In April 2019 How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris celebrated 15 years by the side of his now-husband David Burtka, but the couple have had a long journey to get to this point. And when the pair’s 15-year anniversary rolled around, Harris had a message for his spouse that caused the internet to go into meltdown.
Neil Patrick Harris was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June 1973, and he has been in the spotlight for a big chunk of his life ever since. His talents were spotted at a children’s drama camp, you see, and this led him to be cast in the 1988 movie Clara’s Heart alongside Whoopi Goldberg. Thanks to his skills, Harris even earned himself a Golden Globe nomination for the role. And yet more good fortune was to follow after the up-and-coming star nabbed a spot on the TV show Doogie Howser, M.D.
In turn, Doogie Howser, M.D. ended up making Harris a household name. The show was so popular, in fact, that the term “a Doogie Howser” became shorthand for a person who enjoys success at a young age. That said, Harris didn’t always welcome the fame and attention the series had earned him.
“I was a late bloomer. And when you’re a youngster, and you’re in the public, and people are recognizing you, it’s hard to behave normally,” Harris told New York magazine in 2009. “It was like a circus sideshow. You’d wear a hat and walk fast, because if someone recognized you, they’d shout your character’s name.”
However, as the years passed by, Harris managed to break out of the role that had made him a star. And he went on to appear in various TV movies, including The Christmas Wish and The Wedding Dress before nabbing a main role in the Tony Shalhoub show Stark Raving Mad. All the while, though, the actor was battling with another issue behind the scenes.
At that time, you see, Harris hadn’t as yet come out as gay. He told New York, “There were gay adults in LA, and that kind of made me panic a bit. That was just kind of the elephant in the room… I tried many different angles to head in a different direction. Dating different girls [and] being the funny, witty guy at the party to avoid being the sexual being.”
Then Harris landed a role playing a philanderer in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. And it was during this period that the actor ran into a man called David Burtka – with the two finding a connection practically right away. Harris and Burtka would go on to describe that first meeting in a 2012 interview with Out magazine.
“I ran into my friend Kate one day, and she was with this brooding, James Dean-type guy in a leather jacket who gave me the head nod and then turned away,” Harris told the magazine. “I assumed he was Kate’s boyfriend and said, ‘Nicely done.’ And she said, ‘David? He’s not playing on my team, but he has a boyfriend.’”
“So, then I just kept seeing [Burtka] on the periphery, and in turn catching up on him, but I didn’t want to be that guy who was creating some sort of romantic interference,” Harris continued. “I was always around when he was around, hoping the stars would align. When we all hung out for the first time – I was invited by Kate to an American Idol viewing party – I just stammered around him. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.”
And, fortunately, Burtka had become just as taken with Harris. The Broadway star told Out, “We began hanging out with other people, and we had a lunch or so, but nothing romantic. I thought he was adorable, though, with these amazing blue eyes that are just hypnotizing to me. I ended up breaking with my boyfriend, and a week later [Harris] and I had a date.”
What’s more, Burtka and Harris discussed the subject of children very early on in the relationship. Burtka explained, “Even on that first date, we talked about kids. If he hadn’t wanted kids, I don’t think we’d be together. I always thought that family was the most important thing in life. And no matter what I do, whether [it’s] being a chef or an actor or a dancer, being a dad is what I do best.”
And Harris and Burtka’s romance progressed to the point that they ultimately decided to move in together. Harris told Out, “We found a place in Harlem that a woman had been living in for 40-odd years, and it was roomy and reasonably priced. We went to LA and got this moving truck and collected [Burtka’s] mattress and bed frame and some stuff we each had in storage, and we started a journey across the country.”
“We stopped in Albuquerque, where my family is, and they gave us some stuff,” Harris added. “And we went through Memphis and up to Michigan, where [Burtka’s] family is, and picked up his parents’ piano. We went slowly across America filling up this truck, and by the time we got to New York, we had a new life full of furniture.”
