Everything You Need to Know About the Ketubah

Discover the history of this ancient Jewish marriage document and browse stunning designs.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ketubah

Photo: Elizabeth Messina

love ketubah

Before Jewish couples can say their vows out loud, they must put them in writing via the ancient ketubah document. The ketubah is a marriage contract that outlines the responsibilities of the groom towards his wife, and centuries ago, served as a legal guarantee that a groom would provide adequate financial support for his wife in the event of a divorce. It was written in Aramaic, and was signed by two witnesses who vouched for the groom's ability to meet the requirements of marriage.

Today, the ketubah is less of a prenuptial agreement and more of a representation of a couple's commitment to their marriage. Couples can choose from Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform versions, and also make changes to modernize and personalize the text (however, your rabbi should still approve your chosen verbiage). Many couples opt to include an English translation beside the Aramaic or Hebrew text. The ketubah is signed before the ceremony – in a room separate from the rest of the celebration – by the couple, their rabbi, and two witnesses who traditionally are not related to the bride or groom. Some rabbis may also require that the witnesses are male; again, determine what your tradition permits before signing the document.

Now, moving on to the fun part: creating your ketubah design! The idea that the ketubah is a piece of artwork to be shown off is a relatively new development of the last 30 years. From watercolor to laser-cut to gold leaf, today's ketubot feature some truly awe-inspiring techniques and designs. A number of websites allow couples to order their ketubah online; or, you can work with an artist to create an original style. After the wedding, frame the document and display it proudly in your home!

Get inspired by the gorgeous ketubah designs from real weddings, below:

tree ketubah

Photo by Sarah Tew Photography

laser cut ketubah

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

framed ketubah

Photo by Embrace Life Photography

tree heart ketubah

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

blue ketubah on easel at wedding

Photo by Marisa Holmes

blue and gold ketubah at wedding

Photo by Nadia D. Photography

modern orange ketubah at wedding

Photo by Olivia Leigh Photographie

black and white ketubah

Photo by Embrace Life Photography

Opening photo by Mi Belle Photographers