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 Although many of the details might sound outdated (do these currencies even exist anymore?), it is common, say, in the case of a divorce, to translate the given amounts into modern currencies.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


Where in your house should you hang your Ketubah?

One question that every Jewish couple faces is, where in their house should they hang their Ketubah? Which wall, and in which room, is just right, just perfect, to hang your Ketubah on? Where in the house should the Ketubah be displayed?

It can be a challenging question, and must be analyzed based on various criteria:

What rooms in the house are the most prominent? Does everyone hang out in the living room?

Do you, personally, view the Ketubah as a more private document (in which case, the Bedroom is ideal to hang it) or a more public document (in which case, the living room is ideal)? Most modern Jews view the Ketubah as a public document — indeed, it originally began as a public contract. The wedding has witnesses, for example! But some traditions used to keep it more private; most of those traditions have been lost in the USA, for example.

What are the other design elements that are practical considerations? Sometimes, our clients have both a large and a small living room — and although it might be preferable to post the public document in the large living room, the walls are already full, so we put it into the smaller living room, instead.

The country you are living in is also a consideration to keep in mind. In Latin America, Ketubot are often kept in private; in Israel and the USA, they are often publicly displayed, in a prominent part of the house!

Are you wondering what wall to place your Ketubah on? Ask us, we can help you figure it out! Our email address is: team@tinak.org

We’d love to hear from you – let us know!


Klimt: the Modern of the Modern Ketubot!

Of the contemporary Ketubot, there are many art styles — you can do a Ketubah to look like a Warhol, a Malevich, or a Kandinsky.

But if you were to want a custom Ketubah, in a fun (even cool or, God help me, “hipster”) style, you might want to consider the Klimt aesthetic.

We’ve already done a few custom and handmade Ketubahs in the Klimt style like Klimt-ish Ketubah I and Klimt-ish Ketubah II, and these are among our favorites. (They’re online for you to review!).

Klimt captures a lot of the creative and modern style, with many traditional implications as well.

Klimt and his long-gone Vienna might seem like a thing of the long-gone pre-war past — but he is, in an odd way, the modern of the moderns, the contemporary of the contemporaries. He was cool before it was cool. Ahead of his time, with a timeless style that looks as old as it does new. We love our Klimt!


A Ketubah From New York

What is the New York style of Ketubot?

It is similar but different to the Buenos Aires style.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more Jewish; the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be more modern, more contemporary.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more ornate; the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be more to-the-point.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more classically-designed (in the usual Ketubah styles); the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be a bit more cutting-edge and modern.

But what about the Israeli Ketubah?

The Israeli Ketubah tends to have more ancient Judaic themes: the use of desert colors, the Biblical imagery.

What kind of Ketubah do you like? What kind of Ketubah do you want?

Let us know!


The Hipster Ketubah: Cool, Contemporary, Creative, C-Something

The world lacks hipster Ketubot. No longer! We have now brought them to the world.

Of course, we all know that: if you need to say you’re a hipster–then you’re not. So we know that we’re really not hipsters. If we were, after all, then we wouldn’t be sitting here being all nerdy with Ketubot — we’d probably be out at some party in Williamsburg as we speak. The hipster side of Williamsburg, not the Chassidic side (which we actually prefer!), of course.

The Hipster Ketubah is, in our opinion, the style we try to capture: being modern, cool, contemporary, creative and unique — but with enough tradition so that we’re continuing our long history of the Jews.

Above all, the Hipster brings art, modern art, into everything imaginable — and we have brought art to another level within Ketubot. From Klimt to Picasso; whether gay, lesbian, or straight; whether in New York or Los Angeles; whether more fun, or less fun; whether reform, conservative or orthodox — hipster is hipster.

The Hipster, while denying being a hipster, appeals to a particular lifestyle: the modern of the modern. We come from that same tradition. Indeed, I myself used to live in Williamsburg! Ironically enough, I lived on South 3rd street: exactly on the border between the Chassidic and the Hipster sides. Isn’t life funny?


What is a Modern or Contemporary Ketubah?

In what ways is a modern or contemporary Ketubah different than a traditional Ketubah?

We think they should be unique in either one or two ways, depending on how traditional you are.

First, the design: traditional Ketubot are designed beautifully–but not with a modern sensibility in mind. They often have great imagery, but imagery more drawn from the aesthetic tastes of our grandparents, not from us.

