Inside Neil Patrick Harris' Relationship With David Burtka

David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris have been together for nearly twenty years, staying by one another's side as their careers evolves. The celebrity couple has celebrated Tony wins, the legalization of gay marriage, cookbook publications, fathering twins, and more as they navigate the world together. They are one of Hollywood's favorite couples, possibly because they welcome us into their lives through their social media platforms and brag about their kids on late-night talk shows.

While Neil Patrick Harris may be more famous for starring in "Doogie Howser, M.D." as a child actor, and making his way back on the screen with shows like "How I Met Your Mother" and "A Series of Unfortunate Events," David Burtka has also had a fair amount of success as a famous chef and Broadway and television actor. Harris and Burtka have been put in the spotlight for their long successful marriage, adorable children, and gay rights activism. Their family is known for their elaborate Halloween costumes and trips to Disney World, and Harris and Burtka are a certified power couple, both in Hollywood and New York City. Read on for more details of the couple's love story. 

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka were introduced by a friend

Both actors were performing on Broadway when they met in 2003. Neil Patrick Harris was filling the role of Emcee in the 1998 revival of "Cabaret," and David Burtka was playing Tulsa in the 2003 revival of "Gypsy." They met on a street corner in New York City where they were introduced to each other by their mutual friend Kate. Harris immediately sussed out Burtka's deal. Was he Kate's boyfriend? No, but he wasn't single either. In an interview with Out Magazine, Harris describes Burtka as being "classically sexy, yet he's very much a boy in energy." Harris was tired of the broody Marlboro Man type, and found Burtka's energy refreshing.

At the time, Burtka was in a long-distance relationship that had him constantly commuting from New York City to Los Angeles. Burtka and his boyfriend were struggling to maintain their relationship, and they were "on the rocks" when he met Harris. Even so, Burtka thought nothing of his interaction with Harris, who was already swooning over him. However, in the same interview with Out Magazine, Burtka admitted that he "thought [Harris] was adorable ... with these amazing blue eyes that are just hypnotizing." He might not have been smitten with Harris just yet, but there was definitely some chemistry that was starting to sizzle.

Their first date was at the movies

In 2004, a week after David Burtka broke up with his long-distance LA boyfriend, he and Neil Patrick Harris went on their first date to the movie "Taking Lives." This date launched their relationship, and they've been attached at the hip ever since. According to their Out interview, in the months that followed their date, the couple made a habit of calling each other several times a day, texting each other their every thought, and even becoming "very codependent" on one another. They were each other's lifeline, safety net, the person they reached out to when they needed advice or comfort. They started to take up a spot in one another's lives in a very big way.

Burtka always knew he wanted a family. He wanted to settle down and have kids, white picket fence and all. Harris, on the other hand, thought he was going to be single for the rest of his life before he met David. He said in the Out interview, "I remember being in my mid-twenties, lying in bed thinking, I've never taken a shower with anyone before; I've never had any kind of long-term relationship." That all changed when he went on that first date with David, and the couple has been smitten ever since.

The couple went public in 2007

While David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris had been dating since 2004, their relationship didn't become public until 2007. Their relationship had been kept secret partially because Neil had yet to come out to the public. He believed his love life to be private so he never advertised it. However, rumors about Harris' sexuality began churning in the gossip mill when the star's popularity rose with his role as Barney Stinson in the 2005 television series "How I Met Your Mother."

Some people believed that Harris was ashamed of his sexuality. In order to put speculation to rest, Harris told People, "I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest." Once Harris went public about his sexuality, he paved the way to go public with his relationship with Burtka. In 2007, on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Harris did just that. The couple had been dating for three years and it was time for the world to know. Since then, the couple has openly shared their relationship with the public. Their family also has a prominent social media presence, causing fans' love for them to continue to grow.

They both proposed to each other

According to Out Magazine, David Burtka took Neil Patrick Harris to the street corner in New York City where they had initially been introduced to each other. Burtka got down on one knee and asked Harris to marry him. Harris excitedly accepted the proposal. He was so overwhelmed with love and bliss that he wanted to give Burtka a chance to experience the same exciting emotions. Later that year, while on vacation in Santa Monico, Harris decided it was his turn to pop the question. It was Valentine's day when Harris proposed and Burtka got to experience the giddy bliss and joy that Harris did when Burtka had originally proposed.

