Ketubot 56 - How much really is the Ketubah payment?
Even though we said that the Ketubah payment is 200 zuz (or about $25,000), yet if the husband wants to increase it a thousand times, he can do so.
If she only received a ring and thus became bound to him, but they have not yet celebrated the marriage with the chuppah and have not started living together, she still already collects the full amount, with the added-on sum, in the event he divorces her or dies. However, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah says that in the event of this early dissolution of the marriage she only gets the 200 zuz. The added amount was promised on the condition of her becoming a full-fledged wife.
What is the logic of the two opinions? Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah is very clear: a man does not want to give everything away before he has actually enjoyed the benefits of his bride becoming his wife. So we understand his intent. However, the other opinion also guesses his intent, only differently: why did he add that amount to the 200 zuz? - So that the bride will be suitably disposed toward him and agree to be his wife. This has already been achieved, and therefore he owes the full amount.
Even though Rav Nachman cursed any judge who rules like Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, in practice the law indeed follows him, and a bride who is divorced before chuppah has a claim to only the standard amount of 200 zuz.
Art: The Bride by Albert Roelofs