Second, the wording. Traditional Ketubot use ancient wording that assumes various roles about currencies, dowries, and other traditions no longer much followed. Do you want to keep the traditional wording, or update it?

We’ve known very happy couples that have done either. Some people like the vestige of the contract our ancestors abode by. Some people want to take the contract very seriously, so they want to update the wording to better reflect our modern currencies and values.

Some couples write their own; some couples use the one their Rabbi gives them; some couples find one that is suited towards their needs, desires, and passions.

In other articles on this site, we’ll address the question of: how seriously should you take the legal contract of the Ketubah? That’s for another day. But for today, our important lesson to remember is, the Ketubah is a powerful tradition and, like all traditions, we must accept it with care and with great responsibility. As Spiderman said: “with great responsibility, comes great power!”. This is one contract that you really don’t want to break!


To Hang or Not To Hang Your Ketubah–That Is The Question

Hanging ketubah

(That is NOT one of our Ketubot – but a traditional one.)

Different Jewish traditions treat Ketubot, after marriage, in different ways.

Some keep it hidden in a safe.

Some prominently display it in the center of the house.

Some keep it in the wife’s parent’s house.

My grandmother still has hers, framed, in the center of her living room; but my parents, I have no idea where theirs is.

How should you decide what to do with your Ketubah? Well, one predominant factor is the culture: Sephardim, for example, tend to keep it out of sight more, while Ashkenazim tend to flaunt it more.

We would suggest that, the decision as to whether to show off the Ketubah or not rests firmly on three criteria:

First, how strong your connection is with the Ashkenazi or the Sephardi tradition. The more traditional Ashkenazi, the more public; the more traditional Sephardi, the more private.

Secondly, how safe is your living space: if your home is secure, then it makes more sense to display it in your home. If you live in a group living situation, or there are often robberies in your area, you might want to protect it to a greater degree.

Third, how artistic is your Ketubah. The more artistic it is, the more it makes sense to display it. It is, of course, part of our hiddur mitzvah tradition to make the Ketubah as beautiful as possible. But not all Ketubot are designed beautifully–although the hiddur mitzvah tradition is not followed by Jews in various parts of Latin America, for example.

Where in your home would you put your Ketubah?


You can use Brands in Privately Commissioned Ketubot – but not ones in the Store!

Running a business always presents interesting intellectual problems. Here is today’s.

So, creating Ketubot by hand creates some interesting Intellectual Property problems.

For example, we recently got a request for an Apple computer themed Ketubah!

As Mac fanatics, we loved this! I almost want one myself :)

Here’s the problem: the Apple logo is a trademark owned by Apple. We can’t use it publicly without getting Apple’s permission and paying them a lot of money.

Guessing Steve Jobs’ response, I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

That said, here’s an interesting compromise: perhaps we can do it privately? If it we create a custom piece of art, that isn’t displayed or used publicly in any way, do we need to get Apple’s permission?

Maybe, maybe not; but it’s ambiguous enough where perhaps we could take the risk! Lets do it!

Team Ketubah


Introduction to Gay Ketubahs

Ketubah for a lesbian glbt queer jewish wedding

Due to Popular Request: We’re putting together an FAQ on Gay Ketubahs! If you’re interested in one and want to see our FAQ, let us know!

How is a Gay Ketubah different from all other Ketubahs?

They are unique on a few levels. First, the grammar and vocabulary must be adjusted slightly to account for the gender difference; the Ketubah assumes a male spouse and a female spouse, while our language must account for two spouses, regardless of sex.

Traditional Ketubahs, furthermore, differentiate between different roles of the male and female spouse; the male’s family will be required to fulfill certain requirements, and the female’s family other requirements. What about the case where there is no such clear differentiation?

Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Ketubahs — what we at This Is Not a Ketubah like to call the “BGL” or “Bagel” Ketubahs — is a new universe. Only over the last years have Rabbis and traditional congregations just begun to accept non-traditional couples. Insofar as we have found, there is no standard Ketubah with the appropriate, modern, wording.

Perhaps we can create it together? Perhaps we can build the future together, a future of openness and accepting — one Ketubah at a time.

By the way, our partner BGL Ketubahs (get it? BGL – Bagel – Bisexual-Gay-Lesbian) specializes in Same-Sex, Gay, Lesbian & LGBT Ketubahs so check them out!

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