July 31, 2013
Ketubah text has been a hot topic lately, with the custom of a ketubah (or a decorative marital contract) becoming more and more popular among couples from all different backgrounds and faiths. A good way to think about your ketubah is as a “marriage” between visual art and written word. So, you found the perfect art that speaks to you, but what next? If you are getting married with an Orthodox or Conservative rabbi then the choice is easy, at least for the Hebrew portion of your ketubah — there is a standard Orthodox Aramaic text and what is known as the Conservative text with Lieberman Clause. If you have a rabbi from one of the more liberal movements then you have more decisions to make. Either way, most rabbis don’t mind if you pair the Hebrew or Aramaic with an English text of your choice, especially because the Orthodox and Conservative texts are pretty cut and dry. Ketubah websites and shops usually have a variety of texts for you to choose from, but what if none of them fully express what you want to say to each other? After all, it’s a very personal conversation between you and your fiancé!
Here are some tips for writing your own ketubah text:
A ketubah is a contract, so there is some information that it traditionally includes:
The date of the week of the wedding — if you are having the ceremony on a Saturday before sunset, some rabbis prefer that you list your wedding as Sunday so you are not getting married on Shabbat. This is something to check with your officiant.
The English date of the wedding
The Hebrew date of the wedding: remember, Hebrew days start at sunset, so if your chuppah is after sunset then you should list the next day’s Hebrew date. Here is a great site that will convert the date for you.
The location of the wedding: Definitely the city and State, some rabbis also like to add the country
Your names and your parents’ names: traditionally the names are written in this form: “Jennifer daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth/Sam son of Michael and Rachel.” Of course whether or not you want to include the parents’ names is ultimately a decision for you and your rabbi. Most Orthodox rabbis prefer to just have the fathers’ names, while Conservative rabbis are often times more open to including both parents’ names.
A sample first paragraph of a ketubah text:
On the _________ day of the week, the _________ day of the month of _____________, corresponding to the __________ day of the month of ______________ in the year _________________, here in __________, ____________, the bride ________________ daughter of ____________ and ____________, and the groom ______________ son of _______________ and _____________, come together before family and friends to affirm their commitment to one another as partners in marriage.
Now the fun part:
Think of ketubah text as vows you are making to each other. A good way to get started is to brainstorm your values as a couple. Some good starting points: respect, kindness, support, love, faith, nurture. Do you plan to have kids? You can include some values for raising children, such as “we will pass on our values to our children”.
Don’t be afraid to get personal. Want your partner to bring you a glass of water before bed every night? Here’s your chance to get it in writing!
It’s OK to be funny. Some amazing clients of mine wrote a truly unique ketubah text that included that the bride “always gets a maid.” and “In return the (groom) will always have a microwave (lest he find himself stirring his oatmeal over an electric stove like some early-American pioneer);” Another favorite of mine was a couple who were both teachers and ended their text with “I vow to always be your greatest teacher.” Remember, that humor is never bad for a relationship and is as old a Jewish value as the 10 commandments.
You can write the paragraphs as vows you are saying to each other:
“The bride and groom declared to one another: ….”
Or divide them:
“The bride, _______, said to the groom_________: ….”
“And the Groom,__________, promised his bride__________: …”
Be true to your spirituality: If religion is an important part of your lives, then by all means include that in your text. You can draw on biblical passages, or mention conditioning ancient traditions. But if religion is not your thing, then don’t feel pressured to mention it. This is your ketubah and it should reflect who you are as a couple.
Ask for help: If you get stumped, ask for help! Studying others’ ketubah texts can help you get ideas, but your rabbi, officiant, or ketubah artist could also be great resources. Remember, they deal with ketubahs all day long and you can’t beat that kind of experience!
Make it meaningful: When my husband and I were getting married, our rabbi said to us that engagement is like a microcosm of the rest of your lives together. You deal with all the big issues: budget, family, personal taste, etc., at once. Your ketubah text is a great opportunity to start a conversation and set a precedent for how you will work together as a couple.
Don’t forget to proof read: Because wouldn’t you hate to stare at a typo on your wall for the rest of your lives?
Enjoy the journey. Remember, your ketubah will stay with you forever, so let this process be a wonderful memory that accompanies you both into old age. Mazel tov!
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