I am assuming that the two witnesses who sign the Ketubah are witnessing the actual wedding ceremony. At every wedding that I have attended, including my own, the witnesses signed the Ketubah before the chuppah. If they are testifying that the marriage occurred, how can they sign the ketubah before the event has occurred?

Related to this, what is the purpose of the other two edei kiddushin who are standing under the chuppah testifying that kiddushin occurred? Shouldn't they be the ones to sign the ketubah and do it after the chuppah is over? (AFAIK, there is no halachic requirement that the ketubah be read under the chuppah. This seems to be common minhag.)

  • 2
    What exactly do you think a Ketuba is/does/says?
    – Double AA
    May 8 '15 at 17:04

The witnesses who sign the ketubah are witnessing the ketubah -- that is, the husband's obligations to the wife. Witnesses serve the same function here as with any other legal document (debt, property sale, or even a get).

The witnesses at the chupah, on the other hand, testify to the completion of that stage of the marriage. While today we generally combine kiddushin (which includes the ketubah) and nisuin (chupah), it was not always so. Considerable time could pass between these stages, necessitating different witnesses.

(No sources to hand right now, sorry, beyond a general hand-wave in the direction of Tractate Ketubot, which is current in the daf-yomi cycle.)

  • So, this is not witnessing a physical event, right? If that's the case, the witnesses who sign the document don't even need to attend the wedding, itself? Can they even sign it without being in the presence of the groom?
    – DanF
    May 8 '15 at 16:36
  • 2
    @DanF You may recall lifting up a pen or handkerchief at your wedding before they signed the Ketubah. That kinyan is the acceptance of the terms of the contract and it is what the Eidim of the Ketubah are witnessing.
    – Double AA
    May 8 '15 at 17:15
  • @DoubleAA Yes, And that pen smudged my tux :-) Not really... but thanks for the reminder. Paid a lot of money for what is attached to that Ketuvah and the pen which was later given to both edim to sign. Multi-use pen!
    – DanF
    May 10 '15 at 3:04

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