Ketubot 57 - Can one dispense with the Ketubah?
As we learned before, the Ketubah is a significant monetary obligation on behalf of the husband , which his wife will receive in the event of divorce or his death. Can one reduce the amount?
Rabbi Meir does not allow it: anybody who reduces the amount of the Ketubah has violated a prohibition, has achieved nothing - he still owes the full amount, and even made his cohabitations with his wife akin to a promiscuous relationships. That is because his wife, seeing how he treats her similar to women with whom he wants to have few ties, does not trust him; their marital bond is as if severed.
However, Rabbi Yose permits this outright: the bride will understand the situation. Rabbi Yehudah suggests a compromise: he writes the Ketubah for the full amount, and she writes inside of it that she received part. Usually the protective decrees of Rabbi Meir, like this one, win: it is thus prohibited to reduce the Ketubah, and if it is lost, one cannot be intimate with his wife until the Ketubah is replaced.
Today both the engagement and the marriage happen as one step under the chuppah. Earlier, however, the bride was given twelve months to prepare her adornments for the wedding, and similarly the husband was then given twelve months to prepare the wedding feast. In an extreme case, this would results in twenty four months before the wedding. Afterwards, even if the groom still delays the wedding, he is obligated in his bride's support.
Art: Portrait of a Bride by Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck