Speeches are traditionally done after the meal however an alternative approach now is to give the speeches at the start of the reception so that nervous speakers can then relax and enjoy the meal which was so carefully planned – breaking with tradition can be a good thing and hunger may also produce shorter speeches which everyone will enjoy!
Alternatively, have the speeches after the second course, by doing it this way hunger pangs are quietened and speakers still save on the indigestion! If you do decide on either of these options be sure to tell the venue management, as the chef will have to time the courses accordingly. If you do have the speeches at the beginning, then arrange to have a toast at the end of the meal to wrap things up. For a full guide on wedding speeches see: http://www.blarneyspeeches.com