Meet the Houston man celebrating gay weddings across Texas

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Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, LGBT weddings are expected to have a dramatic impact on the U.S. economy – generating more than $180 million in Texas within the next few years, by some estimates.

Recognizing that impact, former OutSmart magazine advertising dynamo and non-profit volunteer Jack Berger has adopted the new role of publisher of Love Wins Texas Weddings, a new LGBT weddings magazine.

“I like to think of it as Wedding magazine meets Esquire,” Berger says, describing the bi-annual magazine. “It’s very much like a traditional wedding publication, but with the focus on what’s important to the LGBT community.”  

Specifically, Love Wins will provide information on destination weddings, honeymoons, flowers, cakes, entertainment and more, and will appeal to a variety of readers – LGBT or straight, single or coupled – “for the sheer enjoyment of seeing other people celebrate,” says the magazine’s editor-in-chef, Andrew Collins. 

“I think a lot of people are going to want to pick it up to see how LGBT people are getting married,” Collins says. “In a lot of cases, we’re sort of redefining the process of the wedding itself. There’s so much variety, from people who have been together for a long time who just want to do a small, intimate, informal gathering, to big, blow-out weddings that often have creative themes.” 

Published by SagaCity Media, Love Wins debuts in February in major bookstores and at select LGBT events throughout Texas. Prior to its release, Berger chatted with Project Q about his new role, his charitable endeavors, and how he has remained one of Houston’s most eligible gay bachelors.

Congratulations on the new gig! How’s the reception been for Love Wins Texas, no pun intended?

It’s been really good. It’s a big state, full of amazing venues and caterers and florists, and you don't fully appreciate how huge an industry it is until you try to start up a publication like this. Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio are huge, and then the rest of the state, and the LGBT communities are quite different. The industry probably has never, ever had such a huge, one-time shot in the arm in terms of economic impact and additional revenue opportunities as it did when the ruling came down. It’s huge. We project upwards of 15,000 same-sex marriage licenses being issued this year. That’s significant. 

The really cool part about an LGBT wedding is there’s no template. There are no rules. It’s not “go to the jeweler and buy and engagement ring.” A lot of guys are giving each other watches or some other gift, and then going for wedding bands. 

Are potential advertisers surprised to learn that LGBT weddings are going to generate so much money for the economy?

They are very much surprised by the numbers and the overall figures. One of the interesting things that we have found out along the way is that some of those old stereotypes—like lesbians and their beer—that the lesbians are spending just as much as the guys, if not more, for their weddings. 

What’s been your most unusual or unexpected advertiser so far?

The Houston Fertility Institute & Clinic. I met them at a LHI (Lesbian Health Initiative) health fair. 

You’ve been a driving force with one of LGBT Houston’s most prominent philanthropic organizations, Bunnies on the Bayou, for more than nine years, serving four years as its president. How did you get involved with Bunnies?

At first I thought it would be a good idea career-wise, for the networking. Socially, it made sense, as well. When you’re working for an LGBT publication, it makes sense to get involved, and it was a great way to make some new friends. I always thought it would be great to be philanthropic, but I knew the biggest check I was ever going to write would be to my sons’ school. So if I could write a big check to a number of organizations by donating my time and my ability to garner sponsorships and other benefits for the organizations, then that was a good thing.

Will you really just sit back and enjoy Bunnies this year as an observer?

Well, I am technically still an active host. I really love working at the front door, being part of the ticket sales and greeting people, saying hello, catching them before they’ve had a cocktail. 

Bunnies is in very good hands. The current administration is well prepared. The great thing is, Bunnies has a very strong template that I inherited, and along the way some modifications and improvements have been made. It just keeps getting bigger and better. I’m proud that in the last five years we’ve raised over half a million dollars. 

I was going to ask you what your proudest Bunnies moment is, but maybe that’s it.

Yes, I don't think there’s anything that beats the check presentation day. The actual (Easter) event is great (third photo) – there’s a ton of people and the amazing volunteers are working together from set-up to teardown. That’s great. But the way check presentation day is set up, the organizations know they’re going to get something, but they don't know how much they're going to get. So there’s that element of surprise. 

How much money do individual organizations generally receive?

Anywhere from $1,000 to $16,000. There are multiple organizations that have gotten that – Lazarus House, Montrose Grace Place, LHI, and Bering Omega House and Bering’s dental clinic. A number of organizations have gotten checks of well over $10,000. 

That’s just the coolest thing, to see the gratitude, because a lot of these are smaller organizations that rely on donations to keep these programs going. Nothing against the huge (organizations) in the community; they’re great and we need to help them. But the targeted non-profits that we’re dealing with are really making a difference, and these dollars help. I think it even has spurred some of the other philanthropic organizations in the community to – not to try to keep up – but to raise their game. 

Speaking of LHI, you recently became its first male board member. How did that happen?

It was through volunteering for the health fairs. I think it’s important for the folks who are raising money for these organizations to see where the checks are going. You hear the gratitude in the people’s voices and their individual stories. If not for LHI’s health fairs, a lot of people wouldn't get treatment they need. 

What other organizations are you involved in?

Currently I’m involved with the Houston Tennis Club, the LGBT tennis organization, as an active member. I am the social chair for EPAH (Executive Professional Association of Houston), which I enjoy. Other than that, I’m on my son’s FFA booster club board.

I’m really excited for the future of the community. There’s a lot of great things going on. If you’re new to the community, the options are wide open, whether its softball or by a sport or an interest group, a hobby – whatever. It’s a very welcoming community. 

You’re one of Houston’s most eligible gay bachelors. When are you going to get married?

(Laughing) The key to being single is going on a lot of first dates, but not many second dates. I guess I’m a like a JIF Mom – I’m a choosey mother. I don't know. I think when you look for it, you’ll never find it. You just have to let it happen organically. I thought that by joining these organizations, you know, that it would help. If it happens, it happens. If not, I already had one big wedding.

Follow Love Wins Texas Weddings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Top, second photos by John Cox Photography


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