Explanations on texts - what does each mean?

March 27, 2016

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I offer my clients several text templates to use in their ketubah, and there are many more floating around the web. There are several versions to the texts you can choose, and more that you can write for yourselves. The wide selection naturally causes some apprehension for couples when they first approach the idea of selecting a ketubah for their ceremony.

This post will hopefully clear up some of the confusion as to the differences between each of the popular text options, and help you decide on the best text for you! 

Firstly, The Ketubah is NOT a legally binding document, not at all! It is a Jewish marriage certificate, confirming that a marriage recognized by religious authority took place. Since it's not a legally binding document, first and foremost you may CHOOSE ANY TEXT YOU FEEL CONNECTED TO.

Secondly, THE TEXT YOU CHOOSE IS DEPENDENT ON THE TYPE OF CEREMONY YOU'RE HAVING: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Secular, or Interfaith. While the modern ceremonies give you carte blanche to write what you want in your ketubah, traditional religious ceremonies (the Orthodox and Conservative) come with strict rules for the ketubah. Here are the differences:

ORTHODOX | The traditional text, this one is for ultra-religious ceremonies and is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. The text, being traditional, it unfortunately has nothing to do with romance or tender feelings. It's a religious document where in the groom pledges to the bride's clan his monetary obligation to provide for his wife in life as in death, including a (symbolic) monetary pledge to match her dowry. It is to be signed by the two witnesses only (and sometimes the groom).  

Being part of a traditional ceremony governed by Jewish law, this text cannot be edited at all. No text in Aramaic, Hebrew, or English, can be added. There are strict rules and your Rabbi needs to proofread it with you, because if they find one thing they don't approve of, they can judge the entire document null and void.

There are rabbis who want the Jewish date referred to one way, others that want a specific spelling to the location, and more who want to leave out space to fill in by hand on the wedding day as part of the ceremony. This is why it's important to always consult your officiating Rabbi on the text.

CONSERVATIVE | This is the same traditional text as the above Orthodox, but for one big exception. A paragraph called the Lieberman Clause was added to allow for religious divorce (called 'gett'), a possibility unheard of at the time the Orthodox text was first written. Literally, the clause "allows" both the bride and groom to go to the rabbis and plead their case with witnesses for the dissolution of the marriage. The gett is not a replacement for the civil divorce court and does not hold sway over it, it is purely for your religious community. Other than that, the Conservative text follows the same strict rules as the Orthodox, and your Rabbi should proofread it with you.

With this text, there's sometimes the option to add an English paragraph depending on the preference of your Rabbi, though it's not encouraged.

I offer two templates for the Conservative text, which are the two most popular options in the Diaspora. They are the same text, with slight differences in the phrasing and/or spelling.

Looking for More Information on the Orthodox and Conservative Ketubah?

EGALITARIAN | Written in Hebrew and with the option to add English, the Egalitarian text references the Orthodox text, only there's no mention of a dowry and both the groom & the bride vow fidelity and support to one another. It levels both parties to equals, while keeping the religious notes in the vows.

Again I offer two templates for the text, and Egalitarian text (Version Two) also adds a few modern vows from the Reform text.

REFORM | This is the most popular text in the Diaspora, and used in religious Reform and non-religious ceremonies alike. Written in Hebrew with an English translation, the Reform text is a step further in treating the bride and groom equally, as well as finally including the romantic vows we all know and expect in weddings. A modern text, the only reference to the Jewish faith is the mention of shared religious traditions, values, and culture. It can be written as you please, and there are no rules.

I offer two templates for the text, and which can be edited freely by the clients.

SECULAR | Written in Hebrew with an English translation, the Secular text is a completely freeform modern text that has no Jewish references, whether religious or cultural.

I offer two templates of the Secular text, both a short introductory paragraph paired with romantic poems.

The above list shows the division of the Jewish texts according to religious sect. In addition to the above mainstream texts, I also offer: a traditional text dedicated to SAME SEX ceremonies, as well as texts for QUAKER and CHRISTIAN ceremonies. And still, all the text templates can be tailored to use in INTERFAITH and OTHER ceremonies, as the only changes needed are to any religious references and gender-nouns in the Hebrew.

The KETUBAH is not exclusive to Jewish ceremonies, or even to religious ceremonies. It is a cultural phenomena anchored in tradition, which everyone are welcome to adopt and adapt to suit their own vision. 
I look at my ketubot as beautiful artworks immortalising a couple's love and commitment.


Ready to Order? 
Contact me for your ketubah here

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