However, it wasn't until 2011 that the couple went public with their engagement. Harris tweeted, "David 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." When David and Harris originally got engaged, gay marriage was still illegal in New York State. Their engagement lasted a few more years before the couple was finally able to legally marry. By the time Burtka and Harris married, they had already been together for about a decade.

In September 2010, the couple celebrated the births of Gideon and Harper

David Burtka always knew he wanted to have a family. He confessed to Out that he probably never would have dated Neil Patrick Harris if he thought that Harris didn't have an interest in being a father someday. In 2010, the couple celebrated the birth of their twins. According to People, the couple used an anonymous egg donor and a surrogate to create the lovely twins we now know as Gideon and Harper. They named Gideon after artist Gideon Rubin, and Harper after author Harper Lee. Since Burtka and Harris both wanted biological children, one egg was for Burtka and the other was for Harris, both fathering one biological child.

Harris admits that Burtka is the more maternal of the two. During an interview with Oprah, Harris talked about his initial struggles to connect with the twins the first few months after they were born. He found it difficult to communicate with them when they couldn't speak and could barely hold themselves up straight. When Oprah asked if they had plans to expand their family, Burtka said he would love a "gaggle" of kids, which Neil seemed oppose to at that time. But who knows? Maybe he'll change his mind.

In October 2014, they had a private wedding in Perugia, Italy

In 2011, New York State legalized gay marriage. In 2013, CNN reported on the Supreme Court's decision to rule in favor of same-sex marriage, declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka were one of the many couples who exercised their right to marry.

While the wedding was a private family affair, guests reported to Vanity Fair that the couple was married in a castle in Perugia, Italy. The celebration included fireworks, magic tricks, and a then-three-year-old Gideon walking down the aisle handing out oranges to guests. Instead of being the ring bearer, as his parents originally asked, Gideon self-proclaimed the title of "the orange boy."

Elton John, who is a friend of Harris and Burtka, performed at the wedding and emphasized the importance of celebrating the momentous gain in the gay rights movement during his wedding toast to the couple. Vanity Fair quoted John's speech: "'Many, many years ago, this would not be possible. We're so thankful and grateful to everybody for supporting us and our families ...'" The event allowed the couple to celebrate each other, their family, their marriage, and the victory for the LGBTQ community.

They keep date nights alive for themselves and their children

In an interview with Us Weekly, Burtka emphasized the importance of date nights, not only for his relationship with Harris, but also for their kids. He wants his kids to understand the work their dads put in to maintain their healthy and loving relationship. Burtka also believes that when Harper and Gideon witness their dads going out on dates, they feel a sense of safety and security in the stability of their parent's relationship. Sure, Harper and Gideon might miss their dads during date nights, but they'll also learn important relationship skills from following their dads' example. Of course, Harris and Burtka's lives have changed since they've had children, and they have had to adjust their date night schedule accordingly.

Harris and Burtka try to go out for date nights as often as they can. However, Burtka believes that the small stuff is also really important. For instance, Burtka says, "Even if the kids fall asleep and we end up watching Netflix on the couch, that, we feel, is a connection because we're sharing something." Sometimes their dates are as simple as sharing a cup of coffee or snuggling in the morning. It doesn't matter so much what they do on their dates, as long as they take the opportunity to connect with one another.

They've made appearances together onscreen

While Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka have not worked on any long-term projects together, they have crossed paths on a few television series. Burtka guest-starred in "How I Met Your Mother" as Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) dopey high school boyfriend. The couple also appeared in Netflix's "American Horror Story: Freak Show." Harris cameoed as a salesman/ventriloquist/musician and Burtka played Elsa's (Jessica Lang) husband and producer in the last episode. Burtka also made appearances in Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and "Uncoupled," both of which starred Harris.

