If I could do it over again... I'd wait on buying the dress
I feel like the first thing most women do (and certainly I did) is place a lot of focus on buying THE dress. I know it takes 9 months (someone should start a company that cuts this time in half) but I really didn't have a sense for my vibe/scene until several months after the reception place was secured and the little details were coming together. My advice (for what it's worth) push out the dress decision as long as you can. And sleep on "THE ONE" a few nights.
BTW -- it's a big purchase!