Yet the couple eventually had to relocate again after Harris won the role of Barney in a new sitcom called How I Met Your Mother. Yes, the filming of the show required he and Burtka to move to LA – although the duo assumed that they would only be in California for a short while.
Ultimately, though, How I Met Your Mother turned out to be a massive TV hit. And the year after it first aired, in 2006, Harris in turn came out publicly to the world. To that end, the actor gave an exclusive statement to People magazine in order to oppose untrue reports that he had been denying his sexuality.
“Rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions,” Harris said in his statement. “[I] am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.”
And in 2013 Harris explained to HuffPost that his decision to come out had been motivated by his relationship with Burtka. He revealed, “I didn’t want to disrespect [Burtka]. I didn’t want to make [him] feel like he didn’t exist in my life, and at the same time I didn’t want [his] identity to be ‘the guy that’s dating me.’ It’s a very individual thing.”
Burtka does indeed have more to his identity than just being Harris’ partner. Born in May 1975 in Dearborn, Michigan, the actor and professional chef spent his early years on TV shows such as The West Wing and Crossing Jordan. He also acted on Broadway and in 2001 won the Clarence Derwent Award for “most promising male performer.”
In the years since being with Harris, moreover, Burtka has appeared on screen alongside his now-husband. He played Scooter for seven episodes of How I Met Your Mother, for example, as well as popping up in two other high-profile shows in which Harris has acted: American Horror Story: Freak Show and A Series of Unfortunate Events.
And, yes, the pair are now married. Burtka popped the question in 2007, choosing to do so at the location where he and Harris had had their first meeting. Harris later told Out, “[Burtka] wanted to stop for some reason that I didn’t quite get. I thought he wanted to get some booze or something. And then he got on one knee and proposed.”
In the same Out article, meanwhile, Burtka gave his own account of his initial encounter with Harris. There, he said, “I was performing in the Sam Mendes version of Gypsy on Broadway when I ran into Neil on the street. He was doing the Mendes version of Cabaret at the time, and I was with a friend who knew him pretty well.”
Burtka added, “I wasn’t a big Doogie Howser fan – I had probably seen it once or twice when I was growing up – so I gave [Harris] a ‘Hey, what’s up, nice to meet you,’ and that was really it. I thought it would be nice to know him, but I didn’t think in a million years I’d start dating him.”
In the end, though, Harris and Burtka became not only partners but parents. And Harris was the first to announce the good news via his Twitter account in August 2010. The star wrote, “So, get this: [Burtka] and I are expecting twins this fall. We’re super excited/nervous/thrilled. Hoping the press can respect our privacy…”
Then, after twins Harper and Gideon had arrived into the world later in 2010, Harris once again shared the news in a tweet. Marking the beginning of a whole new chapter, he wrote, “Babies!! On 10/12, Gideon Scott and Harper Grace entered the Burtka-Harris fold. All of us are happy, healthy, tired and a little pukey.”
Meanwhile, not long after Harper and Gideon were born, same-sex marriage was legalized in New York. And one day after the Marriage Equality Bill went through in June 2011, Harris tweeted about his own wedding plans. “[Burtka] and I did propose to each other – but over five years ago! We’ve been wearing engagement rings for ages, waiting for an available date,” he wrote.
And in September 2012 Harris and Burtka finally introduced the twins to the world on The Oprah Winfrey Show. During that appearance, Harris told the host, “We really had thought [parenthood] through financially, emotionally [and] relationship-wise. We didn’t just accidentally get pregnant. These kids [came] into our world with nothing but love.”
Furthermore, it turned out that Harris and Burtka had enlisted two women – a surrogate mother and an egg donor – to help create the children, with the couple also fertilizing one egg each. Harris said on The Oprah Winfrey Show, “The way [the twins] were brought into this world was very unique and weirdly scientific. The technology involved in it, I think, was remarkable.”
