So You Want Custom Ketubah Art? Why This Ketubah Artist Recommends Against It

by Ariela

Ariela completes Terri's  ketubah , August 2011

Ariela completes Terri's ketubah, August 2011

We're in Wedding Season, which means that lately I have been fielding lots of requests for custom ketubah work. Some of those inquiries ares for custom text calligraphy to go with pre-existing art, or to go with art from a family friend. Most requests, however, are for original art with a hand-calligraphed text, which is what we're discussing today.

On my first call with prospective clients, the question at the top of my list is always "Why do you want a custom ketubah?" I don't ask because I'm looking to judge their reasons, I ask because the answer tends to tell me a lot about what my experience will be working with them.

If the answer is anything other than "We have a very specific vision for our ketubah art," the next thing I tend to do is to try to persuade them to find a pre-existing print and get that instead. Gone are the days when there were only a very few, cookie-cutter designs and one text available. You can find ketubah art in almost any genre and most artists can accommodate a custom text, too. In most cases, there is simply no need for a custom job.

But Ariela, you say, why would you try to turn away a potentially lucrative commission?

The answer is that planning a wedding is a miserable experience that is long, and expensive, with scrillions of tiny details that must be attended to individually. And commissioning custom art is a process that is long, and expensive, with scrillions of tiny details that must be attended to individually. Trying to complete the two projects simultaneously isn't something to do on a lark; you have to really want it to make it worth it. Even if you do want it, it's still no cakewalk. My spouse and I ditched art completely and we still had hours of arguments about the text.

The Wedding Industrial Complex means that working with overwhelmed, stressed clients is part and parcel of the wedding gig. But a wedding vendor can make it easier on their own self and on the clients by helping them to cut out unnecessarily complicated steps. But to do that, you have to figure out what is necessary. Which is why I ask "Why do you want a custom ketubah?"

If it's important to you, let's talk. I love to create things that are truly special to people. But if it's not, perhaps it is time to let go of expectations (your own, or others'), and put your time, attention, and money, on things that will make a bigger difference to you.

Wishing you a stress-free wedding season, as much as it is possible.

Manuscript Ketubah: The Research Behind the Design

by Ariela

I have a serious aversion to including design elements that mean nothing just to look cool. Whenever I put binary in a piece, it actually says something. I have done a custom piece with live Javascript forming the roots of a tree and two different ketubot with musical notation for the cantillation of the clients' favorite verses from the Song of Songs. 

When I started working on the Mansucript ketubah art, I knew that there would be research involved. Illuminations have extensive symbolism and iconography associated with them, and I would no more pick and choose images for this design at random than I would include garbage code in a piece about programming - aside from pinching my own sensibilities, it would likely be most irritating to the target audience. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of experience with the study of illuminated manuscripts. Sure, I look at them more frequently than the average person on the street, I'm a calligrapher. But beyond recognizing certain alphabets (what we now call "fonts") and artistic styles as being typical of certain eras and places, I don't actually know much. I certainly don't know enough about the symbolism to avoid accidentally putting something utterly inappropriate in the design. To the research-mobile!

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New Product: Manuscript Ketubah

by Terri

Did you meet your future spouse at an event sponsored by the Society for the Creative Anachronism? Is one of you a medieval historian? Do you think having traditional Judaic iconography in your artwork is important? Then this is the ketubah for you!


Available in 4 texts.

Available in 4 texts.

Manuscript Ketubah with Tradiditional Ashkenazi Text

How it Came to Be:

Ariela originally conceived this design to serve the Renfaire crowd. In our initial Google Doc (dating back to 2012), this design is listed as follows:

Book of Kells-inspired illuminated manuscript (dual-listed to fantasy)
look up really old ketubot and something properly medieval (Matthew* says “documentation”)

Once Ariela put pencil to paper for even the most preliminary sketches, she realized she needed to do some serious research. In addition, she realized that she also needed to change the time period of the art she was looking at to later than the Book of Kells. Especially because we wanted the potential audience to be as wide as possible, from any Fantasy geek couple looking for something that would be at home in $_EuropeanFantasyland all the way to historians without being an actual reproduction. After all, there is nothing for an historian quite like having a well-meaning loved one say "I got you this Olde Timey thing!" and to have it be tooth-gnashingly inaccurate.**

The all-English design and any design containing Hebrew are mirror images of one another. This is actually easy to do if you have scanned the artwork in first. We do not force Ariela to paint an entirely separate design for something like this. That would be cruel and unusual punishment. 

The Manuscript Ketubah is available with personalization in our 4 standard texts for $375.