The couple has also appeared onscreen in several movies. In the 2011 movie "A Very Merry Harold and Kumar Christmas," Burtka and Harris play fictionalized versions of themselves. Harris is characterized as a jerkier, straight version of himself who hires Burtka as his "fake boyfriend" to boost his public image as a gay man. In the movie, Burtka is also his drug dealer. They were also both in the 2020 quarantine remake of "The Princess Bride," and the 2012 web series "Neil's Puppet Dreams."

Their family is known for elaborate Halloween costumes

In an interview with Parade, David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris talk about their favorite party themes, which for Harris is hands down Halloween. His love for Halloween is evident through elaborate Halloween parties they've thrown, complete with mazes and haunted houses. Harris also loves a family-coordinated Halloween costume.

Thus far, the family has dressed up as characters from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Alice in Wonderland," "Batman," and more. It all started when Harper and Gideon were one year old, and the family dressed in "Peter Pan" costumes. Neil was Captain Hook, David was Peter Pan, Harper was Tinker Bell, and Gideon was Smee. Every year, Harris posts pictures of their family's Halloween costumes on his Instagram or Twitter account.

In an interview with comedian Seth Myers in 2015, Harris said that at the age of five, his children were starting to have opinions on what they wanted to be for Halloween. Previously, Harris had been able to take full creative control over their costumes, but as his kids got older he found himself having to persuade them to get on board with costume themes. However, in 2022 the family costumes are still alive, but the kids also get to pick out their own costumes for their school Halloween parties.

Communication is the glue in their relationship

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burkta have both expressed how important open communication is to maintain a healthy relationship. In their interview with Out Magazine, they both admitted that they argue now and then, but they never leave their feelings pent up. Harris says he's always straightforward with how he feels, and admits that he wears his emotions on his sleeve, so if he's hungry, angry, or tired, he'll communicate to Burtka what's going on in his head. It's this type of communication that is the foundation of their relationship.

Harris says that he doesn't want people to think that they have a perfect relationship. He tells Out, "I don't want to paint our relationship like we met and it's been happy family fantastic-ness ever since. What defines a relationship is the work that's involved to maintain it." 

Burtka made a similar statement to Out: "Nothing's perfect. A relationship is work and it changes. And you go with the changes." What matters is that Harris and Burtka share more good times than bad. Harris says he admires Burtka's brutal honesty and Burtka says that Harris helps keep him grounded. The two have really found their own "secret recipe" that has built healthy communication practices in their relationship.

Neil Patrick Harris loves his family's vacations to Disney World

Neil Patrick Harris loves the magic of Disney, and he and husband David Burtka have taken their kids to Orlando, Florida every year to enjoy the rides, architecture and Imagineering, usually around Christmastime when the parks are lit up with decorations (per People).

Harris says his kids love to travel, and that he and Burtka have been taking their kids on trips before they even turned one. The trick to traveling with kids, according to him, is to let the kids play on their screens so they're distracted during the plane ride. He also described going on the Peter Pan ride with his family for the first time and crying because it felt like such a perfect moment as he got to pass down his Disney experiences to his children (via People).

Harris and Burtka also like to travel without the kids. A few years ago, they traveled to Croatia to visit a friend in Hvar, and Harris professed his love of the beauty of the Adriatic sea.

They support each other's careers

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka certainly show up for each other's career. For example, the couple interviewed with Parade to promote Burtka's cookbook, "Life Is A Party," answering questions about each other's favorite things that highlighted Burtka's expertise on how to throw a good party with great party food.

At the premiere of Harris' newest show, "Uncoupled," Burtka admitted to Page Six that he's glad he isn't in the dating pool anymore. "Uncoupled" is about a middle-aged man who suddenly gets dumped by his long-term boyfriend of seventeen years. Harris is also not envious of the protagonist he plays on the show. When Tudum spoke to Harris on the red carpet, he expressed how unequipped he'd be to navigate the modern dating world: "What is Tinder? That's the straight one?" It's a good thing Harris and Burtka have each other!

Harris and Burtka were both interviewed about their successes by Entrepreneur, during which they discussed following their passions, staying motivated, and making connections. It seems that Harris and Burtka will continue to support each other as they navigate their careers and family life together.