After growing their family by two, then, Harris and Burtka officially got hitched in September 2014. And while the couple had kept the occasion quiet and low-key, a representative for Harris nonetheless shared some details of the big day with People. They said, “We happily confirm that Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka were married in Italy in an intimate ceremony surrounded by their close friends and family.”
And even though Harris and Burtka kept their wedding private, they are still happy to share adorable moments with the twins. Ever since 2010, they’ve had a tradition of sharing Halloween pictures with their fans; and every year for the holiday, they dress themselves and their children up as colorful characters.
In the intervening years, then, the family have dressed Harper and Gideon up as characters from Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars and more. And in 2016 Seth Meyers referenced the escapades when Harris appeared on the host’s own talk show. On that occasion, Meyers said, “It seems to me that you take Halloween very seriously” – to which Harris responded in mock horror, “You don’t?”
Yet Harris and Burtka don’t just put their kids on show at the end of October. It seems, you see, that the couple are happy to share other parenting moments as well. In 2018, for example, Harris posted a picture of the twins on Instagram to mark their birthday. The actor captioned the image, “Eight years ago [Burtka] and I got the two greatest presents imaginable. Eight years later, we are still counting our blessings. Happy birthday, Gideon and Harper. You rock our worlds.”
And as the years went by, Burtka and Harris also got into the habit of marking every anniversary with a social media post. For example, in 2015 Burtka posted a picture on Twitter that shows his husband kissing him on the cheek; he also wrote in accompaniment, “Happy… anniversary to [Harris]. Without him I’d be lost! He makes me so happy!”
In September 2018, moreover, Harris marked the day that he and Burtka had said “I do” with an Instagram post. There, he wrote, “Four years ago today. How time flies – especially when you have someone special to share it with. [With] two children and thousands of adventures together, I’ve never been happier.”
And Burtka repaid the favor with a message of his own on Instagram, telling Harris, “I am so very proud of us. Being in a relationship is hard work. There [have been] many stresses to juggle within these 14 years. We have dealt with kids growing up, new jobs, the media, moving and even dogs pooping on the rugs. These last four years, our marriage has had its ups and downs. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds. I love you.”
Then Harris and Burtka’s 15th year of being a couple came along in April 2019. And that month, Harris marked the occasion with an extra-special, super-touching message to his husband. He began the Instagram post, “My first date with [Burtka] was 15 years ago today, and we’ve been nearly inseparable ever since.”
“I’m so, so grateful to this gorgeous man for giving me his heart, his shoulder, his strength, his lust, his laughter [and] his joy,” Harris continued. “[Burtka is] an actor, chef, author, singer, producer and the most wonderful, selfless parent I’ve ever seen. A sextuple threat, if you will. And I most certainly will. Happy 15th anniversary… You keep making all my dreams come true.”
Burtka responded in kind on his own Instagram page, writing, “15 years ago, Neil Patrick Harris and I met on the street. From that day, he has made my world a better place. Thank you, [Harris], for the best years of my life. I can’t believe how fast [the] years have gone. Happy anniversary! I can’t wait to keep on laughing, playing and loving for years to come.”
And Harris’ warm message to his husband was greeted by an array of congratulatory comments online. One person wrote, for example, “Such a cute couple and so much love still after all those years! Congrats, you handsome men.” Another comment read, meanwhile, “Happy dating anniversary! You both bring so much joy and love into this world!”
But Burtka has claimed that his relationship with Harris does have its problems – just like any other married pair experience. He told Out, “I don’t want people to think we’re a perfect couple. Nothing’s perfect. A relationship is work, and it changes. And you go with the changes. It’s more good times than bad times, but it’s not always good.”
“We’re not trying to pretend that we are perfect. We’re just trying – in a good, positive, loving way – to live our lives,” Burtka continued. He’s correct, of course, but the snippets of his life with Harris that make it onto social media look as though they’re pictures of a truly wonderful relationship.