What Themes are Great for a Custom, High Quality yet Different Ketubah Design?

If you want to get a high-quality Custom-made Ketubah, one that is different than those generic styles you see everywhere — what kind of Ketubah themes work best?

This question is always a hard one for us to answer: everyone is looking for something different. Tastes are very personal. Are you cool and hipster and creative — or just want something unique and different but still very good? Do you love your pet, or punk music, or Ernest Hemingway, or the Baal Shem Tov? Everyone is different.

However, there are a few clear patterns.

Many of our most popular custom Ketubahs are based on the modern art themes: like our Gaudi, our Picasso, and our Kandinsky themes, for example. There are Ketubahs in many styles — there are few limits other than your, and our, creativity! But for reasons we don’t know, the modern art style Ketubot seem to be particularly possible.

Perhaps there is, indeed, a modern art revival happening these days!


Can you put a photo of the couple onto our custom Ketubah?

A Ketubah is a Jewish, legal manifestation of the love and passion that a couple feels for each other. But is it appropriate to put a photo of the couple onto the Ketubah itself, if the Ketubah is custom created just for you?

Here at This is Not a Ketubah, our resounding answer is: Yes, it is perfectly appropriate, especially for modern contemporary Ketubahs! Of course we are not unbiased observers, since our vision and mission is to make custom Ketubahs personalized!

There are various photos or types of photos you can include on your Ketubah: of the couple individually, or together. Of your loved ones, like a collage. Photographed (these are created digitally) — or hand-drawn!

Photographs make Ketubah design more personal and different — and thus more special.

Such photography also makes your Ketubah more of a modern design, no matter how high quality it is. It also makes it more original. And if done well it can make it prettier and more creative, too!

It is important to note, however, that conservative, orthodox, and frum Jews are usually very hesitant to put photos onto their Ketubah, no matter how beautifully drawn. This is because they do not put images of people onto their Ketubot. This comes from the tradition of not representing any images of people in sacred contexts; and that tradition stems, of course, from our core commandment against idolotry.

Personally, I might like to see a classic “Myspace shot” on a Ketubah. But when I say that, I’m just speaking for myself, and not for the This Is Not a Ketubah team — they would probably burst out laughing if they heard me say this!

(The views represented here are not necessarily those of This is Not a Ketubah)


What Artwork Is Appropriate for a Modern Ketubah?

Not all art and design is appropriate for what contexts?

That is a tricky — and important — question. Maybe a piece of art is amazing, but not right for a custom Ketubah created for you. How, really, do you know what style to create your Ketubah in?

There are a few factors to take into account. These include:

  • How traditional are you? The more religious you are, the more it makes sense to follow the standard conventions for the Ketubah. Classically, Ketubot included images of trees, nature, and similar imagery.
  • How creative is your personality? The more over-the-top creative and wacky and fun you are, the more it makes sense to experiment with new, modern, contemporary designs — although making sure they’re all of the highest possible quality, of course!
  • What are your passions? The more you and your future-husband-or-wife are passionate about a topic, the more it makes sense to represent your passions in the style of the Ketubah.
  • Where will you place or hang the Ketubah in your house? The more visible it is, the more sensitive we should be to our guests and those who enter our home.
  • What these patterns boil down to is, how comfortable are you pushing the boundaries for your Ketubah? What does your Ketubah mean to you? What do you want it to represent?


Ketubah Artists Can Create Custom, Modern and Ketubahs

A Ketubah artist is a different breed than the standard artist.

Artists come in all different breeds (like dogs!). Here are some.

Some artists focus on the social scene: they are artists because they want to be cool. The art is great – but the art scene is where it’s at, for them.

Some artists focus on pushing innovation-in-art to the next boundaries, taking styles to their natural limits. This has led to performance art and a whole host of modern artistic styles.

Some artists focus on repeating the classic traditions — trying to paint in the tradition of Monet or your favorite artist.

Some try to mix different styles together: the Bricolage, as Derrida might have said. Hey, we can combine style X with style Y and thus get brand new style Z! Nothing under the sun really is new, as the Ecclesiast said anyway.

Here at This is Not a Ketubah, we view the Ketubah as a bit of all of the above.

We strive to be modern and contemporary; cool and hipster; pretty and beautiful; creative, original, unique and different; very high quality and above all, just awesome. Something that gays, lesbians and straight couples love; something everyone from the reformed to the orthodox Jews also appreciate for their wedding contract.

We strive to push Ketubot to their boundaries, to take the market to the next level: to force everyone to improve in Ketubah-creation-land to up their game, to improve their work.

