Does a Traditional Ketubah Design Exist?

What does a traditional ketubah design look like?

  • If you ask an Egyptian couple from the 3rd century B.C.E., they may say that it should be written on papyrus, with no ornamentation.

  • If you ask a Venetian couple from the 1600’s, they may say that a traditional ketubah should not have any figurative elements, but rather should include birds, vines, and flowers.

  • A Dutch couple from the early 1700’s may tell you that the ketubah should be printed from a copper engraving and contain a commemoration for Rabbi H.Y. Aboab, a famous rabbi from the Amsterdam community.

  • The ketubah of a Roman couple from the late 1700’s would be on parchment, filled with biblical and historical figurative motifs, with its bottom cut into a decorative shape. (Example shown in image: A 1797 Roman ketubah, courtesy of The Education Center of the National Library of Israel)

  • An Afghani ketubah in the 1800’s? It should have illustrations of gateways (always in odd numbers, such as 3 or 5, to ward off evil spirits) filled with blessings for the couple or illustrations of vases of roses.

  • Jerusalem in the mid-1800’s? The ketubah wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of cypress tree illustrations.

  • New York City in 2018? The variety of styles and materials is immense!

A “traditional” ketubah style has never really existed. Throughout history, the style of each couple’s ketubah has been a direct reflection of their culture as well as their own personal style. The modern resurgence of illuminated ketubot - and the wide variety of artistic styles prevalent in contemporary culture – means that your ketubah can resemble the 18th century Roman ketubah designs, or it can be a new style that truly reflects you and your soulmate. The options are limitless. Which one will you choose?


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