What is the Ketubah?
The ketubah is a contract signed at the time of the wedding to guarantee the livelihood of the wife in case she is widowed or divorced. The ketubah designates the obligations of the husband to his wife during marriage and is designed to serve as a barrier against hasty divorce. It was traditionally written in Aramaic. Nowadays the financial obligations of the ketubah are rarely executed in a court of law.
The Sums in the Ketubah
The ketubah deals with three different sums: the basic ketubah, the dowry and the supplement to the ketubah. The basic ketubah is a fixed sum of 200 zuz (the currency in rabbinic times) for a first marriage and 100 zuz for a second marriage. Due to inflation this amounts to a trivial sum today. The woman's dowry consists of the possessions she brought to the marriage (which the husband’s estate would return upon death or divorce). Originally, the dowry was itemized but in order to minimize shame, the sum has been fixed at 100 pieces of pure silver (about $12,000) for a first marriage and half of that for a second marriage. The third sum in the ketubah is the "ketubah supplement" added by the groom to enhance his obligation. The accepted supplement matches the dowry. In some communities an additional supplement is added as well, and this sum is generally a multiple of the number 18 (or chai). The marriage registrar may ask you the amount of the ketubah or he may recommend a sum.
Reading of the Ketubah
In the course of the ceremony, between the kiddushin (granting of the ring) and the nissuin (wedding blessings and breaking of the glass), one of the guests or the officiating rabbi reads the ketubah. You should decide together with the officiating rabbi what portions of the ketubah will be read aloud, if you want someone to translate it and if you want the sums written in the ketubah to be read.
Design of Invitations and Ketubah
In designing the invitations to your wedding, you may want to use the large reservoir of Jewish art that contains marriage motifs. In the formulation of the invitation, you may want to incorporate a biblical verse, a midrashic quotation, a poem or a hymn dealing with love and marriage or your names.
Some couples write and decorate a special ketubah to be hung in their home. If you are interested in such a ketubah and have talented friends – ask them to join the project. Special ketubot can be bought from artists as well. If you plan to write or buy a ketubah, you should ascertain that the wording matches the version given to you at the rabbinate.