*Matthew is my husband, and many of our early ideas (SA's Oath, some of the greeting cards, some stuff you haven't seen yet) were run by him in the initial planning stages.

**For the same reason, any binary code you see on this website actually says something.

Custom Ketubah For Sarah Ilana: From Beginning to Completion

by Ariela

I have been working on a custom ketubah commission since January. The bride, Sarah, asked me to keep it under wraps until their wedding so that they could have a big reveal, but as the wedding happened on July 10, I can now share it. 

I've decided to share the entire process, to give you a window into what it is like to work on a custom ketubah. Process is long, so the rest is under the cut.

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New Product: Salute Ketubah

By Ariela

Are you and your spouse-to-be looking for a highly logical choice for your ketubah? Do you fancy yourselves commanding presences in yellow? Are you science types in blue? Perhaps engineers in red? (We rather assume you're not redshirts.) Look no further!

Available in four texts and three colors.

Available in four texts and three colors.

How it came to be

The first seeds of an idea for this design were planted way back in the summer of 2010. A coworker told me that she had a friend who was looking for someone to make "a zombie or Star Trek ketubah." I thought a zombie ketubah was a bit beyond my ability to get my head around (though it became a series of greeting cards!), but a Star Trek ketubah was totally something I could do. Unfortunately, the project never happened. The parents of the couple decided they wanted to make the ketubah their gift, and they were not at all down with a Star Trek ketubah. "That's ridiculous," I thought to myself, "they just don't realize that Star Trek could be classy."

But with no client and a number of other active commissions taking up my time, the idea got shelved until 2013, when some fannish friends announced they were getting married and wanted a similarly themed ketubah. I was starting to think about doing prints by that point, not just one-off commissions, and decided that with two requests under my belt, this might be a good place to start. But I didn't want to deal with licensing. What to do?

Fortunately for me, Leonard Nimoy was Jewish. He didn't so much invent the Vulcan Salute as lift it straight from Jewish tradition in the form of the way the priests hold their hands while blessing the congregation. It was the perfect copyright-free stealth-geek statement - those who are fannish would recognize it immediately, and everyone else would assume it had to do with the Priestly Blessing.

The execution of this design, however, turned out to be more complicated than average. The way most ketubah prints come about is like this: I make the art and then I write all four texts out, each on separate pieces of paper, to fit the space left in the art. I get them all scanned, and then I composite them in post-production, switching between texts as needed for printing. But there is no art aside from the text here. Moreover, I wanted to make it available in all the iconic colors of the Starfleet uniforms. So instead of writing four different texts, it's actually more like twelve. Suffice to say that it took a looong time to get them all finished in between other art. But here they are!

The other challenge of this design is the personalization. When you write a generic text, you leave space for the clients' names, wedding date, etc. But with a calligram (which is what you call a picture made out of text), if you leave giant gaps in it the effect is dulled. A lot. So thus began my search in Star Trek canon for appropriate couples.

First and easiest was Worf and Dax. Their wedding date is in the canon, Worf's parentage is totally known, and Jadzia's father is named in Memory Beta. I had a lot of fun figuring out the Hebrew date of their wedding. A lot of people think they got married on April 1, 2374, because that's the Stardate listed in the captain's log in the opening voiceover, but the content of the episode makes it clear the actual wedding is a week later. That actually puts it in the week after Passover in 6134. Their information is the demo text in the Traditional Aramaic ketubah.

Troi and Riker's wedding took place in a movie, so the Stardate of their wedding is totally borked, but other than that, we have a lot of information on their wedding, including location, and the parentage of both parties. They are the demo text for the Lieberman Clause.

For the Gender Neutral Lover's Covenant I had to look into the licensed novels. Star Trek isn't great about QuILTBAG representation, so I looked through Memory Beta and pulled Etana Kol and Krissten Richter. They're married sometime between 2377 (Fearful Symmetry) and 2383 (Plagues of Night), and I extrapolated from that that they got married aboard Deep Space 9. The date was a pretty much arbitrary pick on my part.

The real trick was the demo text for the Secular English text. I wanted to choose a pairing that would emphasize the fact that this text is completely gender-free and doesn't promise exclusivity. So I settled on a totally fabricated wedding between Jean-Luc Picard and Jack Crusher during Jack and Beverly's marriage. This was largely inspired by a joke my own spouse made. We attended a wedding where all the tables were named, instead of numbered, after famous couples. We were sitting at "Picard and Crusher," whereupon he quipped "Jack or Beverly?" It also nicely parallels Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, but I won't say any more about that here because spoilers.

The Salute ketubah of your very own, with your wedding information on it, for $210