I made this very intricate custom designed ketubah for a lovely couple in New Jersey. The bride is a doctor and she asked for two DNA strands that come together as one. This is a really beautiful sentiment to want to capture. It really speaks to the future they envision together, but also to the depth of the union of marriage. They are not only tying their futures together, but are joining on a fundamental level.
Everything in this design means something specific and personal to the couple. Everything from the DNA strands to the Cohen’s belssing in the sun were elements carefully chosen by the couple. The result is that this design is more than a symbol of their marriage, but it goes back further in time and encompasses their entire life together from the day they met (represented by the sushi rolls on the bottom). Every time they look at this ketubah they will be brought back to these key moments of their life together.
This ketubah isn’t just rich in subtext, but also intricately constructed. There are 11 layers stacked one on top of the other that have to line up and work together seamlessly. This requires careful planning from the beginning. It isn’t the type of papercut one can sit down and complete in a sitting.
The silver moon contains the wedding date. The stars are gold. This doesn’t come across so well in the photos because they’re so reflective.
The groom is a Cohen and he wanted this expressed in the ketubah’s design. The hands doing the Cohen’s blessing are an interesting touch and will probably invite questions from friends who aren’t familiar with the symbol. As a note of reference, Leonard Nimoy based the Vulcan salute on the Cohen’s hands. It looks like they’re making a “V”, but in actual fact, the hands in this position are making a “Shin” (ש), which is the letter representing E-l Shaddai, which translates as G-d Almighty. Mezzuzot have a ש on them as well.
The kissing birds was the bride’s idea and it was such a charming thing to add to the design. It provides both a point of separation and union for the two DNA strands. The birds is where they end, and the kiss is where they come together. The birds echo the shape of the double helix as well.
The building in this design is the location of the wedding itself. I had to reconstruct what the building looks like from some aerial photos available online. Notice how the windows are held in place by their one corner. It looks extremely delicate, but they stay in place and don’t move. This is thanks to the quality of the paper itself, which maintains its structural integrity even when cut to bits.
This is where things got interesting for me. The couple wanted water swirls next to the text segment. I presented them with a couple of options of how the water could be handled and they liked this version, with all the hidden details, including their initials, hidden inside the water layers. I made the top water layer a reverse triangle to go along with the shape of the text next to it. This makes it look visually striking and dynamic. But managing it to be stable, with all the thin horizontal lines of paper, without a right side anchor took some planning. When putting it together I had no idea if it would hold or if I would have to redo it from scratch. It held perfectly. There is a moment of intense satisfaction when you plan something out on paper and then see it in front of you for the first time and it works exactly like you thought it would.
Another thing of note about how everything is held together is that if you look at the DNA strands, they are the anchor points for the entire ketubah’s design. Nothing goes past the double helix border. This also took some careful planning in how to design the anchors that connect the different layers to the DNA strands. When you get up close to it, it’s quite surprising because it looks like everything in the middle is magically floating.
The text is reverse printed. White on blue. This is a very striking look and works very well for this design. I don’t ordinarily recommend doing the text this way, but I got it done using the best industrial printers there are. The inks are expected to last for a couple of hundred years at least.
There are boats and whales in the water. I put lots of hidden details in this section of the keutbah. This invites people to get up close and look for all the things they might have missed. And the ketubah is big. At 24″ tall, it looks very impressive on the wall when framed.
If you would like to commission a custom order for your ketubah as well, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you.