Choosing Your Ketubah Text

If you are asking yourselves “How do we pick our ketubah text?” then these few explanations and suggestions should help to set you off on the right foot.  There is literally an abundance of texts out there to choose from and we, too, offer a wide wide range. It can seem quite daunting at first.  But, before you knock yourselves out completely, your first step should be to consult with your officiant. There are some who will provide you with the exact text that they require, but there are those as well, who are happy to agree to less conventional content.  So, prior to setting your hearts on a particular wording, make sure you have a firm OK, or at least, supplementary guidance from the rabbi who will be officiating your ceremony.  This way you will not be lost in the vast sea of texts.

 

A note of positivity.  Many couples report that choosing their text was actually a wonderful experience. It took them by surprise to discover that selecting their text gave them the opportunity to sit back, reflect and talk about what they envisioned and anticipated would be the fruits of their union.  It became a contemplative moment in the midst of the frantic activity of planning the event to imagine just what their future lives together could look like and to be aware of being mindful of their partner’s individuality, what she/he brings to the partnership, as well as, their mutuality and congruities.

 

The first thing to know about the ketubah text is that it is a legal Jewish marriage contract and therefore, it reads like a legal document.  It begins with establishing the day, month, year and city/location of when/ where the wedding takes place in the very first sentence. It records the exact names of the couple. In its original form, the concept of a ketubah was for the groom to very publicly agree to a list of duties and obligations to his future spouse in a written document, signed by two witnesses. Contrary to what is commonly believed, a dowry was not an essential part of the agreement. Rather, a particular mention was made of an agreed-upon sum of money to be awarded to the wife on the untimely occasion of her widowhood or divorce. It served as a protection for women who lived in a time, where they were, for the most part, financially dependent and with little societal resources. It was signed only by two Sabbath-observing males (not the groom, nor the bride, nor the rabbi!) who were not family relations of the groom and which made it legal and binding.

 

The Orthodox ketubah text is, in both word and meaning, very much as it once was centuries ago.  Today there is a standardized text approved by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) which includes the Hebrew date as well as the date according to the Gregorian calendar.  Even though it is pretty much accepted, there may be words or even a particular spelling of words (or names) that your rabbi considers to be necessary.  No worries; we can accommodate these requests and modifications.

Today, many Orthodox officiants are happy and willing to give their consent to, in an addition to the Aramaic text, an English codicil – a declaration: of love, companionship, mutual respect and honor and of the spiritual and other aspirations of the couple. So, definitely have a talk with your rabbi to come to an understanding what you and she/he require.

 

The Conservative text is also a traditional Aramaic text and will -most often include- the “Lieberman clause”.  This is embedded in the Aramaic and its aim is to prevent the proliferation of agunot (women who have not been granted a get- a divorce in the Beit Din, the rabbinical court, according to the Jewish Law).  Most Conservative clergy will request this; but once again, speak with your rabbi about the specifics of the text. We offer the Aramaic text with several different options for an English addendum: those that articulate the wishes of loving friends and life partners: of the promise of their humanistic, spiritual and egalitarian intentions and the support that they offer one another.

Reform texts can range from the more customary (albeit, egalitarian!) to a more contemporary and deeply personal phrasing. The ketubah is written in Hebrew with a translation to English –or any other language, for that matter.  If you are having a Reform ceremony, you will have a whole lot more leeway in choosing your text. Still, have we not said this before?  Speak to your officiant, because a ketubah text surprise (!) is the last thing you want when you are standing under the chuppah.

Additionally, we offer many other ketubah texts suitable for Sephardic, Modern-Egalitarian, Human Secular, Interfaith, Same-sex and Anniversary ceremonies. We think you will find a text, here, that will suit you perfectly. Can’t find one that’s just right for you?  Need a custom text?  Let us know.

Any questions at all, just contact us and we will be happy to help.