It must also be said that we, the forum members, are not very representative of the general public. A glance at the image forums or at the technical forums will show a degree of skill and technical knowledge that is beyond the scope of the average consumer.
I think this is a key point that's been overlooked: this forum is not representative of the clientele. Client expectations for photography are as varied as their food preferences: some just want meat and potatoes (large portions) and wash it down with PBR, while others prefer gourmet with a properly-paired wine. Some clients just want a record of the day, with image quality that's consistently better than smartphones, and do not want to burden their guests with the obligation to take the photos. Other clients want their photos to be worthy of Vogue.
And here's where money comes in: with modern photo gear, there are many people who can learn to do meat-and-potatoes wedding photography, and there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, if a bride has spent $20k+ on a dress, and $100k for the overall wedding (possibly more if it's a destination event), why would she not choose a photographer who will take Vogue-quality photos? A meat-and-potatoes photographer had better have a day job, because she/he is not going to make a living at $300-$500 per event. A high-end photographer, on the other hand, will have the best gear, hire competent assistants, and study the craft as a full-time occupation.
Talking about the cost of "a wedding photographer" is just as unhelpful as talking about the cost of "food" .... is it beluga caviar or a bag of beef jerky?