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How We Wrote Our Own Interfaith Ketubah

Last fall, I had to postpone my wedding due to COVID-19. Ultimately, Evan and I decided we didn’t want to wait to get married, so we didn’t. We got married in late August, surrounded only by our immediate families. The wedding was absolutely perfect—and not a single thing went according to plan.

Since we were taking all the COVID precautions we possibly could, we got married in my parents’ backyard in Western Massachusetts. This ended up being such a blessing because when the date was forecast to be a windy, rainy day, we could easily push the wedding to the next day. One issue (of many) in all of this was that our ketubah (traditional Jewish marriage contract) had the original date on it. Luckily for us, my sister had hand painted our ketubah and she worked some magic to fix the date.

I swear I must have spent hours combing through ketubahs online—from Etsy shops to Ink with Intent to, and everything in between. I looked at all the different styles and read through every  sample text: the traditional, the egalitarian, the interfaith, the humanist, the quirky. The Harry Potter one (yes, that exists) and the gender neutral. But nothing was quite right for us, whether something in the wording that didn’t jive with one of us, or we didn’t like something about the art itself. This is how we ended up deciding to write our own interfaith ketubah.

While we came across many gorgeous pieces of art along our search, nothing felt perfectly “us.” I knew that I wanted our ketubah to hang in our home the same way my parents’ has hung in theirs. I needed to love it enough to want to look at it every day. And on top of that, I’m picky and a perfectionist.

We couldn’t put our thumb on what we wanted for our ketubah. After discussing the different elements of a ketubah it was easier for us to determine what we DIDN’T want. This was going to be a document about us and our lives, so it was important for both of us to be on board with every element.

Here’s what we decided:

  • No Hebrew. While I can read Hebrew, Evan cannot, so it did not make sense for us to have a marriage contract that only one of us could read!
  • No references to God. We have different views on God—between existence, worship and the role of religion in our lives—so we wanted to have a ketubah that didn’t include “God language.”
  • No misogyny. It’s 2020 and we’re feminists so we didn’t want anything about “obeying” a husband. I was shocked at some of the archaic language I saw on various ketubah websites. We are equal partners in this relationship, and our ketubah should reflect that!
Molly's interfaith ketubah
Photo by Samm Smith

Ultimately, I found several interfaith and humanist texts from different ketubah websites and put them in a document. Evan and I went through each one and highlighted the parts we liked and deleted the parts that we didn’t. We changed the sentences around, put words in different orders and ultimately, we made a Frankenstein of a ketubah.

We edited the language even more to make it sound like us—sincere and a little silly. It was important to us that the ketubah conveyed that this was a partnership. We needed it to represent us as an interfaith couple, and note that though this is not one of Evan’s family traditions, it’s a new tradition for us together. Our entire marriage will be full of new traditions or new variances on old traditions.

As I mentioned, my sister painted our ketubah, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I have hanging in my home. She’s also a perfectionist, possibly even more than me, and she took inspiration from the invitations we had chosen and added some watercolor flair. Since we will have another wedding celebration post-pandemic, she even made sure there were multiple places for us, and our witnesses, to sign. My grandmother and Evan’s grandfather signed it at our summer wedding, and we will have another set of witnesses at our wedding celebration where we’ll have a ceremony with the traditional Jewish elements that we missed out on at our COVID wedding.

The wording that we finally settled on reads more akin to vows than many of the traditional ketubahs I saw online. It reads like a love letter from us, to us. Honestly, it’s what got me crying before our wedding ceremony even started. And it is absolutely unique—no one in the world has one quite like it.

Signing the ketubah
Molly’s grandmother signing the ketubah. Photo by Samm Smith

Top photo by Samm Smith. Ketubah art by Lindsay McGrath.

Molly Kazin Marshall

Molly is the Boston Community Director at 18Doors