We strive to repeat and perfect our artistic creation in the great, classical styles and traditions.

We strive to mix two worlds together (Ketubot and modern art) and, in doing so, create something new.

What are you creating? :)


Why aren’t there just simply AWESOME Ketubahs out there?

We started This Is Not a Ketubah because we were unable to find awesome Ketubot out there.

Everywhere we looked, the Ketubot were the same: stars and trees and lovey-dovey.

We wanted something new and modern, contemporary and — as much as we hate (well, love-hate) this word — hipster.

We want our Ketubah to not only be pretty, nah, beautiful — but to represent our style, who we are.

We want to proudly hang out Ketubah on our wall.

This might sound quixotic. Or it might sound like a bunch of paradoxes: traditional yet modern. But we believe we can square the circle and create new, modern Ketubot — with pride in our work.

We are the artistic collective: This is Not a Ketubah


What Themes are Appropriate for a Custom Ketubah?

An art Ketubah custom-created just for the couple can be about any of a variety of themes. What theme is best for the Ketubah?

There are a few ways to approach choosing the right subject for your Ketubah or Jewish wedding contract that you should think about before you buy or commission one.

One approach is the traditional approach: to choose art and a theme that reflects traditional Ketubot, such as trees, Jewish stars, and, more broadly, standard Jewish themes.

Another approach is to choose a subject that you are passionate about: your city, books — or whatever it is that you love spending your time obsessing over. Something that you are creative about, and that you understand and do in a very high quality way.

A third approach is to choose an artistic style or design that you really love. Maybe your favorite artist? Or favorite art movement? Contemporary or modern art? Impressionism? Perhaps even Dutch style — not to mention, there are rumors that Rembrandt was Jewish! It’s not hip but we love it!

A fourth approach is to choose as a theme a group you associate yourself with. Perhaps you like the “cool” style, or a lesbian theme, or a New York or Los Angeles of Philadelphia theme. Perhaps an artsy DIY style, or perhaps your favorite board game?

In conclusion — you really can and should choose whatever theme you want for your Ketubah, so long as it is respectful and doesn’t violate any of our sacred Jewish laws. The Ketubah is best as a reflection of both your personality and the modern yet ancient traditions of Judaism herself.


How do you choose if you want a Custom or Standard Ketubah?

If you want to buy a high quality Ketubah, one question you are faced with is: should I buy a custom made one, or a standard off-the-shelf one?

There are a few factors to take into account when choosing whether to commission an artist for a custom Ketubah, or to buy one from a store. Here are a few of them.

The first factor to consider is the Artist himself, or herself. Do you trust the artist? Is his (or her) past work just awesome, in a style you love? Has he, in the past, created designs for Ketubahs that you just love? Is his art an art that you respect and that inspires you? Have you seen an online gallery or store of his/her work?

The second factor to consider before you buy a standard or custom Ketubah is the cost. Is it expensive or cheap? How much does each cost? What is your budget? Note that one reason that it is great to work with Ketubah artists in Latin America is that they are much more affordable than artists who live in Manhattan or Los Angeles.

The third factor to consider is, what do you want on your Ketubah? If you want something standard or typical, then a normal Ketubah might be good for you. But if you want a design that is unique or contemporary; modern, hipster, different or new; or based on a personal interest? The more you want the Ketubah to reflect your individual personality and tastes, the more it makes sense to get a custom Ketubah.


Why a Ketubah that is Creative, Cool, Contemporary — and Custom!

What are traditional Ketubah patterns? They always contain the core text (contract) of the Ketubah; they usually contain some amount of decoration, almost always in the traditional Jewish styles (contain imagery such as Jewish stars and trees); and they are usually of a boilerplate design.

Before we think about buying a Ketubah, first, lets re-imagine the Ketubah for a moment. Particularly the design. Lets re-imagine it in a new, unique, and modern way. To think of it as art, cool modern art.

The first question this makes us as ourselves is, must a Ketubah be designed with the traditional Jewish aesthetic of Stars of David and trees? Although that is the tradition, that is in no way mandatory nor even encouraged; it’s just done that way because, well, we’ve been doing it that way for a long time. It is a mitzvah (hiddur mitzvah) to decorate your Ketubah; but as long as it is respectful and follows the laws of the Jewish decorative tradition, such as without any engravings of God (as Jewish law strongly forbids creating any idols) – then there is no hesitation to use modern, creative, and hipster designs. That’s why we can put in the three “c”-s: creative, cool, and contemporary Ketubot. We would add in a few other adjectives (quality or high-quality, or different or unique,for example) – but we like the repetitive rhythms of the “c”-s.

