I think it is very important to break the speeches up, no matter how short they are going to be. Breaking them up gives your guests a chance to go to the toilet and refill their drinks. This allows them to remain interested and attentive to all the speakers. It also helps the venue to serve the food at the correct time. You want your guests to eat their meals while they are hot and at their best, rather then after they have been sitting there for a few minutes while your speeches are concluded.
Don’t panic too much about speeches dragging out, or getting the formalities over and done with early. When it comes to the night you will really enjoy them! As long as each speaker has something prepared, then I wouldn’t worry about it going for too long. The only time I see speeches go on and guests start to get bored is when the speeches are all back to back in a row, or the speaker comes up to the microphone totally unprepared or without any notes.
I recommend one round of speeches before main course is served (Often the dads/parents/close family), then after mains – the second round. Second round could begin with sister of the bride, Maid of Honour or one of the bridesmaids, followed by the Best Man, followed by the Groom (and his Bride). This order I find works as you are beginning with the more formal speeches early in the night, and working up to the main event. However there is no hard rule, discuss your wishes with your venue manager and your DJ. Try to have speeches concluded by 9pm, as after this time your guests will have had a few wines and prefer to be partying rather than listening.
With a cocktail style function, the speeches give the night a bit of structure. As we are not as limited by time, we can get through some speeches, have a round of canapés, then follow with another round of speeches.
While not at all necessary, it can be fun to have a bit of an intro of a song played as each speaker is walking up to the microphone. Its not appropriate for all weddings or events, but sometimes works really well! It’s totally up to you; have a think about what suits – theme songs, or something with an appropriate title or verse in it? This lightens the mood, helps the speaker relax a bit and get settled in while your MC adjusts the microphone stand to the correct height. Check the music section for some suggestions.