head down to your local board/sporting good shop, try some boots on, find some sweet ones, then worry about bindings, then board. if you've been riding for a couple years pick a board size and shape you're comfy with already, and otherwise make sure you're feet are comfy.
as for brands I have no idea, I've only ridden Lamars, and I like mine, and this year is the first year I'll be riding strap in bindings since like 1999, so I'm about as clueless about that stuff as you. But I think it's REALLY important to make sure your feet are comfy and well taken care of, before worrying about boards.
what my girl and I are doing is just trying out a gang of shit, then asking hella questions and looking up reviews to see if it sucks or not.