But there’s a fourth “c”, too, to consider when buying a Ketubah: custom. Why must your Ketubah be identical to everyone else’s? Couples now currently either use a Ketubah given to them by their Rabbi, or they buy one for a few hundred dollars from a generic online store. But why not have a Ketubah created, just about you, your interests, and your passions? What better way is there to memorialize your marriage than to turn the legal contract into art, created just for you, by amazing Jewish artists – that you can hang on your wall with pride? We can’t think of a better way. But then again, we’re pretty biased here.


Folk Ketubah with Local Customs: Argentine Jewish Ketubah Artists

As the world gets smaller — and increasingly modern — the possibilities of getting Ketubot from any corner of the world increasingly abound.

Why not get a Ketubah from a local Jewish artist from another corner of the world — and in doing so support local but talented Jewish designers from all over the world?

A decade ago, this would have been near impossible, for a few reasons, such as: the Internet wasn’t as propagated as it is now, so many Jewish artists in faraway lands, like Argentina, didn’t have reliable Internet access – and even if they did, they didn’t have an easy way to “get the word out” about their services or even get paid internationally. So a decade ago, everyone in New York bought Ketubot from New York artists; in Los Angeles, from Los Angeles artists; in Philadelphia from Philadelphian artists; and so forth.

But perhaps most importantly, until recently, the style of these International Ketubah artists was largely the same: the traditional, Jewish Ketubah style. Whether cheap or expensive; orthodox, conservative or reform; gay, lesbian, interfaith or traditional — the style was always the same: trees and flowers. Sun and desert. Jewish stars and Jewish hands.

But This is not a Ketubah is helping both fronts enter the future. On the one hand, we’re innovating by creating Ketubot that are modern and new, unique and different, cool and (in our opinion) the best around anywhere.

But, on the other hand, we are doing something even more profound: giving access to very talented and up-and-coming Jewish artists, from under-developed countries, access to international markets to promote themselves. Before This is Not a Ketubah, many of these most talented Argentine-Jewish designers had no means or method to show off their work to potential clients or buyers on the other side of the world. This is one reason why This is Not a Ketubah is dedicated to not only supporting Ieladeinu, the Argentine Jewish orphanage, but promoting the works, on the international markets, of the best Argentine and Latino Jewish artists.


What Makes a Modern Ketubah Kosher?

Can a thoroughly modern and contemporary Ketubah (like ours at This is Not a Ketubah) still be Kosher?

Many of the features of the new, modern, cool Ketubot — like the high quality design, the creative look and even the custom creation — don’t effect whether it is Kosher or not. Some even help it: it is, after all, a Mitzvah to decorate your Ketubah to be as beautiful as possible.

The awesome design and special love we give to our Ketubot are what make them thoroughly modern, but that just doesn’t change how kosher it is or isn’t.

Other features of the hipster or unique Ketubah really depend on your Rabbi. For example, some Rabbis might perform a gay Jewish marriage or an intermarriage; many do not, and Orthodox rabbis never do.

Another factor is, whether a woman signs it or not. This, too, depends on your rabbi and shul. Traditionally, it is usually men who sign the Ketubah. But modern congregations these days usually allow woman to sign them as well.

The single most important factor is, of course, the wording of the Ketubah. Although we obsess over creating amazing designs for our Ketubot, the Ketubah is fundamentally a legal contract — and it is the Jewish law that matters above everything else. We use the standard wording — and there are a few traditions for the wording, such as the traditional Ashkenazi wording and the traditional Sephardi wording — and we work closely with your Shul’s rabbi in order to ensure that all the wording is perfect.


Are Ketubot Legally Binding?

So a Ketubah is a contract. Like any contract, it is signed, there are witnesses, and there is a bit of ceremony surrounding it. Okay, in our case, a lot of ceremony!

But is it a real contract? Is it legally binding?

The answer to this depends on, which legal system the contract is in reference to.

If you live in the USA, continental Europe or Latin America — for example — then, by the laws of the physical land (like the State of New York or indeed anywhere in America, for example), then the answer is a resounding, “no!”: it is not a legally binding contract.

But many of us answer to a higher authority, following another legal system (on top of that of the physical jurisdiction in which we live) — such as the Jewish law.

To observant Jews, the Kebutah is indeed a binding contract. Although many of the details might sound outdated (do these currencies even exist anymore?), it is common, say, in the case of a divorce, to translate the given amounts into modern currencies.

The unobservant Jew does not even consider the jurisdiction nor technical details of the Kebutah, for he considers it more a symbolic act above all.

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