I have heard from a number of orthodox couples recently married that the Rav who was mesader kiddushin permitted (and was happy for) the bride to make a shehecheyanu after she had received the ring instead of the groom saying such a bracha on the tallit. Being that this bracha is not time dependant and therefore not exclusive to men, is there a problem with doing this halachically? I would like to know the halachic answer to this rather than the answer being that it is not ok simply because it is a custom. Thanks
Not all questions are simple as they seem, and in this particular question there are many aspects to deal with.
Firstly however, I should make it clear that is not my intention here to be critical on the Rav who made such a decision. Each case has its own circumstances for which the Rabbi may have made his decision.
Secondly, but not less important is the weight a custom carries. There are indeed customs, which although have very important reasons behind them, such as eating a jelly donut or a fried "latke" on Chanuka, do not make the person who does not fulfill them a transgressor. However, there are customs which when violated have extreme repercussions. One example would be Ashkenazim who do not eat "kitniyot" on Pessach. All will agree that an Ashkenazi eating "kitniyot" on Pessach is a severe act of indifference to Jewish tradition, while if someone does not eat a jelly donut he will have saved himself a few calories and will not have done any transgression. There are many more examples to customs which make up the warp and woof of Jewish life.
Moreover, if there is a custom in a certain community, even the Rav of the community cannot cancel the custom (unless it's a total mistaken one) without the consent of the community. This would mean, for example that even adding or subtracting a chapter in tehillim at the end of Tefilla on the eve of Rosh Hashana, cannot be changed without the consent of the community.
The issue of custom, is very pertinent to shehecheyanu since the Talmud calls it a voluntary Beracha and therefore by its very essence it's a Bracha which is custom dependent.(See בן איש חי פרשת ראה שנה ראשונה אות ה, כף החיים סי' רכג אות כ) There are also many examples in regard to Shehecheyanu, where in principle the Halacha states to say shehecheyanu, while the custom is not to say it. One example is the saying the full Bracha upon seeing someone you haven't seen for 30 days. The Shulchan Aruch (או"ח רכ"ה)says that a person should say shehecheyanu, but the custom is not to say the Brach with Hashem's Name. Also, in principle, a person should say shehecheyanu on seasonal vegetables which are not available year round, (ביאור הלכה רכ"ה: ג) but many Ashkenazim have the custom not to say shehecheyanu on vegetables at all.
Now, getting to shehecheyanu at a Chupa. Shehecheyanu is essentially not connected to marriage at all. The custom to make a Bracha on a tallit at wedding is a Sefardi custom which seems to have originated in Egypt and then spread to other sefardi communities. (See נהר מצרים או"ח הלכות ציצית סי' א, שער המפקד דף ב., אוצר הפוסקים סי' ס"ב, סעי' א, אות יב.),) The Tallit was used to put over the groom and bride as a canopy, and it was seem proper that a Bracha be made on the new Tallit. In order to fulfill the requirement of saying Shehecheyanu for all the new things the new couple receives, the groom while saying Shehecheyanu on the Talit, already has in mind all the things as well.(See אשל אברהם בוטשאטש, סי' רכ"ג)
Recently, some Ashkenzim have also adopted that custom of saying a Shehecheyanu on the Talit.
Now the question comes to saying Shehecheyanu on jewelry. The Sefardi custom is not to say Shehecheyanu on jewelry. (כף החיים רכג:כ, )
There is a dispute among the Rabbis regarding the Ashkenazi custom . Rav Shlomo Zalman Oirbach zt"l says the Ashkenazi custom is not to say Shehecheyanu on jewelry. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l however, specifically related to an engagement ring and said the woman should say Shehecheyanu upon receiving it. (וזאת הברכה עמ' 193)
Other Rabbis, who on the one hand are of the opinion that Shehecheyanu is said on jewelry, on the other hand still say that the bride doesn’t say Shehecheyanu on the ring under the Chupa. One Rabbi suggested that it is in order not to cause shame to groom if the wedding band is not to her taste or of important enough value in her eyes.( הרב ישראל פיינהנדלר :- מחבר שו"ת אבני ישפה באור ישראל- מאנסי) Others saw it as lack of modesty on part of the bride to do so in public.(See אבני דרך, סי' כט. הרב אלחנן פרינץ בשם הרב אריאל שליט"א )
To sum up, from what I have seen, in my opinion the bride should not make a Shehecheyanu on the ring under the Chuppa. .
All the best