e. affordable) task or it may require a more expensive option - a fully custom ketubah.

  3. Can Your Artist Personalize Your Text? You will want to ask if the artist creating your ketubah can “personalize” the text for you (i.e. fill in your names, wedding date, etc.). Depending on the type of media used for the ketubah (see Choosing a Ketubah Design), the artist may be able to do so, although there will often be a separate charge for this service. If not, you (or the artist) can hire a calligrapher to complete this information by hand, or your rabbi may be willing to do so perhaps for free or a small charge (depending on his or her handwriting, this may not be your best solution!). Caution: The look of the ketubah will be very different depending on how this is completed. See these personalization examples and ask the artist how he or she personalizes the ketubah so you know what youíre getting.

  4. Consult Your Officiant! You will ALWAYS want to consult your rabbi or officiant when selecting and personalizing a ketubah text. Your officiant may require you to use (or to not use) one specific text or another, or he or she may demand that the text be customized to apply to your specific situation or to meet certain criteria. Although there are “standard” texts for the various Jewish movements, even officiants of a particular Jewish movement can differ with regard to how a specific text should read! And he or she may also have specific preferences in how your text is personalized.

Now, letís learn about choosing a ketubah design.