I've told my bridesmaids that they can wear any black dress of their choosing.
Since I'm not requiring them to buy an actual bridesmaid's dress (ick), should I offer to pay a sort of stipend for a new dress that they will probably buy for the wedding anyway?
Or are they on their own if they choose to buy a new dress?
Sarah first off: yay for letting your bridesmaids pick their own dresses. Second off, yay for making it something easy and pragmatic like a black dress, something most of us already own and have plenty of opportunities to wear. Third off: yay for being considerate of your ladies' financial concerns. Three yays for you, bad ass!
In the US, typically bridesmaids pay for their own dresses — even when it's some outdated thang required by the bride. In the UK, however, it's standard for the bride to pay for dresses.
BUT! Despite your yankee status, I think you're safe without offering a stipend — since you're letting the ladies pick their own dresses, not insisting that they buy something new, and ensuring that if they DO buy, they're buying something they like that they can wear many times (who doesn't need a new little black dress?). That said, it's good of you to consider it. Your bridesmaids are lucky to have you as a friend.