Susan Phillips marries Admiral Steve Branham at beachside wedding on Longboat Key (photos below)
The sea and sun cooperated perfectly forming a backdrop for the marriage of long-time Longboat Key resident and Town employee Susan Phillips and retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Steve Branham on Saturday, July 28.
Friends and family converged for the early evening ceremony — and Susan’s father, Mike Phillips, from Darien, Georgia, gave the bride away as Branham’s son, Matt, served as Best Man.
The ceremony was performed by none other than Mayor Jim Brown. It was Brown’s first wedding service ever and he became a public notary this year to make the proceeding official.
The guests sat and stood as more than 100 waited for Susan who strolled smiling with her father down the path of the beach access mid-Key.
That section of beach is significant, said Branham, because the couple had their first date strolling, sipping wine and watching the sunset at the spot and then later Branham proposed to Susan there as well.
The ceremony had a casual flair and most everyone remarked at the simplicity, beauty and sincerity of the even.
It was not without humor either, especially when the groom produced a napkin ring adornment that was about two inches in diameter as the ring, before the real ring found its way to Susan’s finger.
The reception was held at Tangerine Bay Club, hosted by residents Phyllis and Jack Black, in the clubhouse and pool area and the evening was filled with dancing, music and food specifically chosen by the bride, Susan, and her friends, who she refers to as her ‘sisters.’
Each item on the buffet was a culinary and anthropological study of local Southern cuisine. And both Susan and Phyllis sent help all over the County for the best source of barbecue and chicken. In fact, Jack Black was dispatched to east of the interstate on Fruitville Road to find Susan’s favorite source of fried chicken. Each salad and accompaniment was a signature recipe — a true Southern feast.
Susan and her family are no strangers to dining and entertaining, as her father still owns a seafood restaurant seating more than 600 in Georgia. Her father operated a small fleet of shrimp boats and fishing boats as Susan grew up and Susan’s first job at eight-years old was running the kitchen on the shrimp boat operation. She later managed the family seafood restaurant, which at the time seated up to 800 and had two bands on Fridays and lit up the coast of Georgia.
Steve Branham, who Susan met at a Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale, served for 37 years in the Coast Guard and rose to the position of Rear Admiral, commander of the Seventh District. The U.S. Coast Guard’s District 7, based out of Miami, Fla., covers approximately 1.8 million square miles of ocean, from South Carolina through Georgia and Florida into the Keys and the Caribbean. Due to year-round favorable weather, countless small coves, tiny islands and other places to anchor in relative privacy, D7 has been the center of more than 90 percent of all Coast Guard drug interdiction operations since 1973.
It also is the nation’s busiest cruise ship, cargo (especially container) shipping, private recreational boating, fishing, offshore oil and human smuggling locales in USCG jurisdiction. Branham retired in July 2010.
Both Susan, who holds a 100-ton captain’s license and Steve share the love of all things Longboat Key — boating, beach life, wonderful friends, sunsets and now, each other.